New book, tentatively titled: Assessment of Autism Spectrum and Asperger’s in Females: Comprehensive diagnostics and treatment planning for girls and women with autism spectrum conditions across the lifespan

Many of you know that I’ve been working very hard on my first book, I Am Aspiengirl: The unique characteristics and traits of girls and teens on the Autism Spectrum, due out February, 2014 and available for pre-order now at http://www.aspiengirl.com

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My second book,  I Am Aspienwoman: The unique characteristics and traits of teens and adult females on the Autism Spectrum, is currently being written and due out in 2014.

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I am now very excited to announce my third book, due out also in 2014. I’m very pleased to announce that Dr. Jennifer Imig Huffman and I are co-authoring a book on females on the Autism spectrum, tentatively titled: “Assessment of Autism Spectrum and Asperger’s in Females: Comprehensive diagnostics and treatment planning for girls and women with autism spectrum conditions across the lifespan”. 

Dr. Jennifer Imig Huffman is an Illinois Licensed Psychologist and a formally trained board-eligible Neuropsychologist specializing in developmental conditions across the lifespan. She is the Founder of The ABLE Center: Neuropsychology Center for Attention, Behavior, & Learning, where she works with many females with Autism or Asperger Syndrome. Dr. Jennifer can be found at https://www.facebook.com/TheABLECenter

 

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We are both excited about co-authoring this important book, designed for professionals who work with females, females themselves and or savvy parents!  While this book may have more global appeal as many parents may also read the book to educate themselves about appropriate assessment techniques and treatment recommendations, the target audience is the large and variable population of practitioners (from bachelor’s level to doctoral level) who diagnose and treat females on the spectrum. What would you like professionals to know? What would you like included in such a book? Thank-you.

 

 

Professional Q and A Series I: Answering Your Frequently Asked Questions about Female Asperger Syndrome

Professional Q and A Series I: Answering Frequently Asked Questions

I have received an overwhelming amount of FAQ’s in relation to female Asperger Syndrome. Over time, I will answer some of the most frequently asked, in addition to some unique questions or issues.

The Assessment and Diagnostic process of Adult Female Asperger Syndrome

Q: What is involved in a diagnostic assessment for an adult female?
A: Briefly, a diagnostic assessment of an adult female takes the following into consideration:

1. An interview to discuss family history, developmental history, previous diagnoses/reports, childhood and teen life, presenting concerns, why the individuals believes they may have female Asperger Syndrome

2. The completion of one formal assessment together. The reason the assessment is done together is to clarify any confusion regarding any items on the questionnaire and also, to glean more qualitative information and details regarding the characteristics

3. A review of a 3-4 page autobiographical description of the person, their experiences from their earliest memories until around age 21, or so. This is usually sent to me via e-mail before our first appointment.

4. A family member, partner or long-term friend may be interviewed to ascertain another perspective/thoughts of the individual.

5. The results of the assessment are then discussed and a diagnosis confirmed or ruled out. If the diagnosis is confirmed, time is also spend on “now what?”, in terms of knowledge of Aspergers in females, self-understanding, furthur education about Aspergers in females, career, the type of support the person may need, disclosure, academic accommodations, sensory processing issues and the development of a sensory management kit, treatment and/or intervention for anxiety/depression or other conditions and future/furthur recommendations.

6. For certain individuals, secondary so-existing conditions are also addressed (for example, personality disorder, gender identity disorder, gender issues, eating disorder, to name a few).

Q: What are the benefits to diagnosis as a female adult?
A: There are many benefits to female adult diagnosis, even if the person is functioning well. Briefly, some of the benefits are as follows:

Self-knowledge and self-understanding
An explanation for why one has always felt “different” or from another “planet”
An “ïdentity” (Aspie or Autie)
Answers to questions that the individual has pondered about themselves, often for many years
The explanation allows the individual to be more forgiving of oneself
To learn about their condition and make improvements (for example, learn social skills, ways to manage executive function issues, be less perfectionistic)
To access support, intervention or funding
To gain academic accommodations for higher education
To learn about the innate gifts and talents often associated with Autism or Asperger Syndrome and start the process of discovering their own
To work on common self esteem and identity issues
To learn how to manage stress, anxiety and anger
To learn about how mind-reading and theory of mind training can improve their relationships with others, whether that be in the work place, with a partner, family members of friendships.

Q: How do I go about getting a diagnosis?
A: I recommend searching for a qualified and experienced professional who is trained in the area of female Autism and Asperger Syndrome and understands how females with Aspergers present, as compared to the male profile. I currently provide these services via Skype to adults from a variety of countries (USA, Canada, UK, Australia), in most cases for those who have self-diagnosed and are seeking a formal diagnosis from a specialist in the area.

Q: What happens after a diagnosis?

A diagnosis is merely the starting point. What follows is an individual plan that usually includes learning more about female Aspergers, finding out what the individuals talents, gifts, strengths are (if they don’t already know), addressing any weaknesses or challenges, working on career options and the best type of work for a female with Aspergers, stress management, relationship or friendship difficulties, burning bridges, and so on.

