Aspergers Syndrome in Women and Girls - Are You One of the Undiagnosed, Lost Generation?
Researchers led us to believe Asperger's Syndrome is a male condition
Asperger's Syndrome is a condition within the umbrella of autistic spectrum disorder. Women and girls have been underrepresented in this field.
Psychologist used to think that this is predominantly a condition associated with males. After all, that is what we have been led to believe by specialists in this field.
This, however, is becoming a myth. It seems that women and girls have been left unidentified. They are, essentially, a lost generation who have been left to cope without help and a diagnoses in the field of autism.
The effects of this can be devastating for women and girls. Financially, for example, without this diagnosis there's no funding to help them.with therapies and support. The consequences, therefore, for someone with Asperger's Syndrome who has to cope without help can lead to suffering, loneliness and an unfulfilled, confused life.
Of course, there are concerns over labeling and stigmatization, but it is nothing to be ashamed about. Help is all that is needed to empower and provide people with the diagnosis the skills to lead a fulfilling life. Therefore, labeling is a necessary evil.
Introduction to Female Asperger's Syndrome
In this article we will discover why woman and girls have been left without a diagnosis. with the help of Rudy Simone, This one of a series of three articles, but here we will focus on Author Rudy Simone in her book, 'Aspergirls'.
Why is it difficult to diagnose Asperger's in females?
Why is it that women and girls with Asperger’s syndrome have been overlooked? Why have they had difficulties getting a formal diagnosis of this form of autism? Firstly, Asperger’s syndrome is still rather new in awareness and formalised research. Secondly, it is harder to diagnose women and girls because the format presents itself in a much more subtle way than their male counterparts.
In order to understand why diagnosing females is more difficult; let us look at the differences between the genders. Here I shall briefly summarise some major differences between genders sourced originally from an article by Amber Hensley from Masters of Healthcare. You can find the link at the bottom of this article for further investigation. Remember, this piece is general and not intended to be taken literally. We are all individuals and there has to be room for flexible thinking here.
Females communicate more effectively than males because they use both parts of the brain!
Females communicate more effectively than their male counterparts. It is of no surprise that the stereotypical idea of women as talkers does not go without real justification. They use all the brain, whereas males use half of it.
The right and the left side of women’s brains process equally and in unison. For this reason, women are prone to being more creative. However, in men, the left side of the brain is larger and more dominant than the right side. Men tend to think more logically.
Women creative, men more logical
It is of no surprise, therefore, that men appear to have a greater capacity to problem solve in a mathematical sense. Women and girls have a larger right hemisphere of brain and this helps them to focus on specific stimuli. An example of this would be tuning in to the sounds of their children’s distress. It is like a homing signal for danger.
In reactions to stressful situations, that induces a ‘flight or fright’ response, women are much calmer whereas men tend to react instantly. This is because hormonal reactions to oxytocyn differ when acting with female estrogens (this enhances oxytocyn) and high levels of testosterone in men (oxytocyn levels are reduced).
Females are more in tune with emotions
When talking about emotional issues, women have the benefit of being able to express themselves and be more in tune with their feelings. However, they are more prone to depression and appear more erratic than men. Men do appear to be more stable, until the reactive testosterone kicks in when dealing with issues of an emotional nature.
When it comes to spatial awareness, men tend to fair better than women. It appears that their mental perception is better and, typical of the logical nature of men; they are possibly more adept with gadgets and construction.
Asperger's Syndrome is not exclusively a male condition
In the past, it was thought that Asperger’s syndrome was more of a male condition. It seems now, however, that just because it is more observable in males than females, doesn’t mean that it is an autistic spectrum disorder that is exclusive to males. Females appear to manage better with this form of autism superficially. However, it seems that because girls and women can hide the symptoms, doesn’t mean that they are suffering with similar complexities associated with Asperger’s syndrome.
Remember that women and girls use both sides of their brains when it comes to communication and this tends to compensate for difficulties; making it hard for medical professionals to recognise this form of autism.
Female Asperger's - a 'Snap Shot' story
People with Autism Spectrum Disorders are individual. They display different aspects of behaviours.
Considerations also have to be taken into account as regards to individuality and the mix of the various themes associated with autism spectrum disorder. For example, one person may show more problems associated with dysphasia or dyslexia than other themes. Each Aspie differs from another. This makes diagnosis more complex for males, yet alone the female counterparts. If you want to know more about Asperger’s signs, symptoms and more please feel free to take a look at this article: Do You Think Your Child Has Asperger’s Syndrome? – Which Way Now?.
