Where are all the females with Autism or Aspergers hiding? Life As a Chameleon Part I

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In my two Gold medal award-winning books, I Am AspienGirl and I am AspienWoman, I discuss the female phenotype and how it presents differently from males. One of the areas I have been able to research and ask of my clients is, “how have you managed to hide your Autism all this time?” Other questions I ask them include:

I have worked with clients for over 20 years who have told me how they hide or not hide their Autism. Some autistic individuals can and some cannot or do not choose too. These behaviors are referred to as masking, camouflaging, assimilation, compensation, coping strategies, passing for normal, pretending to be normal or being a chameleon. In order to assist with females and males obtaining an assessment or diagnosis, I am pre-releasing a part of my book to assist professionals in recognizing Autistic females and males by asking the right questions.

The Compensatory mechanisms used by some Autistic people I have met and listened to are complex, even going so far as to use one behavior to cover up another. These questions and behaviors come directly from my professional experience as a psychologist working with individuals with Autism, Giftedness and Social Anxiety. Thank you to all my clients for sharing your stories with me.

The Compensatory Measures Checklist©, Marshall 2017, excerpt from my from my upcoming book. 

Do you feel different than your peers? When was the first time you ever felt different?

What exactly makes you feel different from your peers?

What is your experience of social interactions with your peers like?

Do you copy or mimic your peers (copy their voice or accent, words, and language or slang, hand and/or body gestures). Do you laugh when they laugh even when you don’t understand why you are laughing?

Do you take on a persona of always smiling and pleasing everybody?

Do you make better versions of yourself that based on peers in school, over time? How do you do that?

Have you ever read books on etiquette, social skills, facial expressions, microexpressions? Have you practiced them in front of a mirror? Have you practiced making more or less of a facial expression? In particular, have you purposefully changed you smile or facial expression to look “more normal”? Have you studied anatomy books, in particular, the facial muscle that matches with each facial expression (for example, knowing that a certain muscle is used in smiling and practicing using that muscle?

Have you ever used Botox or a similar cosmetic ingredient to make your face appear more natural, less angry or furrowed/worried?

Do you watch YouTube videos on social skills, self-improvement, and human etiquette in order to fit in?

Has a peer ever make a comment about your gait or other forms of behavior? If so, did you actively practice a behavior until you were able to make it look like your peers do when they behave that way? (for example, being told he/she had a ‘funny’ run and then purposefully practicing the running over and over again until it was perfect).

Have you watched movies to learn how to act with your peers? (for e.g, learn that you need to have a big smile and say hello to everyone because that is how people will like you).

Do you force yourself to make eye contact, look somewhere else on a persons face, look at their mouth or look at them for too long? Do you find yourself staring at people?

Do you hide some body language or facial expressions to fit in? (for e.g., sitting on your hands, twirling your hair instead of stimming or cracking your knuckles)

Do you spend the majority of your time thinking about what to say, how to act or behave, and/or analyzing social situations? Do you analyze what you could or should have said in a prior or past social situation?

Do you pretend to be shy and quiet and therefore avoid the “social drama” of having to navigate the social world of your peers?

Do you have a permanent smile on your face even though you are miserable inside?

Do others say you look angry when you feel happy or another emotion inside?

Have you or do you taken.take on the persona of a book, television, movie character or a celebrity?

Do you attend social situations, but don’t really want to (saying you will go to a party to get in with the “cool kids”). Do you do their homework for them to fit in? Do you do the groups work for the group to gaon social equity?

Do you write in your journal what you think you should say or do or not say or not do and practice them over and over, so you can use them in school? Do you have a list of sayings, slang, words from songs, movies or social media that you use to be “cool” or try to fit in?

Have you developed a special interest that is not yours but simply to “fit in” but you actually found that interest boring (for e.g, pretending to be in love with a certain pop star but you couldn’t care less about them)?

Do you participate in social events, parties, clubs that you do not want to in order to gain social currency? Do you use the skills you have learned from YouTube, social media, books, movies when you are at these social events? Do you find that you have to begrudgingly attend these events?

Do you use alcohol or drugs as a social lubricant? Does the use of drugs or alcohol allow you to be more social and/or have less anxiety?

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Do you utilize social media (Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Reddit) to learn social nuances, how to interact socially, or how to hide your social awkwardness?

Do you act in varying ways depending on the social situation that you are in? Do others comment on or notice that you act differently depending on who you are with, the social context or environment?

Do you pretend to like the interests of whomever you are with at the time, however you know inwardly that you don’t like them? Do you make yourself look like you are interested in what your peers are saying, doing, how they are behaving, interested in their interests?

Have you ever had a girlfriend/boyfriend that you inwardly said to yourself, “Why am I with this person? I don’t even like them”.

Do you find yourself involved in friendships and/or relationships and wonder in your head why you are with them because you don’t really like them?

Do you feel there are times when you can be yourself? Do you feel you always have to be “someone else” to be in this world?

Is your headspace mostly filled with continual thoughts about what you should do next, do better, who to pretend to be like?

Do you have a habit of giving gifts to make and keep friends?

Has your family or another person supported you with social skills (enrolled you in drama, etiquette or social skills classes or a modeling school to learn deportment)?

How long can you socialize for before feeling tired?

Are there times where you actively find excuses not to attend events, parties, assembly at school, group activities? Do you often say “yes” to a social event and then make up a last-minute excuse as to why you cannot attend?

Do you purposefully go to the library, become a prefect, girl scout leader, homecoming queen, cheerleader, debate team leader (so you can give the directions or debate rather than socialize)?. Do you try to become the teacher’s helper at lunchtimes, hide in the bathroom, walk the hallways alone, join lunchtime clubs, wag school, so that you do not have to socialize with your peers?

Do you or are you reading or studying psychology, sociology, taking microexpressions and facial recognition training to learn to better yourself in terms of understanding people and socializing. Do you read social skills books, watch social skills training on YouTube or another social media platform?

Have you learned from your studies and them practiced how to ask people questions, listening skills and/or other social skills?

Are you overly aware of other people looking at you or pacing attention on you? Do you dislike attention? Do you feel like you spend the majority of your mental and physical energy on how you interact with others?

Do you feel like an ‘imposter’ in social situations?

To be continued in Part 2 and many more examples coming 

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I Am AspienGirl

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I Am AspienWoman

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The Compensatory Measures Checklist©, Marshall 2017, excerpt from my from my upcoming book. Thank you.

Copyright© Tania A. Marshall, www,aspiengirl.com, http://www.taniamarshall.com

 

Just in! Videos: FAQ style, Educational, Instructional, Interviews and more.

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Just in! Videos, FAQ’s style and more

Tania has been requested multiple times to share her work over her lengthy career, give her opinion or support a person or organization. She is now sharing her work via Video FAQ’s or videos, from various individuals or organizations and conferences including the Secret Agent Society, Different Brains, Asperger Argentina’s first and second Symposium and conference on females on the Autism Spectrum, and Asperger Sevilla’s (Spain) recent Innagural Women on the Spectrum Conference and others. These videos can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk_kFdaPkv4w0ieOgfR3IvA

If you like a video or feel it would help someone, please share the video, like the video, subscribe to Tania’s channel and hit the bell to be notified when the next video is coming out. You can leave your FAQ in the comments section below and Tania will read and select a question to answer in the future. Tania will answer the video and it will be uploaded to YouTube. Click on a picture below and you will be taken to her YouTube page, where you can learn more from FAQ’s, conference, interviews and more.

Tania also has her videos on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/neurodiversityacademy

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More Videos coming here soon. Don’t forget if you have an FAQ, leave it in the comments section here or better yet on YouTube and you may see your question being answered by Tania in the future. And always remember to ‘Be Your Own Superhero’.

To contact Tania for in-person or Skype/Zoom fee-based impressions assessments, consultations, interviews, translations, problem-solving sessions and more, please email tania@aspiengirl.com

AspienGirl©

The queen of self-deprecation

This is a recent FAQ on self-deprecation in neurodiverse females. As always, If you like it please share and leave your positive comments or other questions below. This video was made by the Neurodiversity Academy, founded by and funded by AspienGirl girl.com

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On the bright end of the Spectrum and the female Autism crisis

On the Bright end of the Autism Spectrum and the female Autism Crisis: How and Why Do Bright Autistic Females fly under Professional Radar?

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Female Autism is a new and complex area of research with information in this area of Autism growing exponentially. Both empirical studies and qualitative differences are starting to show show that females ‘meet the diagnostic criteria’ in different ways from males. This then leads to females being misdiagnosed, mistreated and/or medicated. In 2015 alone, there have been over 15 gender studies published regarding the differences between males and females. While research is starting to catch up with clinical and anecdotal research, the time it will take for this to trickle down to professionals and those at the ground level may take many years, with females continuing to be under diagnosed and/or misdiagnosed. Many girls and women exist today without a diagnosis. She may have even been assessed by a professional working in the area, but was told she did not meet the “criteria”. If a female can get an accurate diagnosis, she is then often left without intervention and/or support. This is what I call the ‘Female Autism Crisis’.