ABOUT TANIA

Tania Marshall is a psychologist, researcher and writer who is writing articles and books on Asperger Syndrome in girls and women. She has worked within this area for over 20 years and has supported hundreds of individuals with Asperger Syndrome/Autism. She is currently completing a book series on female Asperger Syndrome/Autism. She has attended several professional trainings and observations by Professor Tony Attwood and other experts, in addition to attending three full-day clinic observation days at his home clinic. She closely follows Professor Attwood’s assessment, diagnostic and intervention procedures.

Tania provides specialized services to individuals and families affected by Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Tania also provides diagnostic assessments, intervention and support in her private practice and/or via Skype, Facetime, or other means.

Tania can be reached at admin@centreforautism.com.au for appointments and/or services, in person or via Skype.  Due to the high volume of e-mails she receives, she may not be able to reply to every e-mail. All e-mails and inquiries related to diagnostic assessment and/or intervention services will be replied to. Tania currently divides her time between private practice, writing and research.

Facebook: http://www.facebook/taniamarshallauthor
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AspienGIRL© can be found here:
WWW: http://www.aspiengirl.com.au (under construction)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aspiengirl
AspienGIRL© Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/aspiengirl

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

Aspienwoman Mentor Interview Series: Actress Olley Edwards

This is my 6th Interview of people involved in the world of Autism or Asperger Syndrome. Previous interviews of mine include: Professor Uta Frith, Maja Toudal, Kathy Hoopman, Lynn Marshall, Rich Everts and The United States of Autism Movie.

This interview is the second in a series where I interview Mentor Aspienwomen from a variety of countries about their lives, Asperger Syndrome, their gifts and talents and more! Actress Olley Edwards is a professional actress from the United Kingdom and an Aspienwoman mentor, who seriously advocates for female Asperger Syndrome through by making a movie and writing a book about the condition.

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Tania: Welcome Olley and great to have you on join a phenomenal group of female mentors, in this interview series and future book!

Olley: Tania, thank-you for inviting me and it is a pleasure and a bit of a mission of mine to advocate for females with Asperger Syndrome.

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Tania: I came across you in my research on female Asperger Syndrome. I had initially heard about you in terms of this incredible movie that you were making, at the time, called “The Kindest Label”. When I read your script I was very impressed. I also want to say that I love the title of the movie because one of the most common comments I come across for not having a female formally diagnosed is the stigma of a ‘label’. Please tell us about your movie?

Olley: ‘The Kindest Label’ is a short 20 minute film about the importance of an early diagnosis of females with Asperger Syndrome and the consequence of a late or missed diagnosis. The movie told from the view point of lead role “Belle”, not only as an adult with a late diagnosis but also by Belle’s younger self experiencing the lack of understanding and support she should have had. Belle is a complex adult with addiction issues living in temporary accommodation. She is trying to rebuild her life now that she has received her late diagnosis at 26. Her younger self who tells her story in flashback scenes is a clever and bright young girl who has very little support in school and in safeguarding issues.‘The Kindest label’ also shows the adult Belle, with scenes of how she now can see how her life could have been happier if she had been diagnosed sooner. It shows just how Belle’s life could have been with Asperger Syndrome, the “The Kindest Label” she ever had.

‘The Kindest Label’ is going to be entered into as many film festivals in UK and Internationally as possible, My aims by doing this are to raise awareness, (open a few eyes and prick up a few ears) and to hope that someone with the expertise, money and contacts likes it enough to make it into a feature film for a global audience. My film is intense, information packed, hard hitting snap shot at late diagnostic consequences but it could easily be expanded upon to make a ground-breaking feature. The movie aims at raising awareness and changing the perception of “what female AS” looks like forever.

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Tania: How can people view ‘The Kindest Label’?

Olley: Due to festival regulations, I am unable to post film online until after festival use, to raise awareness in the meantime I am arranging private screenings and will endeavour to take film into secondary/high schools to use along with my book to talk about female Asperger Syndrome.

Tania: You directed this movie and you are an actress yourself?

Olley: I wrote, co-directed and acted in “The Kindest Label”. Luckily, being an actress, I have great actor, director, cameraman friends who came on board and gave up their free time and talent to make this happen. Playing Belle as an adult was a pleasure as well as hard work , to prepare myself for the “homeless addict” role didn’t wash my hair for 8 days and it also meant filming with no make-up or glamour, this felt very vulnerable as its normally these “costumes” as such that help me feel more confident when acting. I am however more than pleased with the end result as Belle is a very guarded yet unconfident young woman and that shows on tape.

Tania: How did you get involved in acting?

Olley: I started acting at a very young age; it started with dance lessons at 4 which grew into attending South Hill Park, the local arts centres drama classes every Saturday by 8yrs old. I became obsessed or should I say, hyperfocused with entertainment and was interviewing pop groups on Saturday morning TV by 10. I loved entertaining of any kind and took part in local productions and the school plays. My school was just a normal state school, it was huge, scary and I hated it. I went for one reason and one reason only, we had a great theatre and I use to skip PE and any lesson I could go unnoticed in just to pretend it was my drama lesson and go there instead. The teachers soon realised what I was up to but they let me get away with it most of the time. I got the role of the Artful dodger in the main school play, I prepared for this by constantly watching Oliver on VHS and copying the role of dodger over and over again. It was a boy’s role but loved playing a boy and was convincing enough to receive the school drama award for it. The next year I started lessons at a very well-known London Drama school. I only went one day a week but it was always the best day of the week. I felt so at home there and was offered a small role in Disney movie, which I couldn’t take up on, however the head offered me a full scholarship. Sadly I couldn’t attend fulltime as we lived to far away and the lodgings were very expensive. I can remember crying for a whole day in my room. I must have had the whole street thinking what a spoilt brat I was. I know now I wasn’t a spoilt brat, I was having a meltdown and unable to continue with my subject of hyperfocus.