Rudy Simone and Asperger's Syndrome
Rudy Simone is author to the books ’22 Things A Woman Must Know – If She Loves A Man With Asperger’s Syndrome’, ‘Asperger’s On The Job’ and ‘Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger’s Syndrome'. She highlights in ‘Aspergirls’, and the following interview, that Asperger females are under diagnosed – particularly women who are in their 40’s and 50’s. This is despite experiencing the same relationship difficulties as their male counterparts.
This lifetime of soul searching for women who are undiagnosed or miss-diagnosed with the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome – for example depression – makes for a difficult life burdened with struggling and failed relationships. Dr Tony Attwood made similar connotations in his book ‘Asperger Girls’.
Aspergirls by Rudy Simone - An Interview
The Light Bulb Moment - Thank You Rudy Simone, I Am An Aspergirl!
Realisation suddenly dawned on me when I read this book for the first time. I am one of Rudy's Asper Girls, a lost generation of undiagnosed females.
The fear of being sigmatised by a label was my first fear but then, on reflection, where I felt heavy by this burden, I also felt light with relief. At long last, I knew why I just 'didn't get it' when maintaining social relationships. Sure, I found it easy to fake it in the short term, but keeping the pretense of acting the part of a 'normal', never lasted. The cracks of my vase would soon show!
Asperger's Syndrome and Gender Identity
People with Asperger’s syndrome don’t have a clear sense of gender identity – that is the nature of the condition. Society can view Asperger males differently from Asperger females because men present themselves more obviously.
Women may be thought of as immature, depressive and/or lack concern for themselves. This is not to say that Asperger’s women present themselves differently, but are perceived differently by the outside world. Men, however, are easier to identify with when considering Asperger’s syndrome.
Social Situations and Freak Out!
In social situations, after spending time with women with Asperger’s syndrome, for example, it might be apparent to others that she is different – perhaps neurotic, nervous or tetchy. It might not cross their minds that she is Aspergers.
Simone highlights that women are better than men at ‘faking’ Aspergers behaviour but sooner or later they get found out.
In Simone’s ‘Aspiegirls’, she researched lots of women with the condition. However, Rudy Simone has Asperger’s syndrome herself, so – and as Asperger’s women tend to love projects – this was a perfect topic to persue.
The book, she considers, to be a handbook for Asperger women to get on well in society.
Diagnosis Could Make The Difference To Living A Fuller Life Instead Of A Struggle
So it looks like that women with Asperger’s syndrome have a lot of abilities within their sub-culture. They are multi-faceted and have much to offer society. However, the problems that are associated with Aspergers, and many under the autism spectrum disorder umbrella, have much to do with the support around women and girls. As Simone says, this could make the difference between living a fuller life as opposed to one that is a struggle.
© This work is covered under Creative Commons License
Amber Hensley, Masters of Healthcare
Tony Attwood, Asperger’s Girls
Rudy Simone, Aspergirls
Based on this article, do you think you are a female with Asperger's Syndrome?
Would you think a formal diagnosis would lable and stigmatise you?
Endorsing Words From Shana Nichols, PhD - Girls Growing Up On The Autism Spectrum'
Shana Nichols, PhD
Just read your hubpage article on AS in Females. I am good friends with Rudy Simone, and we speak together at conferences. I'm so glad that more people are getting the word out about the unique experiences of females with ASDs. I am a clinical psychologist and began working with girls/women with ASDs about five years ago. I am director of a clinic called ASPIRE Center for Learning and Development in Melville, NY www.aspirecenterforlearning.com , and am the author of "Girls Growing Up on the Autism Spectrum". We have a GIRLS CLINIC at our center - groups, therapy, consultations, evaluations, community outings.
Just wanted to say thanks for your article,
All the best, Dr. Shana Nichols
A Special Thanks From Rudy Simone and Shana Nichols, PHD
Keeping on the subject and to add to further information, it was an honor to receive an e-mail from Shana Nichols, PHD, who is a specialist in this field and is the author of 'Girls Growing Up on the Autism Spectrum: What Parents and Professionals Should Know About the Pre-Teen and Teenage Years'. Her input is greatly appreciated and so is her book.
Use this article at your own risk. This article does not give legal opinions or advice. Any action or outcome that may result from this article is the sole responsibility of the reader. This article is assumes no responsibility or legal claim against it.
© 2010 shazwellyn