The ‘Female Autism Crisis’

There is a lack of awareness, understanding and education regarding the female profile or ‘phenotype’, a range of often subtler characteristics, strengths and challenges that do not fit the male profile nor does a female with a diagnosis of Autism feel she fits that profile Common characteristics have been outlined in my initial blogs which were then turned into my book series (bestsellers I Am Aspiengirl and I am AspienWoman).

There is a need for research on:

the differences between neurotypical girls and Autistic girls

camouflaging of autistic symptoms and impairments, adaptation, learning, masking or compensation abilities

diagnostic and classification challenges

the factors that increase or decrease the risk of a female being misdiagnosed or completely missed; the consequences associated with this

information as to how culture, social factors, gender and/or familial upbringing play a part in female Autism

Why do Autistic females fly under the professional radar and why will this continue to occur for some time?

  1. Autism was and still is presumed by many people, professionals included, to be a “male” condition. Some professionals acknowledge that females have Autism and may be unaware that males and females often present very differently.

2. Adherence to a very strict DSM5 criteria which has a gender bias. Whilst DSM 5 has hinted at sex differences in Autism, it does not acknowledge brighter individuals. It also does not elaborate much on what these actual differences are or whether there is a female profile or phenotype.

DSM-5 may better serve girls with autism

Unfortunately, some girls are now being diagnosed with the DSM5 Social Communication Disorder (SCD)

3. A female phenotype is emerging that suggests an inherent gender bias. The Sfari webinar entitled The Female Autism Conundrum  is a great place to start to understand this bias

The female autism conundrum

4. Professional ‘bias’

The child’s behaviors are more a function of the families “alternative” lifestyle

The child does not present with significant enough behaviors, appearing to be “normal” externally

The child does not present with the “male” stereotype or “female” stereotype of what Autism should look like

The childs anxiety, eating issues or behaviors are the focus and the diagnosis is missed

Strict adherence to the diagnostic criteria

5.The emerging female phenotype or profile

A steady collation of anecdotal, clinical and autobiographical reports and current research discuss different presentations, phenotypes or a “female profile” and when assessed with “male-biased” or male-centric tools, many females slip through the cracks. Females on the Autism Spectrum can and do hold eye contact and make superficial conversation. If fact, they can hold superficial conversation for an entire session with a professional!

The girl does not have stereotypical repetitive behaviors

1. There is a lack of assessment tools created for females across the lifespan. The ADOS often shows elevated traits, but not enough to meet the criteria for a diagnosis. Females are often missed because they do not meet the cut-off score, although there are often clues in the ADOS results. Females can have the ability to discuss many social-emotional areas by responding cognitively well. However, many parents, school officials, and/or professionals have found that those social-emotional areas are not often displayed or used adequately, and often then, see the individual using other strategies to cope. It appears that the characteristics and traits as captured by “gold standard” assessment tools may be male-biased due to the gender-centric items that contribute to the scoring. A further comprehensive assessment and/or a second opinion then reveals the individual does meet criteria for Autism or Asperger Syndrome.

2. Females often can and do engage in superficial conversation, make good eye contact and conversation, for the first initial session or hour. This can confuse professionals who are used to seeing particular social clues more immediately and who may think that a female is just “too social”.

3. A lack of understanding regarding coping strategies, compensatory strategies, masking behaviors and the more subtle presentations. Female body language can be expressed quite differently as they learn to act, pretend, mask and compensate for their social difficulties.

4. A lack of trained professionals working in the area of female autism

5. Confusion as to the diagnostic overshadowing, for example, whereby a female may be diagnosed may be told she is “shy” rather than “social anxiety”, may be diagnosed with an “eating disorder” rather than Autism.

6. A lack of understanding how females with Autism present across the lifespan

7. A lack of both quantitative and qualitative data and research regarding females

8. Co-occurring conditions can make assessment a complex and challenging process for diagnosticians working with adults. Whilst many adults have been or are misdiagnosed with a personality disorder, there are adults with both Autism and a personality disorder or those who have been misdiagnosed with Autism and really have a personality disorder

9. A lack of knowledge about the heterogeneity within the female group and the variance in how it presents. There exist different subgroups in females with Autism and range from a more “male” autism profile-type presentation (maybe diagnosed earlier) to those with many “masking” characteristics, where professionals or family members may not believe the person who is telling them about their diagnosis. The female group as a whole consists of much heterogeneity and thus females can present in sub-types (for example, a tomboy, a fashion princess, a bookworm professor type, the athlete). This further causes confusion for diagnosticians who are not familiar with the range of presentations within female Autism (often diagnosed much later, if at all). There is a tendency for an “obsession” to become the person’s identity.

10. For some young females, the need does not appear to be “obvious”, or the “issues” are misinterpreted, UNTIL the teenage years. Presenting concerns may be interpreted as another disorder or generalized. For example, “she’s just got some social issues”, “she”ll grow out of it”, “she is just shy”. Some females present with an eating disorder and Autism is never considered.

11. Some common misconceptions or myths about female Autism can contribute to this issue: “She can make friends, make eye contact and socialize, so she can’t have Autism” “She is too sensitive, so she can’t have Autism” “She holds down a full-time job, so she can’t have Autism” “She has too much empathy so she can’t have Autism”.

12. Females tend to exhibit better expressive behaviors (reciprocal conversation, sharing interests, integrating verbal/nonverbal behavior, imagination, adjusting their behavior by situation) despite similar social understanding difficulties as males), present with different manifestations of friendship difficulties (better initiation but problematic maintenance, overlooked rather than rejected by peers, better self-perceived and parent-reported friendship), and different types of restricted interests and less repetitive use of objects.

13. Some common female differences include: less repetitive behaviors, a greater awareness of the pressure and desire for social interaction, a passive personality, often perceived as “shy”, a “loner”, a tendency to imitate others (copy, mimic, or mask) in social settings, a tendency for social exhaustion (or as I like to call it a “social hangover”), a tendency to “camouflage” their difficulties by masking and/or developing strategies to compensate for the challenges and difficulties they are facing, a tendency to have 1 or few close friendships, a tendency to be “mothered” in a peer group in primary school, BUT often bullied in secondary/high school.

14. There appear to be better linguistic abilities, more imagination (fantasizing and spending time involved in fiction and pretend play and when observed closely the play can be observed to have a lack of reciprocity, to be scripted and/or controlling.

15. Less restricted interests/activities tend to be common involving people and/or animals rather than objects/things (e.g., animals, stationary, soap operas, celebrities, pop music, fashion, horses, pets, and books/literature), which may be seen as less recognized as related to autism. She may be viewed pr perceived as just a “moody bookworm”.

16. A lack of understanding sensory sensitivities and how they impact the ability to function from day to day. An individual may not be able to explain what they are experiencing. In particular, professionals may be more likely to view an individuals’ comments about how they perceive the world as “psychotic”, rather than sensory processing disorder or sensory sensitivities.

17. Diagnostic confusion and not asking the right questions or clarifying what the client has said, can lead to misdiagnosis. Many adult women have multiple labels or diagnoses before they receive the correct diagnosis. As mentioned previously, a lack of understanding as to how sensory sensitivities affect an individual can lead to misdiagnosis. Having a fantasy world and imaginary friends or animals can lead professionals to suspect prodromal schizophrenia in a girl or adolescent. A girl who has developed routines and rituals around food and calories, nutrition and/or exercise may be diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and the Asperger Syndrome is missed. Borderline Personality Disorder is a common misdiagnosis with females usually not fitting neatly in the diagnostic criteria. Furthur complications include individuals who meet criteria for both Autism and a personality disorder.

Professionals may not understand that many females have the ability to “feel” other people’s feelings and this can be quite overwhelming for them. They may not trust talking about their hyperempathy, hence they will  be misunderstood. Females may not trust other people due to the ‘cognitive dissonance’ between non-verbal body language and what she “feels” off the person. In combination with social and relationship challenges, her behaviors look like Borderline traits or Borderline Personality Disorder.

Until professionals catch up with current research on females, they will continue to be diagnosed and/or misdiagnosed with:

Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety

Eating Disorders

The new DSM5 diagnosis of Social Communication Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Schizophrenia or Schizotypal personality disorder

18. Cultural bias can leads to under-identification. For e.g., some immigrant women have been unable to gain an assessment as their differences in communication and behavior are not seen or viewed as unusual, but more of a ‘cultural’ difference

Even if a girl has subtler difficulties than other children with the disorder, those problems may nevertheless have a tremendous impact on her life.

Girls appear to use their intelligence and their abilities to to learn quickly how to combine non-verbal and verbal behaviors in addition to maintaining a reciprocal conversation and be able to initiate, but not maintain friendships. In combination with less to no and different restricted interests and an inability to communicate their needs, girls appear “less” impaired than they really are, especially in the school environment. Females on the Spectrum present with a “look” to them that suggest they are merely more sensitive, emotional and/or anxious than others.