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I’ve always been an extremist 100% in or 100% out. Very black and white thinking. To me this meant I could never act again and I went downhill into an extreme teenage rebellion by the age of 13. I had replaced the friend and buzz of acting with secret drinking, drugs, you name it. This resulted in a teenage pregnancy by 15.

From the moment I knew I was to be a mum my hyperfocus was just that. To be the best mum I could be. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I loved being a young mum and I felt truly blessed. I was married by 18 and had my 2 other daughters within that marriage. My obsession was 100% on parenting and housekeeping. I lived in constant anxiety that I wasn’t the perfect mum, developed OCD and insisted on everything being lined up a certain way, certain coloured ornaments in in certain rooms and felt so empty that I started to diet a lot, weighing just 6.5 stone at 22. I was very happy being a mum. I live for the girls, I loved the routine of marriage but I did feel like I was just playing another role and something was missing. I felt I was never good enough but I was a great mum and wife I just had a huge chunk of my identity missing.

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After my divorce, I had these awful voids of time where children were at their dads and step mum’s, I filled this void (which I can only liken to having 3 limbs removed) to go back to my first love, acting. My acting has gone strength to strength and even if I’m sleep deprived I feel acting energises me mentally. As any mum knows you have to put a brave face on a lot, any single mum with several children on spectrum will tell you how that brave face may as well be super glued on some days! Acting is once again, my safe place, whereby I can have escapology, display emotions, spend time with others, and cry on demand if required too….with ease.

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Tania: I have provided formal diagnoses and personally know many actors/actresses with Asperger Syndrome. Your own daughter Honey is also an actress and has Asperger Syndrome. She also starred in your movie. Did Honey naturally follow your footsteps, in terms of acting?

Olley: Honey has many talents. It would have been unfair for me to push her on the stage all “pushy mum”- esque. Honey also loves reading, history and sci fi. Honey is a really intelligent young girl but this intelligence was leading her to be very isolated and she was spending huge chunks of time alone in her room, not hours, not days but up to a week at a time in summer holidays. With the help of a bursary from South Hill Park, the same Arts centre I went to as a child, Honey was given a small role in the Easter show. I will never forget the first day when the teacher asked me if I knew Honey could sing. Actually, no , I didn’t know she could sing, Honey was almost mute at home after being drained from school. The first time I saw Honey acting and singing on stage I couldn’t believe it. It was like looking at a different child. Her Aspergers leaves the building the moment she is on stage or in front of a camera. As a result her confidence is so much more improved and she still receives a place every summer and Easter at South Hill Park. Honey also had the lead in a short film “A Fathers Gift” and the lead in ‘The Kindest Label’, my Aspergers film.

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Tania: How is the diagnostic process in the UK?

Olley: The diagnostic criteria in the UK has well improved since I was younger. The doctors who diagnosed my two daughters were outstanding! Honey was diagnosed very quickly with Aspergers at 6 and Cherish was diagnosed with standard Autism at only 2 years (however I believe her to be more Aspergers). The criteria for teen girls, young women and adult women though I feel, is shocking. Female Aspergers looks so different to male Aspergers and women are still going misdiagnosed. Many of the Asperger traits look a lot like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder but they are merely co-morbid conditions to undiagnosed Asperger Syndrome.

Tania: Has Honey’s diagnosis and the new research on female Asperger Syndrome caused you to seek a diagnosis for yourself?

Olley: My parents have been and always are very supportive, In the midst of my teenage rebellion they sought help for me after I refused to go to school, spent hours alone in my room and had full blown tantrums (better referred as ‘meltdowns’). The doctor they saw called me lazy and washed his hands of me. After the routine of marriage I felt I was getting more and more anxious again, and with the fact I had two daughters on the Spectrum made me seek my diagnosis at last. The doctor I saw said on paper I was very Asperger’s, scoring sky high on a paper test. The Doctor however insisted that I couldn’t possibly be Aspergers on the basis I spoke about acting a lot (apparently people with Aspergers can’t act) and the fact I maintained eye contact (I stare).

I don’t know what he expected me to look like? Perhaps wearing a anorak and reciting train time tables (I do actually own an anorak and yes I do know the London train route a little bit too well but I also know not to make it common knowledge)?

I found it a puzzle as Honey is a great actress yet she is Aspergers? I wondered if females and males on spectrum presented differently. I went onto Google to research the differences in male and female Aspergers. The criteria felt like someone had watched me from birth and taken notes. I felt a rush of relief and sent it to as many friends as possible. I know in my heart I have Asperger’s, and I will now gain an official diagnosis outside the UK. My aim to do this isn’t to get support or services perse. I am 31 now, I cannot get my schooling or teen years back. It’s not even to let my inner rebel have her day and wave it in the face of the UK doctor who said Aspergers people can’t act. It is because, at last, I have my identity, my missing puzzle piece and above all I am proud of whom I am and that is an Aspienwoman, an adult female with Asperger Syndrome.

