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
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
Elizabeth on July 14, 2017:
I think you meant to say that females are better at faking NEUROTYPICAL behavior.. not faking Aspergers.
Toni Boucher on August 18, 2014:
Thank you for doing this well -grounded gender comparison. The fact is that there are biological differences between males and females and I think you do a splendid job of demonstrating how these differences affect aspies and the importance of awareness to make sure girls and women get needed supports too. Your information really fits with my own experience as a mom and a professional. I am hungry to read more!
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on March 25, 2013:
Dont want to stereotype thewritingowl, but you are fitting perfectly into the female Aspie box!
Mary Kelly Godley from Ireland on March 25, 2013:
That's funny I spent yesterday wondering should I go back to University and study psychology altogether seeing as I spend so much time reading up on it anyway.
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on March 25, 2013:
My sentiments, exactly. Dan's diagnosis has opened up so many other opportunities and he is learning to be more social. If it wasn't for the diagnosis, he wouldn't have gone to specialist further education and he wouldn't have been offered a university placement. More than likely, he would have ended up in prison.
Me, as a child, I was always asking 'why don't people like me? Why do people behave in the way that they do?' I just didn't understand. So much so, I ended up studying psychology! But, there again, that is typical behaviour of the Aspie girl!
Mary Kelly Godley from Ireland on March 24, 2013:
Thanks shazwellyn, I had to fight very hard to get a diagnosis for my son and I was asked, 'do you really want to label him?' But to me as you say I think a label is just giving him and myself the proper knowledge to help him. I don't know whether I am right or wrong but I do know that personally I really regret not having been given the label myself a long time ago as it would have helped me over many of the difficulties I have had in life because I didn't know they were very typical Aspie female issues.
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on March 24, 2013:
You know, our society moans about 'labels', but sometimes these are very helpful in empowering people to find themselves. There is a sudden sense of relief and the chips on our shoulders become healed. I am glad you have found yourself - value who you are and you will be happier.
Mary Kelly Godley from Ireland on March 23, 2013:
Very informative and well researched. Am an Aspie female myself and you are spot on. I was only diagnosed last year a number of months after my three year old son was diagnosed with Autism. At first I was reading about how Autism affected young boys but then the more I read the more I thought, hang on here this is my childhood they are writing about. Then I read a few Tony Attwood books and the penny well and truly dropped. I will check out your A Store too. Voted up.
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on March 22, 2013:
Iheartausm... this is a lesson that we all need to learn. You can't standardise tests. Each person is individual especially when Asperger's presents itself very differently from the spectrum. Some people are more dysphasic, others are more dyslexic, and then you have to consider how the brain works in females compared to males. It is very complex.
h.a.n.d.s. from canada on March 07, 2013:
girls are starting to be diagnosed more often now that autism is so prevalent and any pediatrician's answer to developmental and behavioural issues. But they respond to treatments differently, and even get misdiagnosed because they are measured in the same ways as the boys, but don't necessarily present in the same respects.
Jack on November 21, 2012:
A mum with a girl with Autism has set up a facebook page for all to coomunicate. Lets share your experience and benefits others and find solution to pratical issues...
Leigh on September 05, 2012:
Having a child with Aspergers is challenging for me.
We think we could be ostracised. We don't speak about it much
but it is alwys obvious right away to most ppl.
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on August 23, 2011:
Thank you Lis. I hope that it helps many!
Lis Adolph from Denmark on August 23, 2011:
So fine article, I really enjoyed reading all this material, and I have taken the freedom to highlight one word in my own article, and have shosen your article because it is very informativ. Thanks :-)
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on August 23, 2011:
Thank you Spring Texas - I know she will find it valuable!
Spring Texas on July 17, 2011:
I ran across your article here while researching Aspergers for a close friend of the family. I am going to forward this on to her, and appreciate the information about Aspergers.
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on December 28, 2010:
Nancy DuPree - Yes, you are just another of the lost generation. Still, it could be worse - the chances are great that you have family members with the same condition undiagnosed - what a life! It is like lost souls, isn't it?
Nancy DuPree on December 27, 2010:
I have never been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. But, I think I have it. It would explain a lot of odd things that I do and that have happened to me. I don't know how to talk to a professional about this but I will try. Can you really be 51 and just find this out about yourself?
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on December 25, 2010:
Thank you Jennifer for highlighting this. However, as an Aspiegirl herself, on the contrary, isn't she the BEST person for the job?
Simone not only formulated her study on a small sample, but on her own experience and the research of others - Tony Attwood, for example.
It is not the one aspect of the study that counts, but as a CONTRIBUTION of many aspects.