Autism is particularly challenging to detect in girls, especially bright young girls, because generally there are little to no concerns at school. Typically, the Autistic female is doing everything to hide it, from using her cloaking device (hiding in a group) to blending in with the wall (hiding in the classroom) to chameleonism (adopting the social behaviors of another student or adult), allowing them to be much better socially over Autistic males but not neurotypical females. Their ability to hide their Autism is a superpower, but there is a high cost to pay.

Seen in private practice, the subtleties in bright females are abundant, from subtle clues externally (from a slight grimace in their smile to over-exaggerated body language) to social scripts (only observed if you see the girl a few times) to older children or teens who are questioning their gender (because they have always been unable to relate to their peers). Some females want to become boys, some are happy with their androgyny, some are happy to remain female and some change their gender entirely.

Observing, describing and understanding the unique presentation of autism in girls is the beginning to improve identification rates and create unique resources just for females. Understanding the heterogeneity of this group of females is also very important. In my 2nd book I Am AspienWoman, I discuss the differences and subtypes. Developing diagnostic tools is imperative as are intervention resources specifically for femaleCoverJune2015

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Tania can be reached for fee-for-service impressions assessments (in person or Skype), consultations, problem solving consultations and/or support, interviews and/or presentations/workshops, and/or book translations at tania@aspiengirl.com

Tania divides her time between full-time private practice, research and writing her books series.

To subscribe to the AspienGirl newsletter or to become and affiliate and earn 10% on all books referred, go to http://www.aspiengirl.com

To purchase I Am AspienGirl or I Am AspienWoman or pre-order AspienPowers or I Am AspienBoy, go to http://www.aspiengirl.com

For more information about female Autism or female Asperger Syndrome, go to http://www.taniamarshall.com

Future Books and Webinar Series

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I Am AspienWoman now on Amazon USA!

I Am AspienWoman, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols, and fabulous Mentor section headed by Dr. Temple Grandin is finally here on Amazon USA! It debuted at #39 (Disabilities) and #41 (Autism and Asperger Syndrome)

I Am AspienWoman August Cover

I Am AspienWoman August Cover, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols

To find I Am AspienWoman on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/AspienWoman-Unique-Characteristics-Females-Spectrum/dp/0992360943/ref=zg_bs_282950_44

The book is also available at http://www.aspiengirl.com

Back cover of I Am AspienWoman

Back cover of I Am AspienWoman

For more information on female Autism go to http://www.aspiengirl.com

About the Author

Tania Marshall is a best selling author, a 2015 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Award Nominee (Advancement Category) and a 2015 eLIT Gold Medal Award winner. She is the author of I am AspienGirl(2014), I Am AspienWoman (2015) and AspienPowers. She currently works in busy full-time private practice, providing diagnostic assessments, intervention, support and problem solving consultations to males and females ages 2-76 years of age, in-person or via Skype. All inquiries to tania@aspiengirl.com

Tania is an Australian Psychological Society (APS) Identified Autism Practitioner, a Helping Children with Autism Early Intervention Service Provider (HWCA), a Better Start for Children with a Disability Provider, an approved Medicare provider of psychological services and a trained Secret Agent Society (SAS) Practitioner.

Autistic Women, Diagnosis, Disclosure and Mythbusting

Taken from I Am AspienWoman (2015), release date September, 2015

I Am AspienWoman, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols, is over 300 pages and covers the entire lifespan from late teens to the elderly woman. Included is a mentor section including 24 inspirational and motivational Autistic woman, headed up by Dr. Temple Grandin.

AspienWomanApril25th2016

A diagnosis does not always mean disclosure.  By this, I mean disclosure may not be helpful. It depends. In my work with women, I have had women who wanted a diagnosis just for themselves and planned to tell no-one (not even their partners family members), I have had people who have told the world, and I’ve had everything in between!  Disclosure can have positive or negative ramifications and it is context dependent. Once you have disclosed you cannot take it back, nor can you control how or what others will say or think. In an ideal world, it would be perfect if the workplace or educational institution or other people would act according to disability law or respond how you would like them to, but this is often not the case. It may or may not benefit you to tell people and the pros and cons need to be considered, even if a workplace says they are aware and accommodating of disability. What are the pros and cons of disclosure for you?

Be prepared that other people may not believe you

It is a common experience for women to be invalidated, disregarded and/or not believed after they disclose their diagnosis to family members, partners or friends. This is mainly due to a lack of education and/or awareness about Autistic females.

Other people may expect to see physical signs or behaviors to confirm to them that a woman is on the Autism Spectrum. They may compare her to the media stereotyped characters or the males they know or know of on the Spectrum. They may say inappropriate or upsetting things to the newly diagnosed, often coming from good intentions.  Other people on the Spectrum may not believe you or may say just as upsetting things. Educating others (by referring them to research or books) and self-advocating, where possible, may be helpful.

Be prepared for the stereotypes about females with Autism

In particular, educating others about how Autism in females presents and the sub-types. Some common stereotypes and myths regarding females include:

females are Tomboys, dislike make-up and clothing, don’t like fairies or the colour pink, females, cannot look at you and carry on a conversation, and more. In fact, the opposite is true. Whilst I have met some females like this, I have met many females who love pink, make-up, clothes, fashion and fairies. There is no one type of Autistic female. What are some scripts or responses you can have prepared ahead of time?

Another way of talking about a diagnosis without talking about the “A” word

Another way of discussing a diagnosis can be in the form of discussing characteristics, traits, abilities or challenges. For example, talking about neurodiversity and ‘different’ brains (just like there are different trees and flowers) can be a helpful analogy. Relating different trees or flowers to people gives others an understanding of different brain types. Learning to advocate for oneself is important and can be effective when done appropriately. The following are a couple of examples to get assist and reflect on:

“I’m the kind of person who likes to socialize for a little while but then I need a break to recharge my batteries”

“I’m the type of person who is really interested in talking about English literature and not so great with small talk”

“I’m an introvert and need more time alone than others so I can concentrate on my painting”

What are some ways you can explain your strengths and challenges? What are some ways you can advocate for yourself?

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Tania is available for in-person or Skype or other remote consultations, assessments or problem-solving sessions. She offers bulk billing and sliding scales where applicable. To book appointments or discuss and/or book availability for presentations, conferences, publishing, translation and media interviews or inquiries, please email Tania@aspiengirl.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tania Marshall is a best selling author, a 2015 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Award Nominee (Advancement Category) and a 2015 eLIT Gold Medal Award winner for her first self-published book entitled “I Am AspienGirl : The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Young Females on the Autism Spectrum”, foreword by Dr. Judith Gould.  The sequel to this book entitled “I Am AspienWoman: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Adult Females on the Autism Spectrum”, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols is available September, 2015. Tania is currently writing the third book in her book series entitled “AspienPowers: The Unique Constellation of Strengths, Talents and Gifts of Females with Autism Spectrum Conditions”. The Spanish version of I am Aspiengirl , entitled Soy AspienGirl is now available. Tania’s work has been translated and/or cited in numerous publications including Sarah Hendrickxs’ recent release entitled “Women and Girls with an Autism Spectrum Disorder” (2015), foreword by Dr. Judith Gould.

Tania currently works in busy full-time private practice, providing diagnostic assessments, intervention and support to males and females ages 2-76 years of age. Tania is an Australian Psychological Society (APS) Identified Autism Practitioner, a Helping Children with Autism Early Intervention Service Provider (HWCA), a Better Start for Children with a Disability Provider, an approved Medicare provider of psychological services and a trained Secret Agent Society (SAS) Practitioner.

20152017  All rights reserved Tania Marshall

20 Reasons for obtaining an Adult Autism Diagnosis

20 Reasons for obtaining an Adult Autism diagnosis

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is about the relevance of obtaining a formal diagnosis or formalizing a self-diagnosis. My 2nd book, I Am AspienWoman alludes to this very topic through powerful images, experiences, thoughts and feelings of many adult autistic women. There are many valid reasons for obtaining a diagnosis and the majority of women who receive one explain the benefits in the book. I  have included a couple of pages from the book and you can now pre-order I Am AspienWoman, available in eBook, paperback and hardcover, at http://www.aspiengirl.com You will receive $10 off if you order an I Am AspienGirl© and I am AspienWoman Combo. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did writing it!

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20 reasons for a diagnosis

20 reasons for a diagnosis1

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Tania is available for in-person or Skype consultations, assessments or problem-solving sessions. To book appointments or discuss and/or book availability for presentations, conferences, publishing, translation and media interviews or inquiries, please email Tania@aspiengirl.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tania Marshall is a best selling author, a 2015 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Award Nominee (Advancement Category) and a 2015 eLIT Gold Medal Award winner for her first self-published book entitled “I Am AspienGirl© : The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Young Females on the Autism Spectrum”, foreword by Dr. Judith Gould.  The sequel to this book entitled “I Am AspienWoman: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Adult Females on the Autism Spectrum”, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols is available September, 2015. Tania is currently writing the third book in her book series entitled “AspienPowers: The Unique Constellation of Strengths, Talents and Gifts of Females with Autism Spectrum Conditions”. The Spanish version of I am Aspiengirl© , entitled Soy AspienGirl is now available. Tania’s work has been translated and/or cited in numerous publications including Sarah Hendrickxs’ recent release entitled “Women and Girls with an Autism Spectrum Disorder” (2015), foreword by Dr. Judith Gould.