Tania: How do you think having Asperger Syndrome helps in terms of being a great actress or actor?

Olley: Females with Aspergers don’t make good actors, they are BORN actors. Neurotypicals spend thousands to learn method acting at university, but female Aspergers method act, without even knowing from day one. They are chameleon, watching people’s actions, mannerisms, accents and language and mimic this to get by, to socialise, to communicate. Acting is an Aspien girls second language, almost like being bilingual.

Tania: Now, not only have you made a movie about female Asperger Syndrome, but you mentioned earlier you have written a book entitled ‘Why Aren’t Normal People Normal? A Girl’s Survival Guide to Growing up With Asperger Syndrome’.

Olley: Yes, I have just finished it this past weekend and it is more of a guidebook for girls, in terms of what will help and support them as they develop.

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Tania: Where can people purchase your book?

Olley: I am just now putting the final touches on my book. Once that is done, people can purchase it. I will let you know the details once we have it all set in place

Tania: It has been a real pleasure to interview you and you are such an inspiration to the many females with Asperger Syndrome. Thank-you for a fabulous interview and for doing what you do for the many females all over the world with Asperger Syndrome.

Olley: Thank-you for interviewing me and providing a platform like this where people can and learn more about female Asperger Syndrome, mentors, information and resources.

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Tania Marshall©. 2013. AspienWoman Interview Mentor Series. All rights reserved. Duplication in whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank you.

Ask a Professional Q & A Series: Answering your Questions about Female Asperger Syndrome and Autism

Ask a Professional Q & A Series: Answering your Questions about Female Asperger Syndrome and Autism

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I am a developmental psychologist, researcher and writer, completing my Doctoral degree in Autism Studies. I am a freelance writer, writing articles on Asperger Syndrome and Austism and currently completing a book series on Asperger Syndrome and Autism in girls and women. I have worked within this area for over 15 years and have assessed, diagnosed and supported hundreds of individuals of all ages, with Asperger Syndrome/Autism. I also provide diagnostic assessments, intervention and support in my private practice and/or via Skype, Facetime, or other means. I have provided assessments as far away as New York, United States and the United Kingdom.

I have been inundated with questions, comments and messages about female Asperger Syndrome and Autism from a variety of countries. These questions have come from females of all ages, and some males too. My blogs have now been translated into three different languages. Whilst I do feel somewhat overwhelmed by the response, I am not surprised. It was only very recently that Asperger Syndrome was recognized and even more recent that we began to realize that many more females than we previously thought, were born with this neurological condition. We are also starting to understand that there is a distinct female profile, that females are diagnosed much later than males, are often misdiagnosed (yes, even by professionals). There are very few professionals who specialize in this particular area and there is very little information on females, as compared to the amount of literature available on males.

I have received questions related to: assessment, diagnosis, careers, mental health, social skills, identity, gender identity, self-esteem, co-existing conditions, the tricky teenage years, emotions, medication, pre-school characteristics, recommended books, resources and interventions, why get a diagnosis, and everything else in between. So what I thought I would do is start an “Ask A Professional Question Section” here on my BLOG and to be added to my website (under construction), in which I will pick an FAQ or two, or three:-) and answer them on a regular basis. I will also be asking other professionals to join me in the future. Please leave your questions in the comments section and I will endeavour to answer them as time permits. Thank-you.

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Flying under the radar: Girls and Women with Aspergers Syndrome

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Flying under the radar: Girls and Women with Aspergers Syndrome

In Australia, approximately 1 in 100 children are born with an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). ASC is a recently defined lifelong developmental condition and affects people regardless, of age, colour, race or socio-economic status. It is now referred to as a spectrum condition, meaning that the condition affects the person in different ways, even though there are common areas of challenges across all people with Autism.
Aspergers Syndrome (AS) or High Functioning Autism (HFA) is a form of Autism, characterised by challenges in social communication and interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities, including sensory issues (DSM5, 2013).

Hans Aspergers, an Austrian paediatrician, originally described Aspergers Syndrome in 1944. He originally believed that girls were not affected. However, further clinical evidence led him to revise his statement. In terms of statistics, Kanner (1943) studied a small group of children with autism and found that there were four times as many boys as girls. Ehlers and Gillburg (1993) found the similar ratio of four boys to every girl, in their study of children in mainstream schools in Sweden.

Aspergers Syndrome appears to be more common among boys than girls, when the research is reviewed. However, recent awareness of genetic differences between males and females, and the diagnostic criteria largely based on the characteristics of males, are currently thought to be responsible for females being less likely to be identified. Attwood (2000), Ehlers and Gillberg (1993) and Wing (1981) all acknowledge that many girls and women with Aspergers Syndrome are never referred for assessment and diagnosis for AS, or are misdiagnosed, and are therefore missed from statistics and research. Many girls and women do not meet diagnostic criteria, as the criteria are based on the behavioural phenotype of boys. There exists a critical need for diagnostic criteria to reflect the female phenotype.