In terms of statistical anaylisis in psychology, a hypothesis has always been critised for similar. Your comment is something that could be applied to any study or any mental health professional.
Rudy should be respected for raising awareness in this area and not being condemned for not passing a professional qualification in the area. In my book, living with aspergers qualifies for a masters. There is nothing that can be better than life experience and being receptive to your own mind and body.
Nothing is totally objective and nothing is totally subjective - we can only but listen, learn and offer our own experience.
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on December 25, 2010:
Davd - I was wondering whether there is a combination of your actions and behaviour to others AND that as AS people become adults, they 'normalise' (don't really like the term, but have to use it!) more. It could be your experience and learning about yourself that has helped you to overcome such obstacles.
As regards to knowing of anyone else who have found similiarities to your situation - we can only but speculate, can't we? This is their truth - better to just deal with yours (?)!
Jennifer on December 25, 2010:
I don't think Rudy Simone is qualified to comment on what the general characteristics are that differ the male person with Asperger's from the female. She interviewed 35 people for her research in Aspergirl's. This is not statistically relavent even if she "studied" the females in depth. She is vague in her observations and capitalizing on an area/disorder that has obviously not been tapped into for females. If she can make money off of people who are desperate for answers from any source then good for her. I however know when someone is not giving sound advice and feel she shouldn't be supported for her BS with AS anymore.
Davd on December 18, 2010:
Hello! I am an aspie adult male and a submissive gentleman. I think there is a special God-given talent combining Asperger's and gender. I have discovered that after becoming a gentleman and bending over backwards to please the Ladies in my life, I now have a safer environment, am more self-confident, and more creative and intelligent. Overall, I am much happier., and all because I bowed down and put Ladies above me. Do you know of this kind of thing existing with any Aspies you know? Maybe Bobby Fischer and Albert Einstein.
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on November 25, 2010:
just loney - you are now going to embark on an amazing journey of self discovery and you will start to accept that you are not lonely, but alone in a wonderful place that is you! You too can have a party in your head and understand the person you reside in is magical, complexed and intriging. You can now start to celebrate you and love the person you are. Being one of the 'normals' is something you can dip into when you choose, but the 'normals' can't dip into you!
Good luck and enjoy the life you are in!
just lonely on November 24, 2010:
Thank you for responding to me shazwellyn. I read one of the other peoples responses about a test for asperger's I tested pretty high on them. Thank you.
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on November 23, 2010:
justloney, I dont know your location, but is the diagnosis that important? Through your own diagnosis and understanding of yourself, this is the start of a positive and wonderful journey of self discovery. Through the books of Rudy, you can learn to love and accept yourself just as you are. A diagnosis is an opinion of someone else when, the only person important is you!
Take this new knowledge and learn your own mechanisms as ways to cope. There is so much to learn and life will become better for you as you understand more about yourself and how wonderful and lucky you are to be you! :)
justlonely on November 23, 2010:
I liked reading this article. I have for years thought I was aspie, but have been diagnosed with everything between learning disabled to clinical depression. My son has been diagnosed as aspie, but I still am undiagnosed and would really like to find help in learning to make friends I am always lonely and it always seems as soon as I make friends they run away from me as if there is something weird about me. I don't even know how to get a doctor to listen to me about this.
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on October 26, 2010:
Megan - there is nothing better than a good 'project' to focus on, is there? Asperger women love these!
Your mother: Denial is a comfort blanket that people can hind behind. Of course, there is always getting an 10 minute mri done that confirms diagnosis and, actually, having Asperger's syndrome is nothing to be ashamed about - it is something to celebrate!
There are lots of geniuses of the world with this condition, so we should celebrate it! If we have knowledge of our weaknesses (i.e. social problems) then we can practice to make it a strength. That is a good thing, right?
Good luck with your mother - and enjoy the party in your head! :)
Megan on October 26, 2010:
I think this is excellent, and not only because I would like to add it to my research with the intention of pursuading my mother to - at the very least - consider the possibility of me having Asperger's (she seems to be able to link together a vast variety of reasons - some of which I believe to be incorrect - to explain anything other than AS, and I always end up trying to work out what to say next.) It's become my latest obsession, but perhaps a more useful one than statistics on town sizes across the world. ;)
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on June 06, 2010:
Hi Delores... I am honoured to accept your kind linking and I think it will enhance this hub if I did the same! It would be great to find some inspiring examples! Thanks :)
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on June 05, 2010:
shaz - what a great hub on women and girls with Asperger's syndrome. You hear so much more about the condition in males. I was looking around for more info on Asperger's and found this. While researching information on Emily Bronte, I could not help but wonder if she had Asperger's and wound up writing a hub on it. I hope that you don't mind me linking to this excellent hub!