Tania currently works in busy full-time private practice, providing diagnostic assessments, intervention and support to males and females ages 2-76 years of age. Tania is an Australian Psychological Society (APS) Identified Autism Practitioner, a Helping Children with Autism Early Intervention Service Provider (HWCA), a Better Start for Children with a Disability Provider, an approved Medicare provider of psychological services and a trained Secret Agent Society (SAS) Practitioner.

© 2015-2017 All rights reserved Tania Marshall

I Am AspienWoman Book Testimonials, Coming September 2015 and available for pre-order at www.aspiengirl.com

I Am AspienWoman: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Gifts of Adult Women on the Autism Spectrum (Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols) is the sequel to the best selling and IPPY eLIT Gold Medal Award winning I Am AspienGirl (2014), Foreword by Dr. Judith Gould. To pre-order, go to http://www.aspiengirl.com/english

The book is available in eBook, paperback and a gorgeous hardcover version and can be bought separately or along with I Am AspienGirl.

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Have you ever wondered about a friend, a partner, a mother, sister or daughter? Wondered why she has said she feels ‘different’? Wondered why some things are so easy for her yet other things that most people perform with ease seem so challenging? Out of step with her peers, she may struggle keeping friends and a job, yet she has multiple degrees. She may be a gifted singer, yet she struggles with social interaction and performance anxiety. Maybe she was told she was shy and just needed to come out of her shell. Told she’d grow out of her social awkwardness. Maybe she had or has an eating disorder. Maybe she has been given too many ‘labels’? She may have spent years going to counselors, therapists, doctors or psychiatrists, with no real improvement or answers. Maybe Autism or Asperger Syndrome was mentioned but she did not resonate with the male profile or even with the stereotypical female profile.

Bright from early on, she may have single-minded focus, sprinkles of anxiety, sensory and social issues, be gifted in art, writing, research or singing. Maybe she is ‘Aspien’, an adult female with Asperger Syndrome or Autism. She has a unique constellation of super-abilities, strengths and challenges. She may feel or say that she is from another planet. Maybe nothing so far has really fit in your search for understanding her. Maybe she herself has been searching for self-understanding, or maybe she has recently self-diagnosed and is struggling to obtain a formal diagnosis. She may have a child or children on the Autism spectrum or it runs in her family and she is now recognizing it in herself.

If you are looking for a book on the often perplexing and unique adult female autism spectrum traits, then this is the book for you. This book showcases the female profile in a unique format, presenting a combination of images and quotes to illuminate the newly emerging Autistic female phenotype. This highly visual format showcases what Autism is like for females, as spoken by females on the Spectrum and those that love or support them. This book is about awareness and education of the female phenotype.

Drawing from years of practitioner experience, Tania Marshall takes you inside the world of adult females with Autism or Asperger Syndrome. Current research supports an inherent gender bias with females being under researched. This book was specifically designed to be a ‘layman’s’ guide for the general population, professionals, family members, the education and psychiatric fields.

Foreword by Shana Nichols, PhD

“Having written an endorsement for I Am AspienGirl ®, and recommending it as a must read to anyone parenting or working with a girl on the autism spectrum (including the girls themselves), I was delighted to be asked by Tania Marshall to write the foreword for I Am AspienWoman®.

I began working regularly with AspienGirls in 2005, having developed ‘girls only’ social coping groups. At that time, there were no resources available for families that specifically addressed the issues faced by females, and limited research had been conducted with the goal of understanding the experiences of girls and women. Few clinicians had begun to specialize in this area, yet those of us who did knew that these girls and women have unique needs and that a subset of females present with behaviors and characteristics that can be quite dissimilar from their male counterparts. When viewed through a ‘male’ lens, AspienGirls and Women are often overlooked, missed, misdiagnosed, and misunderstood, resulting in a rallying call for the professional community to pay attention and work towards remedying the situation.

In recent years that call has begun to be answered. Over 15 studies addressing gender differences and the experiences of females have been published in professional journals in 2015 alone. Attendees at the annual International Meeting for Autism Research in 2015 were able to participate in a session devoted entirely to research concerning females on the autism spectrum. A number of clinical conferences with the goal of offering practical strategies and facilitating the understanding of females have popped up globally in the last two years, providing the opportunity to learn from professionals and from women on the spectrum themselves. Lastly, the number of books and resources that are available to families, professionals, and females has grown. I Am AspienGirl was a rich and unique contribution to this literature, and I am thrilled to say that I Am AspienWoman ® is equally creative and inspiring.

With its characteristic eye-catching photos and powerful quotes from members across the entire female autism spectrum community, readers of I Am AspienWoman will find no shortage of knowledge, illumination and encouragement – after all, an important message of the book is for women to be their own superheroes. I Am AspienWoman celebrates the strengths, triumphs, talents and beauty of females, yet does not shy away from a balanced discussion of challenges, concerns, and important yet often overlooked issues such as gender and sexuality, personal safety, mental health, and motherhood. Essential themes that run throughout include Identity, Connection, Validation, Self-Care, Inspiration, Strategies, and Optimism. Top tips from over 20 Real-life AspienWoman Super-hero Mentors offer a smorgasbord of suggestions and support.

The pages of I Am AspienWoman hold a diamond of a message for any reader. It may be big, life changing, and fabulously eye opening. It may touch your heart and whisper “I see you.” It may provide the much-needed words to explain, describe or share thoughts, feelings and experiences. It may open doors, or it may give a gentle push to close those that are no longer helpful. It may be a hint of Hope, or perhaps a spark of Superhero-ness. It may be all that is needed to get started, re-start or continue on the journey of becoming the best version of who you are: an AspienGirl or Woman, a family member, a friend, an educator, a professional.

As a field, we still have a long way to go in advocating for better understanding of female autism, educating and training professionals, developing appropriate assessments and treatments, and creating a community of support and inclusion for AspienGirls and Women. Given all that has happened in the last few years, I am encouraged that we are headed in the right direction. Thankfully there are those special books, like I Am AspienWoman, that act as a guide and an incredibly accessible resource. As with her prior book, Tania’s latest offering has not surprisingly leaped onto my recommended reading list.”

Shana Nichols, PhD
Owner, Director, Researcher                                                                                        ASPIRE Center for Learning and Development                                                             Author of ‘Girls Growing Up on the Autism Spectrum: What Parents and Professionals Should Know About the Pre-teen and Teenage Years’

“Tania Marshall has created a groundbreaking book. Most often we hear the voice of the parent or professional, at last we hear the voice of women with Aspergers. Aspienwomen can be totally inspiring! Thoroughly recommend.”

Carrie Grant
Vocal coach, judge and TV presenter
Judge, BBC 1’s Fame Academy and BAFTA Award winning “Glee Club.”
Presenter, The One Show
Author, bestselling book “You Can Sing”
Mother to two daughters on the spectrum
United Kingdom

“There is definitely a need for more information for individuals who get diagnosed later in life. Diagnosis as an adult can provide tremendous insight into why relationships were so difficult. When I was in college, I remember many older quirky adults who seeked me out and helped me. Today many of these people would be diagnosed with either autism or Asperger’s syndrome. One woman was the associate dean’s wife and she gave me many hours of emotional support during difficult social times in college.”

Temple Grandin, Author, USA
The Autistic Brain and Thinking in Pictures

In this sequel, to her first book Aspiengirl, Tania Marshall examines the topic of autism in women, utilising the personal perspectives of women themselves. Despite a greater awareness of autism more generally, autism in girls and women is only just beginning to receive wider attention and the majority remain undetected, in many instances leading unhappy unfulfilled lives and often struggling to survive. This ‘lost generation’ of women is only now beginning to have the nature of the condition and needs recognised. Despite the talents and qualities such women may possess, they largely remain disadvantaged and vulnerable. This is often compounded by a lack of self-awareness and by their families and a poorly informed professional community.

As with its forerunner the essence of this book is its attractiveness, readability and clarity. It will open eyes of the reader in so many ways and although adopting a positive tone throughout avoids trivialising or glamourizing the topic or pulling its punches. Tania Marshall does not shy away from difficult areas or topics and has sensible approaches to offer. I am sure it will have a wide appeal – from those women who are or suspect they may be on the autism spectrum, families and professionals in many fields such as employment, education, health and social support.