Questions have been raised about the ratio of males to females diagnosed as having an autism spectrum condition (ASC), with a variety of studies and anecdotal evidence citing a range from 2:1 to 16:1. Here in Australia, I have seen a rapid increase in the number of girls and adult women referred for a diagnosis and/or support.
The following are some of the identified different ways in which girls and women tend to present from boys (Gould and Ashton Smith, 2011; Attwood, 2007; and Yaull-Smith, Dale (2008):

• Girls use social imitation and mimicking by observing other children and copying them, leading to masking the symptoms of Asperger syndrome (Attwood, 2007). Girls learn to be actresses in social situations. This camouflaging of social confusion can delay a diagnosis by up to 30 years.
• Dale Yaull-Smith (2008) discusses the ‘social exhaustion’ that many females experience, from the enormous energy it takes pretending to fit in.

• Girls, in general, appear to have a more even and subtler profile of social skills. They often adopt a social role based on intellect instead of social intuition.

• Girls often feel a need and are aware of the cultural expectations of interacting socially. They tend to be often more involved in social play, and can be observed being led by their peers rather than initiating social contact. They often only have one or two close friends and/or may find boys easier to get along with.

• Cultural expectations for girls involve participating in social communication, often made up of social chit-chat or surface-type conversation. Girls with Asperger Syndrome find this type of communication exhausting, tending to desire having conversations that have a function to them. Girls on the spectrum are also are socially confused by teasing, bullying, and bitchiness, and the teasing that often occurs at school.

• Girls often misunderstand social hierarchies and how to communicate with others based on the level of the hierarchy that the person is on. This can tend to get girls in trouble with adults.

• Girls have better imagination and more pretend play (Knickmeyer et al, 2008), with many involved in fiction, and the worlds of fairies, witches and other forms of fantasy, including imaginary friends
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• Whilst the interests of girls on the spectrum are very often similar to those of other girls, it is the ‘intensity’ and ‘quality’ of the interest which can be unusual. For example, many are very focused on their animals, celebrities or soap operas.

• Girls and women on the spectrum are generally skilled in one on one social relationships, but are uncomfortable and anxious in large groups of people.

• Girls may have great difficulty in attempting to explain their difficulties in social situations and/or groups. Instead, they may skip school, complain of headaches or stomach aches or refuse to go to school.

• Girls facial expressions tend to not match their moods. They may say that are fine, but on the inside they are unhappy, anxious or both.

• Girls tend to be more passive-aggressive (avoid social activities, refuse requests from others or refuse to complete tasks,), tend to blame themselves and/or internalise their feelings and anger and have less ADHD.

Girls on the autism spectrum are more likely to come to the attention of health professionals due to difficulties with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, behavioural problems and/or social skills challenges. The presenting problem then becomes the ‘diagnosis’, with the larger picture and explanation for feeling “different” is missed.

Women with Autism are most likely to have had a long history of misdiagnoses, often with borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, depression, selective mutism, OCD, but somehow those labels just didn’t seem to fit adequately. Up to 42% have been misdiagnosed (Gould, 2011).

Many women with an autism spectrum condition are not being diagnosed and are therefore not receiving the help and support needed throughout their lives. Having a diagnosis is the starting point in providing appropriate support for girls and women in the spectrum. A timely diagnosis can avoid many of the difficulties women and girls with an autism spectrum disorder experience throughout their lives. Who should I take my child or myself to see? Ask your doctor, psychologist or paediatrician how many girls with Autism they have seen. They must have seen as least 50 girls with AS, due to the ‘social echolalia’ or the camouflaging of social confusion that females on the Spectrum engage in.

Three Common Female Autism Myths and Advice

1. Girls and women cannot socialise. Actually, many girls and can socialise quite well, just not for as long. They tend to suffer from social exhaustion or a ‘social hangover’ from longer periods of socialising. All persons on the spectrum need solitude to recharge their batteries.
Advice: Let your family or friends know that you need a solitude break, to allow you to recharge your batteries. Let them know that this is how your regain your energy.

2. Girls and women lack empathy. Actually, there are different types of empathy. Girls and women have high emotional empathy, being highly sensitive to the emotions of others, also known as referred emotion, the actual feeling of others feelings. This can be quite overwhelming for the person experiencing it. Being overwhelmed by feeling others emotions makes it challenging for them to process or ‘read ‘the subtle social signals (tone of voice, subtle expression on face)
Advice: Learn to accept and trust your intuition. Learning a variety of interventions to help manage or cope with high empathy is important.

3. Girls and women with autism cannot lie. Girls and women with autism can lie, but they usually do it badly. They tend to lie to the detriment of all concerned or lie as a quick fix because they do not know what to do, so they will deny, even when it’s plainly obvious that they are. In addition, females tend to tell the truth when it is not socially acceptable to do so or be truthful with their emotions, when it may not be the best time or place to show those emotions.
Advice: Social stories for “white lies” and the appropriateness of “emotional truth” are useful intervention tools.

About Tania Marshall

Tania holds a Masters of Science in Applied Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She regularly provides diagnostic assessments, support and intervention.

