Sneak-A-Peek of I am AspienWoman: The unique characteristics of adult females on the Autism Spectrum

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Have you ever wondered about a quirky family member? Maybe she is your partner, your mother, your grand-mother, aunt, sister, niece or even your teacher? You may have wondered why she seems “different”, ”odd'” or even “cool”?  Have you ever wondered why life seems, at times, so challenging for her?  She is very bright, has a superior memory and great sense of humour.  She finds other people, stress, emotions and organization a challenge and she often suffers from a “social hangover”. Her peers or friends gracefully met their milestones, yet she remains perplexingly both ahead and behind her peers.  

You may have wondered where she disappears to at family get togethers, only to be found playing with the children or animals. She may be the “black sheep” of the family, have unusual habits and be highly intuitive. She is an Aspien, a woman with Asperger Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism. She may be a high achiever, goal-oriented, perfectionistic, and quirky. And yes, she may be your local teacher, nurse, artist, musician, actress, model, or even your doctor.

An Aspienwoman may have unfinished courses or degrees or may have achieved her education later than her peers. She is very bright, however you can’t figure out why she is so disorganized or has difficulty managing her emotions or stress. She is a high achiever with a collection of asperpowers that help her reach any goal she has her mind set on.

An Aspienwoman has a unique constellation of aspienpowers, super-abilities, strengths and challenges. She often feels as though she is from another Planet. If you are looking for a book on the often perplexing and unique adult female Autism Spectrum traits and characteristics, then this is the book for you. Watch for ‘I am AspienWoman™, coming soon.

Q: What does “Aspien” mean?

A: The terms ”Aspien”, Äspiengirl”, “Aspienwoman”, “Planet Aspien”, and it’s derivatives were recently created and trademarked. This terminology came about from years of working with females, of all ages, on the Spectrum, who most often talked about feeling different, feeling like they don’t belong and/or are from another planet, universe, time zone or era. A book series is a natural progression from my clinical work.  This book series is an answer to the current gender bias and educates the reader about females on the Spectrum who are also known as “research orphans” (Klin).

Q: What are Aspienpowers?

A: Aspienpowers are a unique set of strengths often seen collectively in females with high functioning autism or asperger syndrome

This book will be available on Amazon, in E-book and on http://www.aspiengirl.com (under construction). Each book includes a list of characteristics, traits, strengths and challenges, a table, and more!

The first book in my series is entitled “I am AspienGirl: The unique characteristics of young females, with Asperger Syndrome”, coming soon!

Tania Marshall 2013.  All rights reserved. Duplication, in whole or in part, is explicitly forbidden. AspienGirl™ and Planet Aspien™ are registered and trademarked names. Thank you.

Be Your Own Superhero with AspienGIRL™ Coming Soon!

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AspienGIRL™ and her crew, from Planet Aspien™, are a revolution. Aspiengirl and Aspienwoman are an identity, a place, a group, a unique tribe.
A revolution designed and determined to change language; to change how girls and women with Asperger Syndrome are viewed and to give Aspiens everywhere a sense of hope and empowerment. Planet Aspien™ is an other-worldly place, a place that disseminates information about the female profile, about positive traits, about Aspienpowers©, offering strength-based advice, tips, resources, support and interventions across the lifespan. AspienGIRL™ even writes books!

AspienGIRL™ and her team promote the positive characteristics, abilities, talents and strengths of girls and Women with Asperger Syndrome or Autism. Her mission is to teach inhabitants of Planet Earth about the Superpowers of Aspiengirls™, with a little humour thrown in there too! Our view is that Aspiens™ are not better than NT’s or vice versa. We just have different operating systems!

I Am AspienGIRL™ is a truthseeker, knowledge craver, sensitive introvert, with superpowers galore. Offering advice, support, FAQ Q and A’s on female traits. From Planet Aspien™, I AM. Go AspienGIRLS™ everywhere!

AspienGIRL’S™ first two books, available individually or as a set, are due for release in December, 2013.

Website: http://www.taniamarshall.com.au (under construction)
Email: http://www.taniamarshall@hotmail.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aspiengirl
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/aspiengirl

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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.