Richard Mills

Research Director, Research Autism, London

Hon. Research Fellow, Dept. Psychology, the University of Bath, UK

I have been fortunate enough to work with a number of young people and their families in the UK and Ireland during the last 20 years.  I am also lucky to be involved with practitioner research; previously developing our ‘saturation model’ for including young people with autism in mainstream education (Morewood et al, 2011) and most recently considering the impact of interventions through case studies (Bond et al, 2015).  This research is vital; however I always feel I understand most from listening to young people, hearing their stories and talking to their families.

AspienWoman is the latest book from Tania A Marshall, and a vital addition to the growing knowledge-base about females and autism.  The ‘first-hand’ accounts throughout the book support the outcomes of our research; a personalised approach is essential.  The comprehensive ‘real-life’ examples support a rapid increase in understanding and allow for a truly unique viewpoint; highlighting strengths and personal characteristics of the women who have contributed, skillfully linked and collated by Tania, drawing on a wealth of personal experience and expertise.

I am reminded of a quote one of our students, Megan told me once: ‘I feel rather positive about my Autism, because it is part of me and without it I would not be me anymore.’  Anyone reading AspienWomen will understand immeasurable more after reading it, as I have.  I am always learning, from our young people and their families; Tania’s contribution to this knowledge will have considerable impact, as I am certain that AspienWoman will for many, many others around the world.  Essential reading, if you are directly involved in working with young people, their families or women with autism, or if you just want to understand more about some of the amazingly talented individuals who have contributed to this amazing work.

Gareth D Morewood

UK Special Educational Needs Coordinator

Honorary Research Fellow, University of Manchester

Associate Editor, Good Autism Practice Journal

www.gdmorewood.com
“Once again, Tania has provided a visual conversation starter to demonstrate the wide and varied adult presentation of female autism. Featuring individual profiles of successful autistic women along with quotes from individuals and family members, this book will help to further increase the understanding that women with autism are out there – even if they are hard to spot”.

Sarah Hendrickx,
Autistic adult
Masters (Autism), Postgraduate Certificate (Asperger Syndrome)
Author of Women and Girls with ASD, Understanding Life Experiences from Early Childhood to Old Age. JKP, (2015)

“When reading Tania Marshall’s AspienWoman, the reader gets wave after wave of deep understanding about women with Asperger Syndrome, filled with affirmation, positive reinforcement and difficult facts softened with empathy.  This book is unique and sensitive and full of wisdom.  For those on the spectrum it will be like a breath of fresh air to be understood and lifted up. For those just wanting to learn more, it is an exciting journey full of revelation and hope. AspienWoman is not a book to read once.  It is a book to be absorbed over time.”

Kathy Hoopmann,

Author, All Cats have Asperger Syndrome, All Dogs have ADHD

The Essential Manual for Asperger Syndrome (ASD) in the Classroom

Tania, your book is a reflection of the bright and beautiful possibilities that await women on the autism spectrum. Many had said, “She will grow out of it,” but rather, your book shows that “We grow into it,” emerging from confusion and misunderstanding into a new appreciation of our unique and powerful profile. I am Aspien Woman is a celebration in word and picture, affirming our rightful place in the society in which we live!

Rachael Lee Harris

Psychotherapist specializing in Women and Girls on the Autism Spectrum.

Author of My Autistic Awakening: Unlocking the Potential for a Life Well Lived

As the parent of an adult son who was diagnosed with Aspergers after many years of misdiagnosis and assumptions, ie “little professor” “lazy’ and more + the spouse of a man who was diagnosed with Aspergers as well I enjoyed reading your book.

The layout of I Am AspienWoman is quite impressive. The photos are vivid. The self descriptive disclosures regarding living with Aspergers by individuals and family members provide a venue for other woman on the spectrum to identify with. The photos and self disclosures are uniquely reinforced with factual information regarding the bio/psycho/social characteristics of those on the spectrum by the author in a format that the laymen can understand. I Am AspienWoman takes Aspergers and living on the spectrum out of the clinical context and provides a human and real window into the meaning of living with Aspergers.

I Am AspienWoman focuses on the positive aspects of living with Aspergers. It does not focus on the deficits. For sure, this book portrays the challenges associated with being on the spectrum but the strengths that individuals possess due to having Aspergers is reinforced. This will be resultant in providing hope and  the reader perceiving themselves, or a family member who has Aspergers in a more positive light.

The unique combination of presenting bios of “real people”, challenges, and the strengths of individuals with Aspergers will provide a venue for not only appreciation of strengths but challenges that effect individuals on the spectrum as well. I Am AspienWoman cracks the heuristics of society at large and any misnomers regarding Aspergers.

Many different aspects regarding traits, characteristics, challenges  are portrayed which reinforce the individuality of individuals on the spectrum. As with neurotypicals, each individual possesses different traits, talents and personalities. Hence, this is not a cookie cutter diagnosis where everyone with Aspergers is talented in math or computers. 

Thanks Tania for writing a much needed and “human” book that many on the spectrum will seek out for positive role models and will cause  society at large to change their perception about individuals on the spectrum who they live, love, work and play with on a daily basis.

Mari Nosal M.Ed. Author

Ten Commandments Of Interacting With Kids On The Autism Spectrum And Related Commandments

When I first read I am AspienGirl last year, I knew immediately that we would be treated to sequels. I am AspienWoman takes up where AspienGirl leaves off, taking the concept through a beautiful age progression.  AspienWoman does not glamorize Asperger’s but rather gives a balanced, factual picture of the strengths and challenges that characterize this population. The short vignettes tell the stories of the lives of real people, told from both the perspective of AspienWomen themselves, and from those who surround them in life. Tania Marshall outlines common traits and needs of the AspienWoman, with which many women will identify.

This book is alive with pictures and stories of beautiful, successful AspienWomen. The focus is on the strength of those spotlighted, and includes personal tips for success from these role models to the reader. Reading the stories of this group of featured role models, it is clear that “different” does not mean “less”. Ms. Marshall also includes a section of ideas on how a professional might use I am AspienWoman to enhance the lives of women with Asperger’s.

I am AspienWoman throws a life line to young ladies dealing with a feeling of isolation or frustration due to Asperger’s Syndrome. Ms. Marshall offers a sense of community to this population, along with proof that success and happiness can be a reality for the AspienWoman.

 Linda Barboa, PhD

Author of:

Stars in Her Eyes: Navigating the Eyes of Childhood Autism

Tic Toc Autism Clock

Steps to Forming A Disability Ministry

And the Albert is My Friend series teaching children about autism.

Watch for AspienPowers: The Unique constellation of Gifts, Strengths and Abilities of Females on the Autism Spectrum, coming late 2015.

Aspienpowerscover

Book 3 of the series

Tania Marshall is a best selling author, a 2015 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Award Nominee (Advancement Category) and a 2015 eLIT Gold Medal Award winner for her first self-published book entitled “I Am AspienGirl: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Strengths of Young Females on the Autism Spectrum”, foreword by Dr. Judith Gould. She divides her time between private practice, research and writing. Tania is an Australian Psychological Society (APS) Identified Autism Practitioner, a Helping Children with Autism Early Intervention Service Provider (HWCA), a Better Start for Children with a Disability Provider, an approved Medicare provider of psychological services and a trained Secret Agent Society (SAS) Practitioner.

Tania is available for Skype or in person assessments, support, intervention, coaching and problem solving sessions. Tania can also be contacted for interviews, workshops, presentations, conferences, articles, publishing inquiries and/or translations at tania@aspiengirl.com

I Am AspienGirl Book’s 1st Week!

I Am AspienGirl Book’s 1st Week has been insane! The book came out in e-book format and made it straight to the Amazon #2 best seller list! Today I received the paperback version which will begin shipping out the end of the month of June 2014. We are also putting out a special hardcover edition, coming soon.

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If you like the book, please go to Amazon.com and leave a book review and let your friends, school staff, professionals, Autism organisations and libraries know.

For more information on the book series or the book’s author:

http://www.Taniamarshall.com
http://www.aspiengirl.com
http://www.Facebook.com/TaniaMarshall author
http://www.facebook.com/aspiengirl
http://www.twitter.com/aspiengirl
http://www.pinterest.com/aspiengirl

Aspienwomen: Moving towards an adult female profile of Autism/Asperger Syndrome

 

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Updated July 15th, 2018

Tania Marshall© 2013-2018. All rights reserved. Aspiengirl and Planet Aspien are trademarked. Thank you.

Aspienwomen : Adult Women with Asperger Syndrome. Moving towards a female profile of Asperger Syndrome. This blog has been viewed more than 500,000 times since I initially wrote it and was the inspiration for my second book, released August 29th, 2015, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols. and now an international bestseller. I am pleased to announce this book just received a 2016 IPPY eLit Gold Medal award in the ‘Women’s Issues’ category. This book is available at http://www.aspiengirl.com, Amazon, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and other fine bookstores.

Tania is available for fee-based in-person or Skype remote assessments, consultations, problem-solving sessions, intervention, and support. She also works regularly with a variety of professionals in many countries, in the areas of referrals and assisting individuals to obtain and/or receive an assessment, diagnosis and/or support in their own country. She can be contacted at tania@aspiengirl.com regarding fee-based assessments, intervention, support, problem-solving, referrals, her diagnostic impressions, book inquiries and translations, publishing inquiries, media enquiries, workshops and/or conferences.