Tania is currently working on her fourth book. She is co-authoring a book for professionals tentatively entitled “Assessment of Autism Spectrum and Asperger’s in Females: Comprehensive diagnostics and treatment planning for girls and women with autism spectrum conditions across the lifespan”.

To enquire or book assessments, problem solving sessions and/or support, please e-mail Tania at tania@aspiengirl.com

Tania is also completing the first three in a series of books on female Autism. Her book series is available for purchase at http://www.aspiengirl.com

To enquire about interviews, articles, workshops, or translations/translating of her books, please email Tania at tania@aspiengirl.com

book series2Tania Marshall©, 2013-2014. All rights reserved. Aspiengirl and Planet Aspien are trademarked. Thank you.

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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Moving Towards A Female Profile: The Unique Characteristics, Abilities and Talents of Young Girls and Teenagers with Asperger Syndrome or Autism

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The following list is an official working document consisting of the unique characteristics and traits of young girls and teenagers with Asperger Syndrome, or High Functioning Autism. This list comes from the many young females I have worked with over the years and currently work with. I have assessed, observed, diagnosed and worked with hundreds 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. ***This list is not a research-based female profile.  It 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 behind anecdotal, observational and clinical work. Updated October 04, 2016

The following profile was created for older teens and family members who are considering a formal diagnosis and to assist mental health professionals in recognizing Asperger Syndrome or Autism in young females.

Females with Asperger Syndrome experience their symptoms in varying levels, so while some Aspiengirls are highly introverted, others are not. Females with Asperger Syndrome or Autism tend to be discriminated due to the wide spectrum of abilities or levels of functioning that exists. The majority of females do not receive a formal diagnosis until teenagers or well into their adult years. This list typifies many of the girls and teens I have worked with. 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.

  1. Natural born leaders, seen by girls who are strong willed, often very serious, intense, independent, “My Way” and/or stubborn and bossy

  2. Intelligence. Bright with an Intense and insatiable curiosity about the world, people, how things work, what people are doing. May be seen in the persistent asking of questions. Usually high average to genius level, uneven profile of abilities

  3. Intense emotions and mood swings

  4. Highly Sensitive and sensory issues (visual, hearing, smell, touch, balance and movement, intuition). A feeling of being different to their peers.

  5. Social skills differences, which may be displayed in a variety of ways that vary from their same-age peers. For e.g., may be shy in social situations, have one best friend or be a floater (floats from one group to another and having superficial connections with others). A less developed or little understanding of facial expressions, social context, non-verbal body language, theory of mind.

  6. Self-taught. The ability to teach themselves or learn about anything they are interested in. A preference to direct their learning, rather than teacher-directed learning.

  7. A high sense of justice and fairness (empathy for the “underdog”) and adherence to rules about how the world and people should operate and/or behave

  8. Perfectionistic and high standards towards self and others

  9. Anxiety and/or fears, including negative all-or-nothing thinking and/or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or obsessive tendencies.

  10. Gifts or Talents, which may include but are not limited to singing (perfect pitch) and/or music, writing, reading, artistic creations, languages, self-taught, fast learner or other talent(s)

  11. Fine and/or gross motor difficulties, clumsiness, a lack of co-ordination

  12. Difficulties understanding the human social hierarchy, age groups and roles within a group, family

  13. Sleep issues (difficulty getting to sleep due to thinking too much and/or worrying about events that happened that day or what may or may not happen the next day), often not a morning person, tend to prefer staying up later at night

  14. Stomach issues (cramping, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas) are quite common, due to gluten, wheat and/or casein allergies/intolerances

  15. Hyperfocus. May not respond to their name being called due to being fully engaged in thought or an activity

  16. Hyperempathy, emotionally empathic and very caring (for e.g., may lead to bringing home stray or injured animals)

  17. Intense love and/or interest in animals, nature, celebrities, fiction, art, mathematics, languages and/or other cultures. May be obsessed with a person, real or fiction, in an unhealthy manner. Other common special or obsessive interests may include but are not limited to: philosophy, psychology, history (for example, Ancient Egypt or Rome, hieroglyphics), languages, Wicca, Vampires, Occultism, psychological profiling and/or criminology/serial killers/detective/FBI/forensic psychologist, science/space/NASA/Stephen Hawking, technology and programming, physical appearance (for example, Gothic, ultra-feminine, tomboy), fantasy, English literature, Law, make-up artistry, art, acting).

  18. Usually stand out as different from her peers, in terms of her dress (some girls are ultra princess-like in their clothing choices while others prefer to wear more comfortable and functional clothing

  19. Facial expressions may not match the situation or her mood (for example, smiling or laughing in a serious situation)

  20. May have interests that are mature/advanced AND/OR immature for her age (for example, a young child’s interest in english literature, opera or creative writing

  21. May be advanced in reading ability OR have trouble with reading comprehension

  22. May be advanced with mathematics/numbers OR have difficulties (dyscalculia)

  23. May have Irlen Syndrome

  24. May have Dyslexia

  25. May have Auditory Processing Disorder

  26. May have attention/focusing/impulsivity/hyperactivity issues (see Dr. Daniel Amen’s 7 types of ADD/ADHD at http://www.amenclinics.com/conditions/adhd-add)

  27. In social situations, she may be shy, quiet, even mute at times OR loud, very verbal and/or aggressive, imposing on other’s boundaries

  28. Has difficulty with asking for help when needed, saying “no” or asserting her own personal boundaries

  29. As mentioned previously, she may have trouble with her own boundaries, in addition to the boundaries of others

  30. May be naive, vulnerable and have a tendency to be taken advantage of. Often confused socially, saying she knows what to do in a social situation when she really does not. Girls appear to be better than boys at masking the traits of autism in social situations. However, girls are less able to do so in unfamiliar settings.

