Female Asperger Syndrome, Current Statistics and Gender Differences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image

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

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

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

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

Aspergers, Girls and the Social World: A Brief Look

I have mentioned previously in my work about what I refer to as a “Social Spectrum”, meaning that all people have varying levels of preference or ability to socialize. In terms of Aspiens, I have found that, as a group, they also have a social range. I have met Aspiens who at one end, the quite shy, introverted Aspiens who at times can be mute in social situations and need much encouragement to participate socially, in classes or groups. At the other end of the social Spectrum, some Aspiengirls present as quite extraverted, often ‘too’ social, in that they overstepping others boundaries and socially innappropriate. (Just to clear up any confusion, AspienGIRL™, Planet Aspien™, Aspien, Aspienpowers are from my new book series. The word Aspien means a female with Asperger Syndrome. Book Series and website coming shortly.)

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Aspiengirls may have a preference to spend their time in solitude and/or with animals, their dolls, teddy bears or imaginary friends or imaginary animals. Their animals or toys may be their best friends.

Aspiengirls who want and have friendships, are more likely to interact intensely with one other girl or boy. Remember, one of Aspiengirls superpowers is her ability to work exceptionally well one-one-one or presenting to others or a group. Her friend often provides support, guidance and social information to her to help her navigate the unwritten social rules and the playground. Aspiengirls are most often very loyal friends. They find gossip, bitchiness and back-stabbing a complete mystery and are uninterested in these types of behaviors.

Aspiengirls are known to be naive, socially and emotionally immature (often years behind their peers) and particularly vulnerable to being taken advantage of, especially if they are lonely and desperate for a friend. Aspiengirls are often more successful socially with boys, as they find boys, generally speaking, less complicated, their ‘play’ is fun, more functional and interesting. Aspiengirls find their female peers engagement in conversational and emotional play boring and confusing. Many Aspiengirls fidn they have more in common with their males peers and get along with them better as conversation is less confusing and mutual interests more appealing.

There is a sub-type of Aspiengirls that “flitter” from group to group not forming any close friendships with their peers, not knowing or understanding how to navigate the various cliques or groups. Aspiengirls have trouble understanding the levels of friendships, the social hierarchy and the social roles that various members of a group or groups play. In school, girls with Aspergers can feel quite lonely, they may make friends with peers from a variety of other cultures, .

Most often, Aspiengirls have flown under the radar and may not be identified as all as being Aspien until the tricky teenage years. I have seen various sub-types in my clinical practice. One group of teenage Aspiens I have worked with is a group characterized by very good grades, an embracement of good moral behavior, and a late development of interest in romance. This group often finds it challenging to be assertive and stand up for themselves. Some of them may be described as ‘puritan-like’, rule-bound or late-bloomers. 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.

The other sub-type of Aspienteens I have seen is the opposite of the group I mentioned previously. Rather than embracing the moral code, they reject social, moral and authority codes, which combined with naivity, social and emotional immaturity, a belief in the ‘good’ in others, leads them a number of difficulties, ranging from experimention with drugs, to a history ofabusive relationships, continually being taken advantage of, in addition to dropping out of school. This type of Aspienteen has been described to me by many a parent as having “gone off the rails”. One particular example was of a parent who brought in pictures of what her Aspien looked like the year before and then showed me pictures of what she looks like now. There had been a dramatic change in appearance and attitude, along with her choice of social contacts, her sexual behaviors and dress. Some seek out a “counter-culture to fit into.

Social differences and difficulties are common among Aspiens and social skills training, drama lessons or coaching can be quite helpful. The type of social skills training is important and the above two groups need different intervention in terms of social skills training.

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