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on June 02, 2010:
Thanks for getting back to me K... OCD can be one of the symptoms of AS... they can get obsessed about certain things and AS can be individual (there are no Aspie the same because they have different personalities. Girls can fake it better - maybe read the recommended book to know more? You might discover something *thumbs up*
Khendra on June 01, 2010:
Thanks for the nutshell summary - I'd agree that communication compensation aspects would make it harder to diagnose females with Aspergers.
I have not been clinically diagnosed, but I had a talk with a supervisor at my previous workplace about it because apparently I did things on the job that normal people didn't do, and she was puzzled by it given my great academic background. My clinical diagnosis from years ago was OCD. I didn't broach Aspergers then because I hadn't yet heard about it.
When I've taken online tests, I score borderline. My fiancé says I'm too emotionally empathetic and sensitive to qualify (he has some male friends with Aspergers, but no female ones with it).
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on May 30, 2010:
Khendra.. did you not see the reference and research from 'Masters of Healthcare' link? Amber Hensley is the source and in the field of brain activity, it seems that this is the case in gender differences. Hey, but I am no Professor, this article is based on research evidence, however. Whether you feel the evidence is null and void, is your opinion and I respect that.
The point is that Asperger's females are harder to diagnose with the condition because they can compensate for the communication aspects more than their male counterparts.
I hope this helps!
Can I ask? Are you an Asperger's Syndrome Female? You don't have to answer that if you don't want to.... but I am! *wink*
Khendra on May 30, 2010:
While researching AS in girls, I came across this article. I'm more concerned about its misleading statements pertaining to the hemispheres and genders than I am regarding what it says about AS: namely, I have to disagree completely with the assertion that women are more creative and "right brained" than men. As a woman, this isn't easy to admit, but here goes:
Pertaining to creativity, most women excel in jobs almost completely devoid of creativity, like clerical work and nursing (I don't happen to excel in these myself, but look around you and notice the dominance of women in these professions). Historically, men have also produced most of the great creative works of art and music. When women do art, it tends to be sequential, left brained "crafts" types of arts (Georgia O'Keefes are the exception, not the norm), and most women also tend to struggle with musical expression. For every Tori Amos, there are dozens and dozens of women who can merely sing; they struggle greatly with the finer, more creative points of actual musical production from instruments, like the guitar, piano, saxophone, etc.
As for the right brain itself, it is the spatial side as opposed to the verbal side of the left. Studies on emotionality and logicality have been conflicting (there appear to be different areas on both sides specializing in various aspects of each), but the spatial superiority of the right brain is completely unequivocal. Men consistently outperform women on a regular basis at spatial tasks, which is even mentioned here in the article, yet with a curious neglect as to the hemisphere with which spatial adeptness corresponds!
Meanwhile, everyone knows women tend to be more verbal than men (literature is perhaps the one creative field where women are now on equal footing with men; in all the others, even with modernization and equality, women still lag behind in creativity). Despite all this, the left brain/right brain myths for the genders continue. I argue that women are in fact much more left brained than men in most circumstances.
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on May 07, 2010:
MPG - 'Individuality' makes diagnosis more complex and with girls, they are better able communicators. They can fake it for a while, but it always pokes through in the end. People just think they are neurotic and immature.
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy the other two articles:)
Maria Giunta from Sydney, Australia on May 06, 2010:
Hey Shaz, I've finally had time to read this, will read other 2 when I can. Interesting to see the differences in women Aspie's and how they can 'hide' or 'fake' their symptoms. It is so true that people who are Aspies are all individuals. I watched a show on our ABC network which showcased 4 adult aspies, three of which were girls, it was so interesting to see how they viewed life and how they were able to laugh at themselves but only after years of treatment and understanding. Each person was so individual with their own specific Aspie traits. Looking forward to reading the other 2 articles. As always, your hubs are a great read.
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on May 02, 2010:
Thank you viking... we need to help change the world in our little way to raise awareness. Thanks for reading :)
L M Reid from Ireland on May 01, 2010:
Very good article that highlights the disorder in women, thank you
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on April 30, 2010:
Missi Darnell - I hope am glad that it wasn't too late for them. There are mechanisms that can be put in place to help whilst young enough. Thanks for your comment :)
shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on April 30, 2010:
Thank you Samboiam - lets spread the looooove! It will help so many who have been missing 'something'. Shaz:)
Missi Darnell from Southern California on April 30, 2010:
Shaz, I have friends whose daughter has been diagnosed with Aspergers. Great article!
samboiam from Texas on April 30, 2010:
Thank you for such an informative hub. I have rated it up and tweeted it.