Below is a link to an excellent list of characteristics, abilities, and talents of females with Asperger’s Syndrome. This doesn’t, and shouldn’t, serve as diagnostic criteria or as a rigid checklist. It is, however, a wonderful start to a female profile that may guide identification and disgnosis someday. Some people have told me, “You can’t have Asperger’s! You are a girl!” I’m not the only Aspie female who has heard that, or some variant of disbelief regarding this very specific label many of us have struggled whole lifetimes to locate, so we can access the tools we need, so we can be understood, so we can understand…
Well, like many myths and stereotypes, this one is unfortunately heard quite frequently by women, girls, and parents who are looking for answers so that they can find the information and tools to be the best they can be and lead fulfilling lives. I don’t think females are less likely to have Asperger’s or be Autistic, but I do know firsthand that many of us are not identified in a timely fashion. Of course, I also saw myth and stereotype delay my son’s diagnosis, so it’s not isolated to one gender but I do think it’s more prevalent for a few reasons (these are written with more of a focus on parents and children, but can apply to an adult as well. I did not include tailored descriptions below, for ease of reading.)
1. Perpetuation of Stereotype/Myth
2. Inadequate updating/continuing education of professionals who provide triage to those inquiring with concerns about their child’s development.
3. Some behavior typically described as “autistic” is more acceptable (historically) in girls than boys. Thankfully this is changing, but the remnants of “ye olde gender stereotypes” still hang about like a thick, slippery fog.
4. Lack of mindfulness & dismissal of parental concerns, by professionals, because of the perception that a simple, casual inquiry equates to the parent being a stifling, growth suppressing “helicopter parent”. I’ve known a few moms who were scolded by their physicians for just asking questions about autism and their child. It’s like the obsession with healthy parenting and healthy development and the concerns about “hovering”, perpetuated by those tireless soldiers of the mommy-wars, has become more of a concern to professionals than identifying legitimate concerns and addressing them in a mindful manner. I worry that the obsession about “over parenting” does damage to first time parents and children. We are all trying to figure it out. We are all works in progress. I think those that under parent and neglect their children are a greater worry, but it’s easier to criticize the parent that actually comes into the office with a concern than the one who doesn’t bring their child in and who doesn’t share their concerns with the physician.
It just worries me, bothers me, angers me, that one can still go to a specialist who will look at your child and say “but your kid doesn’t act like Rainman!”… I’ve brought prints of the diagnostic criteria with us to educate where we find outdated information. I do what I can. I do this because I hear all too often of delayed diagnosis, missed disgnosis, and parents who won’t let the label be given because of myths, stereotypes, and misperceptions about what it means to be Autistic, in this era, in this country, and in our society.
We all need to stand up and spread the truth about autism, about autistics, about parenting autistics. One extremely vital component of that is the different ways certain traits manifest differently in males and females.
Click to go to Tania Ann Marshall’s fantastic “Moving Towards A Female Profile: The Unique Characteristics”, Abilities and Talents of Young Girls with Asperger Syndrome.
For a fantastic read on Aspergirls, please check out Rudy Simone’s “Aspergirls” at Amazon.com. As an adult female Aspie, I found the book to be very helpful in understanding our inherent strengths. It does offer suggestions for Aspergirls and their parents. There is also a list which Tania Ann Marshall’s list reminded me of. Rudy Simone’s list is more a chart comparing manifestations of traits in males and in females.