  31. May bring home stray animals, homeless friends or homeless strangers, much to their parents chagrin

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  1. May avoid demands that cause her anxiety (Pathological Demand Avoidance, see http://www.thepdaresource.com/)

  2. Usually has a low frustration tolerance

  3. May have a different voice, for example, younger than her age, talks “babyish” for her age at times, speaks in an accent or in a monotone voice.

  4. Avoids complying with requests from adults and may have difficulty with authority figures

  5. May be clingy with one or two friends and has trouble sharing her friends with other children

  6. May be a tomboy, a fashion diva or a princess. May or may not be interested in looking feminine.

  7. May not be interested in fashion at all or be obsessed with it

  8. Experiences social exhaustion or “social hangover”, from an inability to socialize as much as her peers are able to.

  9. Many females can look people in the eye and have superficial conversations with them

  10. Often well-behaved at school and has “melt-downs” at home (usually due to social exhaustion)

  11. May play with younger or older children

  12. May have language issues, particularly in semantic-pragmatics and expressive and/or receptive language

  13. May prefer to talk and/or play with boys

  14. May not apologize when she has made a social error OR may appease and apologize too much, even when she does not have too

  15. May watch and/or observe others playing before joining in

  16. May copy, minic or clone herself on other girls, also known as “Social Echolalia”, a mirroring of other children, giving her a superficial social confidence and skill-set by acting the part of another person. However, the complexities of the next step of unwritten social skills soon becomes apparent when she has to navigate the expectations and demands that come with reciprocal relationships and maintaining them. This is both confusing and exhausting for her

  17. May have imaginary friends and/or imaginary animals

  18. May spend more time setting up a play scene, rather than playing with the characters in the scene

  19. May be obsessed with fantasy worlds of fairies, witches, imaginary friends, imaginary animals, dragons, anime, or other

  20. May be highly visual, creative, more imaginative then her peers

  21. She may dominate when playing or talking with other girls OR be passive, quiet and “invisible” within the group. If she is dominating, her play tends to appear to be shared with others but she dominates and insists that others follows her rules and themes. If and/or when others refuse to be engaged she continues on with her own ideas or play. Her play tends to be mostly repetitive. If she is passive, she’s more likely to be compliant and may not come across as having social impairments. She may also be shy, embarrassed, coy, naive, innocent, unassuming, and hide or “camouflage” her difficulties, even lying about whether she needs or understands something or needs assistance or help. She is most likely to be described as “flying under the radar” or “blending in with the walls”.

  22. A tendency to collect information on people rather than things. May be interested in psychology, social work, nursing, teaching or helping others

  23. A tendency to ask a lot of questions, often challenging her parents or other adults, who are unable to provide her with the appropriate or the right answers; may correct the adult or teacher and point out their mistake

  24. A tendency to imitate other girls in order to initiate social contact but then have great difficulty maintaining and keeping the reciprocal friendship going. It is this part that often girls find stressful and they will often ruminate about the social situation, what they could have said or done differently, often late at night

  25. She may appear to have a rich imaginative world but the quality is atypical, tending to be a blend of fantasy and reality

  26. She may have an intense interest in the family pets, who may be her best friends, rather than other children or her peers

  27. May have motor tics, Tourette’s Syndrome

  28. May have a different quality of eye gaze/eye contact. May stare at others

  29. May not have a best friend, but be a “flitterer”, having many acquaintances, some to whom she may refer to as a best friend

  30. May have difficulty completing tasks

  31. May be highly organized, ordered and/or clean OR unorganized and have hygiene issues

  32. May follow other children closely, studying their mannerisms, actions, words, and so on

  33. Intense. There is no other word for it. AspienGirls have an intensity in everything they do. If they cannot do it right, do it properly, do it right the first time, they tend to refuse, avoid, and or express frustration/distress. When taught to persevere, to develop frustration tolerance, to manage their emotions, they are most often successful in whatever they pursue, to the point of becoming an “expert”.

  34. Superior photographic memory and weaker short-term memory

  35. Can be obsessive about people, especially if they feel or perceive that they have been “wronged”. This can get them into trouble at times for hurting others or taking revenge. May obsess over or stalk people. May have a misguided sense of justice that leads them to getting in trouble with other people, lawyers or the legal system/law.

