This is a recent FAQ on self-deprecation in neurodiverse females. As always, If you like it please share and leave your positive comments or other questions below. This video was made by the Neurodiversity Academy, founded by and funded by AspienGirl girl.com
Female Autism Infographics to share for awareness and education. More Coming
The following article is copyrighted and may not be posted anywhere without permission from the author.
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To contact Tania regarding consultations, assessment, problem-solving strategies, Skype consultations, book distribution, interviews, book translations, publishing queries, please email her at email@example.com
I Am AspienWoman: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Gifts of Adults Females on the Autism Spectrum
After “I Am AspienGirl” was released in June 2014, it went to #1 in 3 categories on Amazon. The AspienGirl team was inundated with emails, stories, messages and letters. Many of them were from females themselves or from their family members, their loved ones and professionals. We received pictures, poetry, art, short and long stories. We had people, of all ages, wanting to be a part of the Be Your Own Superhero Project. We received messages from a number of countries wanting to know more about female Autism, offering their translation skills to assist in getting the information made available in other languages and/or wanting to know where to go to start the process of an assessment. Messages came in from parents and professionals saying they were using the book to explain the diagnosis or as a reference/starting point for explaining or discussing certain characteristics. Many of the messages or testimonials coming in positively referred to the format of the book, in particular the use of images and verbatim quotes which combined together showcased particular traits, characteristics or talents.
What we learned was that there is a desperate need all over the world for more trained professionals, more adult female research based on females and comparing females with Autism to their neurotypical peers, more information regarding the internal experiences of a large group of females on the Spectrum, more information about the female sub-types, and a huge need for assessment tools, resources, intervention and support designed specifically for females. Current assessment tools appear not to be suitable or designed to identify particular features of Autism spectrum disorder/condition in females.
This book is written for four types of readers. First, this book was written for the general population (neurotypical people), to explain the internal experiences and the unique characteristics of adult females with an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). Second, this book is written for the female who may just be starting her journey to understand that she may too, be on the Spectrum herself. Many adults are unaware that they are on the Autism Spectrum. Third, this book is for individuals who are self-diagnosing or with a formal diagnosis who may feel this book may help explain their uniqueness and characteristics to themselves and/or to their loved ones through sharing it with family members, partners, friends and/or colleagues. Lastly, the book is written for professionals, to assist them in understanding the newly emerging Autistic female profile and in their work with their clients.
I Am AspienWoman: The Unique Characteristics, Traits and Gifts of Adults Females on the Autism Spectrum is written by Tania Marshall, MSc., and the second in the AspienGirl book series. This book continues where I Am AspienGirl left off, detailing the newly emerging female phenotype as it often presents in adult females. This highly visual book presents stunning images combined with verbatim quotes by females on the Spectrum, that combined characterize and illuminate the unique strengths and challenges of the this “lost generation” of females. The images and quotes highlight a range of areas including: early memories, cognitive/personality type, sub-types, social, education, sensory sensitivities, emotional, communication/language, work, common interests, gender, family, and relationships, strengths, challenges, stages leading up to and after diagnosis, important AspienWoman needs and an inspiring section of 25 real life AspienWoman Superhero Mentors headed up by Dr. Temple Grandin. Also included is a strengths based exercise and some important references/resources.
In celebration of the upcoming release of I Am Aspienwoman, we are offering $5.00 off, from now until release day. Pre-order you copy now at http://www.aspiengirl.com/english/i-am-aspienwoman-paperback
Available in eBook, paperback and a stunning Hard Cover edition. Dont forget to use your $5.00 off Code: #aspienwoman
You can also sign up for the AspienGirl newsletter and/or become an affiliate of the book series and earn 10% for every book your refer
For all inquiries regarding in-person or Skype diagnostic assessments or consultations, interviews, presentation and/or translations, please contact Tania at firstname.lastname@example.org
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This is the second interviw in my “professional” series, where I was recently honoured to interview best-selling author Kathy Hoopman.
What is your background? You are originally from Toowoomba, right? How did you get from there to Dubai?