The following list is an official detailed working screener document consisting of the unique characteristics and traits of adult women with Asperger Syndrome, or Aspienwomen. It is not a research-based formal assessment tool. It is a screening tool based on the many females I have worked with over the years. I have assessed, observed, diagnosed and worked with thousands of girls and women of all ages. This document is based on my clinical anecdotal evidence and research by other well-known professionals. I will be modifying and/or updating this list from time to time. This list was written from my reflections, observations, and experience, and is written in no particular order. No-one person needs to have every trait, and it is rare that a person would identify with every trait. Autism is a heterogeneous condition and as such, whilst people may share similar abilities and challenges, no two people with Autism are alike.  This is a descriptive anecdotal profile, much like the early day descriptions that Asperger, Kanner, and Frankl described of the boys they observed.

***Please be mindful that research often lags many years behind anecdotal, observational and clinical work.

***This list does not characterize all people and Autism is a heterogeneous condition. It presents itself differently in each person

***Research shows that everybody has Autistic traits. Out of a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle, everybody on the planet has a couple or a few pieces. Those that have 60 pieces would be said to have Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP) and those with 80 or more pieces are diagnosable or diagnosed with the condition.

***Self-diagnosis does not equal a formal diagnosis. Some people who self-diagnosis do not have Autism or Asperger Syndrome and some do. There can be false positive self-diagnoses.

The following profile was created for females who are self-diagnosing or considering formal diagnosis and to assist mental health professionals in recognizing Asperger Syndrome in adult females.

Females with Asperger Syndrome experience their symptoms at varying levels, so while some Aspienwomen are highly introverted, others are not. Many women would not meet formal criteria for a diagnosis due to their coping mechanisms. They would be defined as “sub-clinical”, “residual Aspergers”, otherwise known as Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP). Females with Asperger Syndrome or Autism tend to be discriminated against due to the wide spectrum of abilities or levels of functioning that exists. The majority of females do not receive a formal diagnosis until well into their adult years.

This list typifies many of the adult Aspienwomen I have worked with. These traits also depend to some extent on the severity, whether you’ve been assessed and diagnosed and/or receives support and intervention, and also whether there is a co-existing condition(s) (for e.g., a personality disorder) present.

1.  Cognitive/Intellectual Abilities

Tend to have high average to genius intelligence, often (but not always) with significant splits between verbal and perceptual reasoning abilities, lower working memory and/or processing speeds, learning disabilities (for e.g., dyscalculia, dyslexia, reading comprehension)

Superior long-term memory

Weaker short-term memory

May need academic accommodations in University

A distinct learning profile consisting of a spikey profile of strengths and weaknesses, peaks and troughs, learning disabilities/differences

Often have a rigid negative thinking, inflexible black or white thinking style or rigidity of thinking

Context Blindness

2.  Education/University Life

May have dropped out of high school and gone back later or may have repeated a grade. May have unfinished or partial degrees, may have many finished degrees, many have Doctorate of Ph.D. level qualifications. Many have taken longer to achieve their education, as compared to their peers.

May have a history of enrolling and attending university classes, followed by dropping out of classes or semesters. Sometime later, she then re-enrolls/attends later on, in life. This is usually due to being overloaded and overwhelmed. A history of deferring exams, not attending classes, dropping out of classes or programs, is common.

May have repeated high school or courses OR dropped out completely.

A history of many doctors and counselors visits throughout university life, without any significant improvement

Difficulty taking the same amount of courses or classes as her peers

May get lost on campus easily, lose possessions, be late for classes or exams

3.  Career/Work

Often drawn to the helping, artistic or animal professions, and often an “expert” in her chosen field. I know of many Aspienwomen who are successful in the following careers: Artists, singers, actors, poets, writers, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, special needs teachers/consultants, horse trainers/whisperers, doctors, scientists, accountants, authors, childcare workers, models, comedians, artists, computer-related specialists, animal handlers or zookeepers, university professors, nurses, psychics/mediums, entrepreneurs and photographers.

May miss days of work due to social exhaustion

May find great difficulty attending/participating in staff meetings, lunch breaks, work social events

May make up excuses for not attending work/staff functions

May have a history of being unable to cope with work/employment environments, often moving from job to job, especially in younger adult years

Hard-working conscientious worker

May get stressed if have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time

May become frustrated/stressed if asked to do too many things at once

Tries very hard to avoid making mistakes, forgetting things

Tries hard to please others

May burn bridges (for e.g., walk out or quit jobs or relationships without notice)

4.  Social and friendships/relationships

May appear narcissistic, self-centered,  egocentric or caring only about her/himself due to not understanding the unwritten social rules

Preference for one-on-one social interactions, single close friendships

May obsess over one friend to the extreme

Preference for friendships with men as they are easier to understand than women. They also find the interests of their peers boring and uninteresting

Need more time away from people than their peers (solitude)

May experience stress, anxiety, and confusion in social group or group work situations

Social Anxiety leading to Social Phobia: Overanalyzing social interactions where they overthink (on a ‘loop’), about what they said, did, did not say, should have said or not said and what they wished they should have said. On the other side of this is continual stressing about what the other person is thinking of them. This is usually done to the extreme that it can be incapacitating for the person.

Strong preference to engage in conversation related to their special interest

Strong dislike for social chit-chat, gossip, nonsense, lies or conversation that lacks a ‘function’ to it, but some are known to engage in it themselves

A history of being bullied, teased, left out and/or not fitting in with same-age peers unless she had/has similar “Aspie” friends

An intense dislike of lies, but may lie to others herself. Many have admitted this to me.

Has an ability to socialize, however, is unable to do so for long periods of time. Suffers from “social exhaustion” or a “social hangover” when socializing too much. The hangover can last hours to days, which can be debilitating

Experience great difficulty with conflict, arguments, being yelled at, fighting, war, stress

Has great difficulty asserting herself, asking for help, setting boundaries

May need to drink or do drugs to be able to socialize, perform (sing), be with and/or around people

May currently have or have experienced Post-Traumatic Stress, often due to being misunderstood, misdiagnosed, mistreated, and/or mismedicated.

Social Skills differences – is exceptionally good one-on-one and presenting to groups, however, has difficulty working within group situations

May find herself in social situations or relationships that she is unhappy with, but not know how to remove herself from them. Is highly at-risk for being with a toxic abusive person die to her nature. See ‘The Molotov Cocktail’ Series at http://www.vimeo.com/ondemand/femaleautism

History of being taken advantage of by others, even though she has taken the appropriate business, legal or social advice from others

Often bored in social situations or parties and/or does not know how to act in social situations

May say “yes” to social events, then later make up an excuse as to why she cannot attend, often staying home in solitude (reading a book or engages in her special interest)

Often prefers to be engaged in her special interest, rather than socializing

May be considered the “black sheep” of the family

Others consider her different, odd, eccentric or “weird” by others

May feel like she has to act normal” to please others OR does not care at all about fitting in

Copies, mimics, act in order to fit in and make others like her

A people pleaser, but then may burn bridges suddenly (for e.g., quit relationships), as they have difficulty managing conflict, confrontation, and stress

Females appear to be better than males at masking the traits of autism in social situations. However, girls are less able to do so in unfamiliar settings.

May be considered a “loner” OR may have many acquaintances, but no real friends

Social Naivety: may believe anything told to them by others (gossip, stories, jokes, and teasing), difficulty interpreting the intentions of others, misinterprets other peoples intentions, often jumping to conclusions about others, may be described as “gullible”

5.  Communication

Difficulties communicating her thoughts and feelings, in words, to others, especially if anxious, stressed or upset. Often can type or write her thoughts much better

May dislike asking others for help, be unable to ask or not know how to ask for help

Maybe passive, not know how to assert her boundaries in a healthy manner

May offend others by saying what she is thinking, even if she does not mean to; may appear aggressive or too intense

May point out other people’s mistakes

May give too much detail and end up boring others unintentionally

May ask embarrassing questions (usually when younger)

Unusual voice (flat, monotone, high-pitched, child-like)

The tendency to take things literally, missing what people are trying to say

May talk too loudly or too softly, often unaware that she is doing so

May talk too much or not enough

Often surprised when people tell her she has been rude or inappropriate

Poor pragmatic language skills

Struggle with eye contact and listening to someone at the same time

May have auditory processing issues

Struggles to understand non-verbal communication cues

Often overshare in inappropriate ways, not understanding the steps to a friendship or relationship

6.   Physiology/Neurology

A. Highly Sensitive

Highly sensitivity, may not be able to listen to or watch the news, listen to the radio, read the newspaper, watch violent shows/movies or horror movies, see hurt or injured animals, abuse, war, trauma, are sensitive to the emotions and “emotional atmosphere” of the environment, experience referred emotion and psychic “6th sense” abilities, may have strong intuitive and/or psychic abilities

B. Sensory Processing Disorder/Condition

May have sensory sensitivities in the following areas: hearing, vision, taste, touch, smell, balance, movement, intuition

May be very sensitive to pain or have a high pain threshold

May notice how food tastes or feels and one may be more important than the other

May be clumsy or uncoordinated

May dislike loud noises and/or be overwhelmed or stressed by bright lights, strong smells, coarse textures/clothing, sirens close by or people too close behind her.