  36. May question why they are “different” or what is “wrong” with them or why they can’t seem to “fit in” of feel that the “mothership dropped me off on the wrong planet and I’m just waiting for it to pick me up”

  37. Lack a clear sense of identity

  38. May be described as “serious”, “shy”, “odd”, “eccentric”, “adult-like”, “weird” in some ways, yet “babyish” in other ways

  39. A tendency to not be accepted by her same-age peers

  40. High likelihood of being bullied and/or teased, overlooked or ignored

  41. Intense dislike of disagreement, conflict, arguments, people yelling or shouting at them or around them. This them tends to an avoidance of conflict causing more serious communication difficulties. For example, this may be observed in a person who is unable to deal directly with a person they may have an issue with, but rather engages in talking or gossiping about their issue with that person with everyone else.

  42. An inability to handle and/or cope with stress, conflict and/or change

  43. An inner resilience, strength and ability (strong will and determination) to bounce back from stress and setbacks time and time again. This does depend on particular internal and external factors at play.

  44. Some strengths, abilities, talents and interests may include: enjoying fantasy worlds, fiction, acting, modelling, art, mathematics and numbers, music, song-writing, perfect pitch, writing fiction, languages and/or translating, caring for nature and/or animals, research, learning and studying, intelligence, teaching, helping others, science and medicine.

  45. May invade other’s personal space or stand too close to them or be unaware of boundaries

  46. May dislike people looking or staring at her. This is often a huge barrier for talented and gifted performers (for example, singers performing in front of others or crowds, actors being on the red carpet).

  47. May be perceived as being “just shy and quiet”

  48. Most often confused by the conversations of their teenage peers

  49. May walk on her tip-toes or have an “odd gait”, motor difficulties

81. May be very social, very loud, extroverted and make continual attempts to be part of a group. Her attempts are clumsy and her peers may see her as not quite fitting in. She lacks social skills and a social understanding to help the interactions go gracefully. Her peers don’t quite understand her social awkwardness and may be be mean to her, ostracize her and/or make fun of her, taking advantage of her naivety. She may appear to “flitter” from one person to the other or one group to the other, unable to have a typical friendship, due to smothering people or groups. Her peers take advantage of her, make fun of her and/or will be mean to her, saying they are her friend one day, but their actions prove otherwise. The issues revolve around girls being mean to her and cutting her from the group. She often smothers others and doesn’t understand the levels of friendship or social boundaries.

  1. Thumb-sucking may last well-past pre-school age, until 9 or even 10 years of age.

83.  Often as a teen, spending breaks/lunches alone in the hallways, toilets, library, or with a teacher, due to not being part of a group and/or having no friends.

84. May have Alexithymia, an inability to identify and describe emotions in the self 

  1. May have Synaesthesia, in particular mirror-touch synaesthesia. Research studies hypothesize that empathy is experienced by a process of simulation. So for example, when we see someone feeling happy or sad, the same neural circuits used to make them feel happy are activated in our brain. Since mirror touch synesthetes have heightened activation of mirror systems, it can be hypothesized that that these individuals may also experience higher empathy, and this has been confirmed by research in this area. Mirror touch synesthetes experience more empathy than non-synesthetes. A research study by Michael Banissy et. al  determined this by using the empathy quotient (EQ), consisting of three main scales: cognitive empathy, emotional reactivity, and social skills. Mirror touch synesthetes showed significantly higher EQ scores in emotional reactivity than in controls. However, synesthetes did not show higher scores in cognitive empathy and social skills. Thus empathy is multifaceted, and the tactile mirror system may not be fully responsible for the ability to empathize (For more information, check out Banissy, Michael; Jamie Ward (July 2007). “Mirror Touch Synaesthesia is Linked with Empathy”. Nature Neuroscience 10 (7): 815–816. doi:10.1038/nn1926).

References

Attwood, Tony (2006). Asperger’s and Girls. Future Horizons.

Kopp S, Gillberg C. Res Dev Disabil. 2011 Nov-Dec;32(6):2875-88. Epub 2011 Jun 12.

Gould, Judith and Ashton Smith, Jacqui. (2011). Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis? Women and Girls with Autism and PDA

FAQ: Why do your pictures include visuals of girls or women in superhero outfits? In my clinical experience and work, I never cease to be amazed by an Aspiengirls’ ability to bounce back from stress and setbacks time and time again. I refer to Aspiengirls’ abilities as “aspienpowers” because there is no other group of girls or woman I know of with the unique profile of abilities, traits and characteristics (aspienpowers) that enable them to be highly successful in their chosen careers and/or life, given the right environmental fit and support.

About Tania Marshall

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Tania holds a Masters of Science in Applied Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She is a best selling author, child and family psychologist and Autism consultant. She is 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.

Her areas of interest include: Gifted and Talented, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Twice-Exceptionality, Highly Sensitive Individuals, Learning Disabilities, Performance Anxiety and Psychological Profiling

She regularly provides diagnostic assessments, support and intervention and divides her time between private practice, writing and research.

To enquire or book consultations, assessments, problem solving sessions and/or support, please e-mail Tania at tania@aspiengirl.com

Tania has now completed the first two in a series of books on female Autism. She is now writing her third book entitled AspienPowers: The Unique Constellation of Abilities, Strengths and Talents of Females on the Autism Spectrum”.

Her book series is available for purchase at http://www.aspiengirl.com

To inquire about interviews, articles, workshops, presentations, or translations/translating of her books, please email Tania at tania@aspiengirl.com

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