I was born in Toowoomba, where I lived for twenty years and studied primary teaching at the Darling Downs Institute of Advance Education (now University of Southern Queensland). I married right out of uni and went to work in Brisbane as a teacher in Prince of Peace Lutheran Primary School which was so new, it was still a cabbage patch when I got the jobJ. I taught full time until I had children then I moved into relief teaching whilst I started my writing career. We moved to Dubai in 2003 with my husband’s work, and stayed until mid 2011. Then we took a gap year and spent a year back in Australia doing renovations and catching up on family and friends. We returned to Dubai in Sept 2012 and plan another three year stay.
How did you become an author?
When I was a school teacher, I read many books to my classes and love the worlds that were created. Finally I decided to create my own worlds. At first I wrote novels; some were published and some weren’t. But strangely enough my first book published was a book of plays based on Bible stories. It was a ‘right time, right place’ book. But then I became interested in Asperger’s and wanted to capture the positives of the syndrome in an Aspie character. I will never forget the day I was at an Autism conference where Tony Attwood was speaking. At lunch time I waited until the long line of people, wanting to catch his attention, dwindled, and I nervously told him about the novel I had just completed. He was gracious enough to look at it and gave his endorsement and Blue Bottle Mystery was picked up by Jessica Kingsley who has published all my Asperger books since then.
You have written a total of 7 books, is that right?
I have fifteen books published in Australia, the UK, US and the UAE, with translations into ten languages. Six deal with Asperger’s and one is on ADHD.
All Cats have Asperger Syndrome and All Dogs have ADHD have been very successful. What do you think the main reason for this is?
Many books on special needs are quite long to read and can be full of medical jargon. Although these books are essential, many people simply want a quick overview. I think what makes All Cats have Asperger Syndrome and All Dogs have ADHD so successful is that in ten minutes a reader can understand the essence of these syndromes, both the negatives and the positives, and come away with a smile on their faces and hope in their hearts.
I have just read your latest book Inside Aspergers Looking Out and it is just as fabulous. This book is different in that it is for Neurotypicals, in terms of them learning about what it’s like to be Aspie. What made you to decide to write this book?
In Sept 2011, in my ‘gap’ year, I heard John Elder Robison (Look Me in the Eye) speak at the Brisbane Writer’s Conference. I was moved by the entirely different way he saw Asperger’s and how he could explain it so that it was no longer facts, but life. I was privileged to have lunch with him and I mooted the concept of writing a book along these lines – that is from the eyes of an Aspie. Not having Asperger’s, this book took a lot of research and I listened to hours and hours of Youtube videos by Aspies, and joined online Asperger sites to get their insights. By Feb 2012, it was finished and in the hands of my publisher.
What is it like in Dubai, in terms of Autism and services?
I have to admit that I am out of the link here and have little contact with Asperger/Autism providers. However, I understand that slowly schools and clinics are striving to incorporate special needs programmes and are beginning to employ specialists in these areas. Unfortunately, many children do not receive the assistance required and many schools still refuse to take any children with special needs of any kind.
Are we going to get a chance to read anymore Kathy Hoopman books?
I have dabbled with writing a teacher’s handbook on how to deal with Asperger’s in the classroom, but it is on the back burner at present. Currently I am branching into a new area of writing and I am working on a children’s Christian book which is trying to capture the essence of the Bible in eighty picture book pages. It is a fascinating and hugely challenging project.
Where can we buy your books?
Many of the larger book lines either stock my books or can order them in. My distributor in Australia is Footprints Books http://www.footprint.com.au/ and all of my Asperger titles can be ordered through them. Online stores like Amazon, Book Depository and Fishpond all have my works too.
Thank-you so much for this interview Kathy.
Tania Marshall©. 2013. Interview Professional Series. All rights reserved. Duplication in whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank you.