May find children hard to cope with due to crying, screaming or other loud noises

Sensitive to the way clothes feel and how they may be more important than how they look

May have to withdraw, isolate herself when overwhelmed by her senses

May not be able to tolerate sounds, sights, smells, textures, a movement that she dislikes

May not like to be hugged, cuddled or held. “I only like to hug if it’s my decision”

Can get upset or distressed if unable to follow a familiar route when going somewhere

Things that should feel painful may not be (bruises but not know how they got there, due to clumsiness)

In social situations, the nervous system tends to be overwhelmed easily, leading to withdrawal (for e.g., wander off to a quiet spot at a party, play with children or animals)

Strong hunger may be disrupting her mood and/or the ability to focus

She may notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, works of art, and pieces of music.

C. Anxiety, stress and/or anger. Recent brain scanning research points towards the enlarged Amygdala’s role in intense emotions, anxiety, and anger

D. May have auditory processing issues

E. May have Irlen Syndrome

F. May grind teeth or have lockjaw (anxiety)

G. May have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or traits

H.  May have one or more of the 7 types of ADHD (see http://www.amenclinics.com)

I.  Usually has executive function difficulties (i.e., time management, planning ahead, organization)

J. May rock, leg-bounce, fidget or other movements with hands, twirl hair, stroke soft fabric to self-soothe (aka stimming or self-soothing), doodle, draw

K. May be very sensitive to medications, caffeine and/or alcohol

L. May have gluten, wheat, casein or other food allergies/intolerances, gut issues

M. May have sleep difficulties, a preference for staying up late at night, usually not a morning person, may be very creative at night

N. May have Dyspraxia

O. May have tics (for example, throat-clearing, coughing)

7. Physical Appearance

Usually dresses differently from her peers, often eccentric, may dress more for comfort than appearance.

May dress “over the top” or unusually for occasions

May try very hard to fit in appearance wise or may not care at all

May have a special interest in fashion and femininity

May not shower or upkeep hygiene at times, due to different priorities (usually being involved in special interests)

Looks younger than her years

Has an unusual voice; maybe “child-like”, monotone, loud or soft, quality to her voice

Often does certain things with hands (twirling hair or items, different movements) or legs (leg “bouncing” or rocking while standing)

8. Lifestyle

Books, computers, the Internet, animals, children, nature may be her best friends

She loves quiet, solitude, peaceful surroundings

She may be ultra-religious or not at all. Buddhism appears to be common

May prefer to spend as much time as possible by herself, with animals or in nature

May have a strong preference for routine and things being the same day after day

Gets pleasure from being engaged in her chosen work and/or special interests

She may make it a high priority to arrange her life, events, work, and environment to avoid overwhelming, stressful or upsetting situations

9. Relationship Choices/Sexuality/Gender

May date or marry much older or much younger partners, same-gender partner, tending not to see the “age”, “gender”, but rather the personality of the person first

May be asexual, having preferences that are deemed as more important than sex or a relationship

May be ‘hypersexual”, fascinated by physical sexual contact

May differ from peers in terms of flexibility regarding sexual orientation or may think about or want to change gender. Some individuals may change gender or experiment with sexuality as a means to find social success or to “fit in” or feel less different

May not have wanted or needed intimate relationships (asexual)

There is a greater flexibility in sexuality and/or gender. Maybe heterosexual or may be asexual, gay, bisexual or transgender

May be androgynous and prefer to wear men’s clothing

As a teenager may experience Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD)

May be or have a history of being promiscuous OR asexual or inappropriate (i.e., following someone they like although they don’t know how to engage in the art of dating or flirting. This can lead to stalking someone and eventually the Police becoming involved)

Prone to safety issues due to not being aware of surroundings

10. Special Interests

Current research shows that individuals on the Spectrum do not have “restricted interests”, but rather a lifetime of interests that can vary. A special interest may involve the person’s career, Anime, fantasy (think Dr. Who, superheroes, and Harry Potter), just to name a few, writing, animals, reading, celebrities, food, fashion, jewelry, makeup, tattoos, symbols and TV Series (think Game of Thrones). This is not inclusive

May attend ComicCon, SuperNova, love dressing up as a character.

Ability to “hyperfocus” for long periods of time involved in the special interest, without eating, drinking or going to the toilet, is able to hyperfocus on her special interest for hours, often losing track of time

Loves and revels in solitude, peace, and quiet. Solitude is often described as “needing it like the air I breathe”

An intense love for nature and animals

Often not interested in what other people find interesting

May collect or hoard items of interest

Introspection and self-awareness. Many women spend years trying to understand themselves, reading self-help and psychology books and wonder why they feel so different, from another planet or that the “Mothership has dropped me off on the wrong planet”.

Justice Issues

May know every lyric to a song or every line to a movie from repetitively watching them or listening to them

11. Emotional

Feels things deeply (Category 5 emotions) and may be inconsolable (cannot be calmed down). Often has “over the top” reactions to events

May have severe “depression attacks” that last for a few days; may feel the world is about to end

Does not DO calm, stress, conflict, confrontation or fighting

Struggles with degrees of emotions

Think that people are laughing at her or making fun of her when they are not

Facial expressions do not match the situation. May have an inappropriate emotional expression to the situation

Other people’s moods affect her, especially if they are negative

Tends to be very sensitive to emotional pain

Emotions may be delayed so that for e.g., she can be a great ER doctor, but may fall apart a few days later about a traumatic work situation

Anxiety is a constant from the very early years and is often overwhelmed by the amounts of tasks that need to be completed. Triggers for anxiety are varied from too much thinking to catastrophizing to change in routine, change in general, people, perfectionism, fear of failure, sensory issues, the feeling of not fitting in, the stress of feeling that he/she has to do things right, any environment that is noisy, has a lot of people in it, perceived or actual criticism

Deeply moved by arts, music, certain movies

May be unable to watch horror, violence, disturbing movies, and news programs

Lives with continual generalized anxiety, bouts of depression that creep up on her

Difficulty regulating emotions and managing stress

Is socially and emotionally younger/immature than her chronological age, much younger if in her twenties

Emotionally too honest (inability or difficulty hiding true feelings when it would be more socially acceptable to do so) and naive

Experiences intense emotions of all kinds (for e.g. when she falls in love, she ‘falls’ in love deeply)

May think she is being compassionate, but her actions may not come across that way

Often too sensitive and possesses too much emotional empathy

Usually, connect and/or are very sensitive to certain characters in movies

Highly sensitive to issues affecting the earth, animals, people, advocacy, justice, human rights and the “underdog”

Some women are quite “child-like”, not reaching a maturity until roughly 40 years of age

Many create their own fantasy worlds

12. Personality characteristics and/or traits and abilities

A natural born leader, independent, strong-willed, determined and can be highly competitive (even with herself)

High levels of introversion OR can be extroverted

Generally lack a strong sense of self, self-esteem and/or identity. May use chameleon-like skills to assimilate and be involved with to a variety of groups or different people over time, in a search for true identity.

Has a high sense of justice and fairness, is a truth-seeker, sometimes to his/her own detriment

Highly creative and may have ‘rushes’ of original ideas

Dislikes change and may find it disorienting and stressful

Highly sensitive to criticism or perceived criticism

Dislikes being observed when having to perform (performance anxiety)

May have been told she cares too much, does too much for others and/or is too sensitive

Is perfectionistic (may have attended a perfectionism group program)

Attention to detail

Obsessions/special interests can be short-term (switching from one to another quickly) or long-term (can make a great career)

Naivety, innocence, trusting too much and taking others literally are a powerful concoction for being misused and abused

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Masking: as above in this picture, giving off the illusion that everything is great or fine, when is it not. The mask often comes off at home with crying, meltdowns, or shutdowns.

A strong sense of feeling different from her peers often described as being from a different planet

May not have a sense of self and/or identity, self-esteem

Tend to be very serious, often too serious at times

Is intense in everything she does

In childhood, may have been described as highly sensitive and/or shy

Highly imaginative

May have trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality

Does not like it when people move or touch her belongings; people interpret her as rude and aggressive

13. Past and/or current mental health history

A history of self-harm

May have a history of crying a lot, without knowing why

May have a lengthy history of going to therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists

May have tried a variety of medications

Experiences social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder or selective mutism

May have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or traits

May have one or more of the 7 types of ADHD

Has experienced ongoing depression and/or tiredness/exhaustion, without knowing why

A history of trying to understand oneself, of finding answers to explain oneself and why she feels she is different or doesn’t fit in, as a woman

A history of many doctors and counselors visits throughout university life

May have a family history of Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, OCD, anxiety disorders

May have been misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia

May have been previously diagnosed with anxiety disorder depression, an eating disorder, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder and/or ADHD

A history of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, huge mood swings

May have ROGD or be transgender

14. Coping Mechanisms

Compensatory Mechanisms are unfortunately what lead many an individual to receive a diagnosis much later in life when they cannot keep the mask on anymore.

