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

AspienWoman April Elit Award1Behind the Mask 3DCoverJune2015

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

 

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Female Asperger Syndrome, Current Statistics and Gender Differences

I write based on my own clinical and anecdotal evidence,
research studies and the work of world experts.

The statistics for boys to girls with Asperger Syndrome sit at 1:4, so
for every 1 girl there are 4 boys who meet criteria for Asperger
Syndrome. However, for those of us professionals who work solely in
this field we know that the statistics reflect a prevalence rate of
Asperger Syndrome in girls that is in reality, 1:2, meaning for every one female, there are two boys. Dr. Judith Gould, director of the National Autistic Society’s Lorna Wing Centre for autism and co-founder of the Centre for Social and Communication Disorders discussess the difference in prevalence rates between boys and girls. The statistic most commonly reported is that ASDs are four times more common in males than in females. Many clinicians, however, believe that the ratio is as high as 16 boys to every girl. But Gould believes that significantly more girls have the condition than is recognised; she estimates the ratio to be 2.5 boys to every girl.

Girls with Asperger Syndrome present very differently to boys with the same condition and “fly under the radar of a diagnosis”, often being MISdiagnosed,
MISunderstood, MISmedicated and sometimes, institutionalized. In my
clinic, boys tend to be diagnosed before formal schooling or in
their primary school years. Whilst I have diagnosed girls with
Aspergers as young as two year of age, the majority are closer to
the teen years. They appear to be able to cope with the basic more
“play-based” socialization. However, in secondary school the social
world changes dramatically from play-based to a more socially and
emotionally based conversation, social hierarchies are more
apparent, and the typical “bitchiness” and “mean girl” behaviors of
teenage girls is distinct. This difference often flies over the
heads of the female with Aspergers, who are often left behind
repeatedly analyzing their social faux pas, social confusion and
replaying the day’s social events in their minds over and over
again, often late at night, in their attempts to make sense of
them. Their female peer group’s interests have changed from
childhood friendships to teenage talk, emotional conversations,
cliques, groups, backstabbing, and “bitchiness”. They find they
cannot understand or “read” the unwritten rules, the non-verbal
facial expressions/glances/eyerolls and the non-verbal body
language that is critical to being an important member of a group.
As much as they observe, copy, and mimic their peers, they finds
that they just cannot keep up or fit in appropriately. Their peers
sense that there is something “ödd” about the Aspien, despite the
enormous amount of energy that they generally expend in their
attempts to fit in. In secondary school, girls with Aspergers
utilize a variety of coping mechanisms in their attempts to “fit
in”, “pretend to be normal”, “be accepted”, hide and camouflage
their confusion, imitate, copy, fake it until they make it, but
still appear to come off just a little “ödd” or “strange”, despite
their best efforts. Most of the girls I have seen have had previous
diagnoses of anxiety disorder, depression, ADHD, an eating
disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, bi-polar disorder and
even Borderline Personality Disorder (although they are still young
teenagers) and at times, reactive attachment disorder or selective
mutism. An enormous amount of energy is spent on observing,
learning and trying to understand and then copying their peers
social behaviors. I have met females who have utilized some or all
of the following strategies: Reading body language books and
practicing in front of the mirror in a repetitive way until the
skill is perfected the mirror

Learning from television shows or books about others inner thoughts, feelings and
motives

Replaying specific daily social situations in their own play at home in an effort to learn and
understand

Using imaginary friends to specific daily social situations in their own play at home in an effort to learn and understand

Over-apologizing, appeasing or pleasing others, giving gifts for social faux pas or social
mistakes

I have seen many teenage girls who have been brought into to see me and are have been described as having “gone off the rails”, in terms of their appearance, their attitude,
their mood, skipping or dropping out of school, running away from
home, involvement in drugs, sex, crime and/or the Police. They later met formal criteria for Asperger Syndrome.

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Using “chameleon” strategies, where the Aspien girl can adapt and fit into a variety of roles. In one example, I met a female who successfully fit into a very rough
motorcycle gang, a conservative church sect, and a traveling
circus! She had acted so well for so many years that she came in
with clinical depression, having no idea who she was. I have seen
teenage girls with Aspergers reject all social norms/values and
turn to drugs and sex and even crime.

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Girls with Asperger’s need very specific and appropriate social skills
interventions designed for them, in terms of learning about levels
of friendships, boundaries, social hierarchy, the unwritten social
rules, non-verbal body language, cliques and groups and the role of
people in those particular groups. They also need interventions
designed to help them with identity, self-esteem, managing intense
emotions, rigid black and white thinking and negative thinking.
Most typically, Aspien girls have the greatest difficulty in the
adolescent years, when they tend to “go off the rails”. Most, but
not all, Aspiens tend to be non-conformists and conforming to
social rules they don’t understand begins to take it’s toll. I had
one parent show me a picture of her daughter just a few months
before she saw me. He appearance was one of a typical teenager.
Then I had the chance to meet her daughter, who had in just a few
months gone “goth”, gotten several piercings and tattoos, was using
drugs and hanging around “bikers”. This young teen was rebelling
against all those groups that had not accepted her. Her desire was
to be accepted and approved of by anyone. This group and the men
she was having sex with accepted her, approved of her and took care
of her. She felt both accepted and popular. It is imperative that
any girl who comes into a clinic with either/or an eating disorder,
social difficulties, intense emotions, difficulties expressing
themselves, anxiety or depression, must be screened for Asperger
Syndrome, in a female. Then, once a comprehensive and detailed
developmental history is taken by an experienced clinician, the
diagnosis of Asperger’s becomes apparent, and then the appropriate
intervention can take place. Currently, information on female
Aspergers and Autism is occurring at a
rapid pace and there will be a
knowledge explosion within the next 10 years.

A recent study Dr Meng-Chuan Lai of the University of Cambridge
found that Autism affects male and female brains
differently, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-23613816

CAVEAT:
Generally speaking, my doctoral research is in the area of females.
Having said that I am not saying that males do not experience these
issues. I am merely writing about my
specialization.

Tania Marshall©. 2013-14.
Professional Q and A Series I. All rights reserved. Duplication in
whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank
you.