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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The Chameleon World of AspienGIRLS™: Fantasy, Acting and Masking

CAVEAT: AspienGIRLS™ is a registered and trademarked 3D character and book series

The Chameleon World of AspienGIRLS™: Fantasy, Acting and Masking

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Females with Asperger Syndrome, Aspiens, tend to live in their heads, caught up with endless analyzing, copious amounts of thoughts, creative processes, ideas and worries. Aspiengirls™ are different in many ways to their peer and also to male Aspies. Females are known for their aspienpower super-abilities to fly under the radar by using advanced chameleon coping strategies of imitation, copying, acting, mimicking and masking.

A social meter does exists with Aspiens, in which some Aspiens seek out and want more social interactions than other Aspiens do. Females with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) who do want more social interactions have been observed mimicking socially successful and popular people, (usually a peer or a character on television) and copying or mimicking the person’s personality by copying their speech, words, tone of voice, accent, style of language, body language, clothing, hobbies or interests.

Aspiens are usually aware from very early on in life that they are different than their peers. To fit in and/or be accepted they may become someone else, a persona who is more likely to be accepted, not be viewed as different, or stand out from the crowd. Aspiens learn very quickly how to act in specific social situations, a strategy so successful that other people, and even at times the Aspien herself, may not be aware that her social intelligence is actually an act or performance. Her performance is facilitated by her above average to genius intelligence, chameleon-like skills and acting abilities. Aspiens have been observed to change their personality’s according to their environment, group or the situation they find themselves in. Over the long-term, this  coping strategy comes at the cost of her self-identity and self-esteem. The cost is that no-one really knows the Aspien, including herself. Many an Aspien believes that if others knew who she really was that she would be excluded, bullied, out-cast, or worse, institutionalized. These remarkable coping abilities have additional costs in terms of a “social hangover”, a period of exhaustion from social activities, people or the world. Aspiens typically return home from school or work completely socially exhausted and often meltdown, in front of their family members and/or pets. Only solitude will restore their energy levels and emotional world.

Aspiengirls™ who do not seek as much social contact tend be engaged with fantasy and imagination. Aspiens often identify with fictional book or movie characters that are fantasy based (Harry Potter or Hermione Granger are two examples). Aspiens often have imaginary animals or imaginary friends, with whom they talk to, interact with and it is these imaginary relationships that provide support, comfort, and company. Many an Aspien finds it far more i interesting to be in their fantasy world than the dreary and boring existence of day-to-day activities on Planet Earth. Other common worlds that Aspiens find fascinating include other cultures, languages and eras, where they may feel like they may fit in better.

Aspiens often develop an interest in science fiction and planets, fantasy worlds of unicorns, fairies, witches, and so on. While, it is common for typical females to sometimes enjoy escaping into imagination, Aspiengirls™ have an intensity in this area. For example, one girl I know of was so upset about a fantasy book series ending at Book 6, that she proceeded to write the next Book 7 installment herself! 

The array of camouflaging and coping strategies often mask the unique traits, gifts, talents and characteristics of Asperger Syndrome for some time over the course of elementary school. This is one major reason why Aspiengirls™ are underdiagnosed, diagnosed much later than males. or misdiagnosed.

Aspiengirls™ tend to fly under the radar, often until high school. Now, in adolescence, the psychological, social and emotional cost of masking becomes apparent. Aspiens are often only diagnosed in their adolescent years, if they are at all due, to their first nervous breakdown, when an eating disorder, identity issues, anxiety disorder, depression and/or traits of Borderline Personality Disorder become apparent. Years of pretending to be normal, constantly watching and analyzing their peer’s social behaviors, trying very hard to fit in, not make social faux pas, being a chameleon and wrestling with identity and self-esteem issues, takes it’s toll. Coupled with bullying, the  enormous stress often causes an Aspien teenager to have a breakdown in their ability to  function in day-to-day life. It may or may not be at that time that the Aspien is given an explanation for what she has felt and known all along – of why she is different – that she is, in fact, an AspienGIRL™.

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For more information on the AspienGIRL™ Book Series and Planet Aspien™, please go to:

Website (Currently under construction): http://www.aspiengirl.com.au
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AspienGIRL
Twitter: https://twitter.com/aspiengirl

Tania Marshall©. 2013. All rights reserved. AspienGIRL™ Book Series, AspienGIRL™ and Planet Aspien™ are registered Trademarks. Duplication in whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank you.