Say What?! Building a Strengths-Based Descriptive Model for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome
So, what’s in a word? The language and the words we use have power. Power to think about something in a certain way. It is time for a global revolution in the way we think about Asperger Syndrome. I believe it is time to move from a “deficit-based” model to a strengths-based one, which in addition to weaknesses, includes and assesses and describes people based on their strengths, skills, abilities, gifts and/or talents. Individuals with Autism have what we refer to as “spikey profiles” and a different developmental profile, meaning that often they may be behind in one developmental area, but ahead in another. In my clinical work, I have met people of all ages with weaknesses, yes, but also a stunning array of diverse abilities, talents and gifts, which has been overlooked. The deficit-approach has ignored strengths and contributed to the rampant identity and self-esteem issues that are seen in individuals with Asperger Syndrome. I’ve also met many people, including professionals who believe or have been led to believe, that individuals with Asperger Syndrome cannot contribute to society and/or work. This could not be further from the truth. I believe deficit-based diagnostic criteria and deficit-based approaches are partly responsible for this. It’s time for a strengths-based language, approach and positive strengths-based outlook for individuals with Asperger Syndrome, of all ages, sub-types and levels. The following is a work-in-progress, based on the descriptions relayed to me in clinical practice. I offer an alternative description after the bolded word “OR” . This list will be updated as time permits.
Too sensitive or too caring OR Emotionally Empathic, Sensitive
Selfish OR Independent
In his/her own world OR Becoming an expert in his/her special interest
Odd, weird, freaky OR Unique
Bi-polar OR Feels emotions intensely/deeply, An “empath”
Disorder OR A neurological condition he/she is born with
Co-morbid OR Co-existing (a part of a condition)
Anti-social, hermit-like OR Gifted in working with animals and/or children and/or nature
Unable to work in groups OR Excellent one-on-one or presenting to a group
Bossy OR Director/Leadership Skills/Spirited (Early intervention helps here!)
Clingy OR Affectionate
Compulsive OR Efficient and Attention to Detail
Conceited or arrogant OR Confident and Values Self
Crabby or irritable OR Communicate Needs
Dawdles OR Easygoing and Mindful
Defiant OR Strong Beliefs and Courageous
Demanding OR Assertive, Determination, Independent
Doodles OR Creative
Hyper, boisterous OR Active, enthusiastic, lvoes to move
Dramatic OR Emotionally Aware and Emotionally Expressive
Fearful or anxious OR Thoughtful, Cautious, Careful, Highly Sensitive
Freaks our, hides under tables OR Hypersensitive to sounds, lighting, smell, and sight
Talks too much OR has an extensive vocabulary, communicative
Finicky Eater OR Gourmet and Discriminating Tastes
Foolish OR Funloving
Obsessions OR Expert in an area
A brooder OR Serious
Disruptive OR Eager
Dreamy OR Imaginative
Explosive OR Dramatic
Forceful OR Determined
Giddy, Silly OR Good-humoured, joyful
Highly strung OR Enthusiastic
Impatient OR Passionate
Intense OR Focused
Loud OR Expressive
Moody OR Highly Sensitive
Not participating OR Observer
Picky OR Selective
Stubborn OR Peristent
Unfocused OR Curious
Foolish OR Funloving
Withdrawn OR Introspective
Fusses about food/clothes OR Specific Tastes and keen sense of self
Goofy OR Joyful and Entertaining, Great sense of humour
Impulsive OR Spontaneous
Loud OR Exuberant, confident and expressive
Hyperactive OR Energetic, full-of-life, creative
Naughty OR Independent and Exploring Boundaries
Nosey OR Curious Inquisitive Mind
Not Focusing OR Processing a variety of information
Quiet, Shy OR Thoughtful and Reflective Thinker
Rigid OR High Sense of order
Shy OR Selective about who they Value and trust, Reflective
Silly OR A Good Sense of Humour
Sneaky OR Inventive and Creative
Stubborn OR Determined and Persistent
Tattletale or Dobber OR High Seeker of Truth and Justice
Lacks empathy OR Possesses great emotional empathy, feels too intensely and experiences physical or emotional manifestations of other people’s energy, leading to meltdown or shutdown
I believe that individuals with Asperger Syndrome have many Superpowers. The difference between bossiness and leadership skills is in early intervention (EI). EI makes a world of difference in supporting children/teens into being successful adults. Caveat: I am not saying that individuals challenges are ignored. I am saying that their strengths and talents need to be included in their profile.
Tania Marshall©. All rights reserved. Duplication in whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank you.
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
• 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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.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
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
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”
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
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)
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”.
May know every lyric to a song or every line to a movie from repetitively watching them or listening to them
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
- 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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Tania Marshall© 2013-2018
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