May have turned to alcohol, drugs, smoking in order to cope with intense emotions, self-medicate and/or socialize/fit in and/or be accepted with a group.

May use a different persona when out in the public, in order to cope

May have developed a variety of dysfunctional coping mechanisms (for example, arrogance and/or narcissism)

May change gender or sexuality in an attempt to “fit in” and/or find the right group

Has used imitation, social echolalia to pretend to be normal, fake it or pass for normal

May rock standing up, lying down, in a rocking chair to calm down or self-soothe

May need to withdraw into bed or a dark area or a place of solitude to gain privacy, quiet and manage sensory and/or social overload

Withdrawal and/or Avoidance

May have developed a personality disorder as a means of coping with Asperger Syndrome

15. Sixth Sense, Intuition, Psychic Abilities

Has the ability to feel other people emotions, take on the emotions of others

May “know” or have knowledge of certain things, but no idea how she knows, aka “vibing”

May be a professional psychic or medium

Possesses one or more psychic abilities

Is an “empath”

Sensitive to other people’s negativity

Often confused by the feelings she/he is having

May take on the pain of other, aka Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia

16. Unique abilities and Strengths

May have perfect or relative perfect pitch

Autodidactic – teaches herself

Intelligence craves knowledge and loves learning

Can teach herself just about anything she puts her mind too

Has a strong will, is determined and independent

Perfectionistic

Have a remarkable long-term memory, photographic memory

A great sense of humor

Can work very well in a “crisis” situation

Deeply reflective thinker

Resilience, an ability to go from one crisis to another, to bounce back, to start again time and time again

Attention to detail

Great in one-on-one situations or presenting to a group

More like “philosophers” than “professors, but can be both.

Seeing in the “mind’s eye” exact details, gifted visual learner

May be gifted with art, music, writing, languages, programming, acting, writing, editing, singing, an athlete

May be highly intuitive

Capable of deep philosophical thinking, females with Aspergers often become writers, vets, engineers, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, poets, artists, singers, performers, actresses, doctors, entrepreneurs or professors.

17. Challenges

May be difficult to understand subtle emotions, for e.g., when someone is jealous or embarrassed, uninterested or bored

Keeping up appearances, passing for normal

Managing emotions and getting easily hurt by others; even if the other person was innocent

Learning difficulties

May get very upset with an unexpected change

May not be able to tell when someone is flirting with her/him

Challenging to work and function within a group

Have a need for a highly controlled environment to sleep in

Great difficulty and very sensitive to conflict, stress, arguments, fighting, wars, gossip and negativity, however ironically may engage in it

Can be very negative and have catastrophic feelings; can be very self-deprecatory toward self

Social-chit chat, small talk, conversation without a “function”, maintaining friendships and relationships, social anxiety or social phobia

May like or prefer to be by herself as much as possible

May find it challenging to understand what others expect of her

Being taken advantage of due to naivety, innocence and trusting others too much; this often leads to being in toxic relationships or friendships

Boundaries issues

Executive function challenges: May have difficulty filling out forms, doing paperwork (completing taxes), budgeting money, finishing a task or job, planning (meals, the day, the week, answering the phone or talking to people on the phone, how to start a particular task and get it completed, knowing where their possessions are, going to appointments, waiting in line or at an appointment

May have difficulty recognizing or remembering faces (prosopagnosia)

May have Alexythymia: cannot verbalize their feelings as they are often unsure of what they are feeling

May have Synaesthesia

May experience existential dread

Has difficulties with unexpected visitors just “dropping over”

Gullibility or social naivity can get them into enormous trouble. Will often take at face value what a person says about another person

18. Empathy May have a lack of cognitive empathy and hyper-empathy (for e.g., too much affective or sympathetic empathy)

Cognitive Empathy: The ability to predict other’s thoughts and intentions, knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking. Also known as perspective-taking.

Affective/Emotional Empathy: The ability or capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another person, when you feel the feelings of another person along with the other person, as though their emotions are your own. Social neuroscience has found that this kind of empathy has to do with the mirror neuron system. Emotional empathy contributes to an individual being well-attuned to another person’s inner emotional world, an advantage for individuals in a wide range of careers from nursing to teaching to social work, psychology and other caring professions.

Compassionate Empathy, or “empathic concern”. This kind of empathy helps us to understand a person’s predicament and feel with them, and also be spontaneously moved to help them, if and when others need help. Under stress, Theory of mind skills may appear to be completely absent.

Sympathy: often has too much sympathy, placing her in danger, for example, I once had a young client who brought a homeless man home because, as she said, ” he had no hone”

19. May have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, poor muscle tone, connective tissue disorder, double-jointed, fine and/or gross motor skill issues

20. May have an intense desire to please others and/ be liked by others and be a “people pleaser”. May become highly distressed if she has the perception that someone does not like her or actually does not like her.

21. Executive functioning difficulties may include: trouble making decisions, time management, planning ahead, organization, completing tasks.

22. May have spent a lifetime of using enormous effort to socially “pretend”, “fake it”, “fit in”, “pass for normal”. May have utilized body language books, mirrors, acting/drama classes to improve social skills.

23. May have tocophobia, the fear of childbirth or other fears (death, dying, a changing body, for example)

24. May have gender dysphoria, also known as gender identity disorder (GID) dysphoria, and is a formal diagnosis for individuals who feel and experience significant stress and unhappiness with their birth gender and/or gender roles. These individuals are known as transsexual or transgender.

25. Photographic visual memory

26. An intense and continual need to figure oneself out.

27. Hypermobility Syndrome

28. Typical sex difference has been reported (i.e., female advantage), in relation to the “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test (Eyes test), an advanced test of theory of mind.

  1. May be a high systemizer leading her to go into engineering or programming. High systemizing women see to feel the “weirdest” of the collective. May struggle with who she is gender-wise.

30. Subtypes

Within a very large group of females, we begin to see variations, preferences, and heterogeneity. Whilst all females struggle to some degree with social communication, intense interests, sensory issues and many traits as mentioned above, there is not one “type” of presentation. The most commonly known presentation of females in the Spectrum is the “Tomboy”, how there exist other presentations and it is important to talk about these, as it is these females who may never receive a diagnosis.

A. The FashionDiva

B. The Highly Sensitive Male

C. The hostess

E. The carer

F. The actor

More Coming

No one woman will have all of these traits. Some of the traits in this list may not apply to you. A level of insight and awareness is required in terms of recognizing the traits, characteristics, and behaviors in oneself. Asperger Syndrome often co-occurs with  Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, Irlen Syndrome, Dyspraxia/Disability of Written Expression, Auditory Processing Disorder and/or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Individual traits and characteristics can vary from mild to severe.

About Tania Marshall

Tania Marshall is an award-winning author, presenter and psychologist. She holds a Masters of Science in Applied Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She completed and 18-month full-time post-masters externship at a private special needs school, working with many neurodiverse people, K-12 and their families. During that time, she also worked in private practice under the supervision of a clinical psychologist. In December 2016, she was nominated for a 2017 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Award, in the Advanced category for her work advancing the field of female Autism. She has previously been nominated for a 2016 and 2015 ASPECT Autism Australia National Recognition Award (Advancement Category) for her work. Her first book entitled I Am AspienGirl: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Gifts of Young Females on the Spectrum, Foreward by Dr. Judith Gould, is an international bestseller and an IPPY 2015 ELit Gold medal award winner. Her second book entitled I Am AspienWoman: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Gifts of Adult Females on the Spectrum, Foreward by Dr. Shana Nichols was released late 2015, is an international bestseller and recently won a 2016 IPPY eLIT Gold medal in the Women’s Studies category.

Tania is also an APS Autism Identified Medicare Provider, a Helping Children With Autism Early Intervention Service Provider, a Better Start Early Intervention Provider, a Medicare Approved Mental Health Provider and a Secret Agent Society (SAS) Trained Group Facilitator.

Tania regularly provides diagnostic assessments, impressions assessments, support, problem-solving sessions, coaching and intervention for neurodiverse individuals of all ages across the lifespan. She sees people of all ages who are are artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, gifted and talented, supermodels, singers, authors, performers, dancers, celebrities and/or Twice-exceptional (2e). To enquire or book Skype or in-person assessments, problem-solving sessions and/or support, interviews, articles, publishing inquiries, translations/translating of her books, presentations, workshops, conferences, please e-mail Tania at tania@aspiengirl.com

Tania is now completing the third book and fourth in her series of books on female Autism. Her book series is available for purchase at http://www.aspiengirl.com 

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