Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Unique qualities and difficulties of girls and women with Aspergers.

Unique qualities and difficulties of girls and women with Aspergers. Notes from Tony Attwood's talk on Girls and Women with Aspergers Syndrome.
1. Girls with Aspergers are socially confused by bullying, bitchiness, and the teasing that occurs between NT girls at school.
2. To a girl with AS, a friend is just that, a friend. Girls and women with AS tend to be very loyal and trustworthy friends.
3. Girls and women with AS are great one on one, but are uncomfortable and anxious in large groups.
4. There are a number of individuals who are psychologists with AS who have become specialists themselves in AS. They are working with children with ASD. They are teachers, nurses, psychologists and oftern work with individuals with Autism.
5. Boys with AS tend to be angry and arrogant, whereas girls internalize their anger and get depressed.
6. Females with AS tend to be maternally stronger.
7. Girls camouflage their social confusion so well that it delays their diagnosis by 10, 20 and sometimes 30 years!
8. Girls tend to be diagnosed with anorexia, depression or anxiety initially. Then, if the professional is specialized in ASD, the Aspergers will be diagnosed. Girls tend to have less anger, less ADHD and are more passive-aggressive (refusal to do things, not complying with various requests, avoiding social events). Girls tend to internalize and blame themselves.
9. Girls with AS may not be able to explain why they cannot manage being in social situations. However, they will complain of migraines and a sore tummy.
10. It's a myth that girls and women cannot socialize! They can  socialize very well for a short period of time. If too long it’s exhausting.
11. Girls with Aspergers may not express fear, exhaustion and confusion in their face. Their heartbeat is going at 130, but they don’t show it. However, if you look closely, you can see fear in their eyes.
12. Intervention-wise, for every 20-30 minutes of socialization (for e.g., visiting family), giving them a 'time-out' to the chill-out zone (read a book for 20 minutes), then they can socialize more for 20-30 minutes, and then another break, and so on.
All persons wth Aspergers need downtime and rejuvenation time. A great intervention for the child with AS is to have a secret signal with the parent that means that the child needs to take a break.
13. Adult females need to let their family and/or friends know that when they go off/leave, that they are doing it to calm and de-stress themselves. For e.g., “I really enjoy soscializing for short times. So I am not being rude if I have to leave or take a break. I just get tired and need to chill”.
Myths –
1. Lack of empathy. Individuals with AS DO have empathy. What tends to be problematic is their difficulty in reading subtle signals. They dont see the 'thing' in the eyes or hear the tone of voice that indicates that something is wrong. In fact, women and girls with AS are overly sensitive to emotions, have a 6th sense to picking up agaitation and tension in the air, and can be too 'in tune' to the social atmosphere. They say they "feel like a sponge and are overwhelmed by everyones feelings and emotions". The confusion comes from not knowing how to process all of this "stuff", coming from a "6th sense", and not from reading facial expressions. A girl/woman with AS doesnt' know how they know it, but they KNOW it. Some women with AS find it scary or overwhelming. It is recommended that the 6th sense be embraced and strategies/interventions be employed to cope and/or manage.
2. Lack of mothering skills.
Most women with AS make excellent mums, however they may not react as expected (like NT's do).
Sometimes single women with AS have lost their children to government services. There have been times where Police have treated a woman with AS as though she is a NT. Lack of eye contact, tone of voice, etc., can indicate 'guilt' in NT's.
Women with AS are less likely to be involved in the judicial system and/or criminal activities. However, they are more likely to be victims of sexual predators or NT’s, sexually abused, date raped or involved in domestic violence situations. This is due to their vulnerability and naïvety, inability to read facial cues, lack of in-built radar, and taking people literally (what they say, not what they do).
Women who are dating need to have the person checked out by their NT friends, collegues or family. An NT can give advice on what kind of person they think he/she is. This can be challenging as women with AS have fewer friends to access and/or go out with. They need to take the relationship slowly and carefully to avoid dangerous situations and not look for dates at pubs or where alcohol is involved.

3. People with autism cannot lie.
People with autism can lie, but 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, deny, deny.  Their lies are not convincing and they tend not to follow through with the lie. People with AS need to be taught about 'white lies' (for e.g., “oh yes I enjoyed time with you” when they didn’t). Social stories regarding white lies are very helpful.
Aspergers Syndrome is relatively new, and thus far no intervention packages for AS are available, as compared to RDI ot ABA for classic Autism. In particular, psychotherapy for self-esteem and self-acceptance issues is paramount for girls and women. Helping them look and see their qualities changes their thinking and perspective. Developing their special interest/talent(s) is crutial to their self-esteem.
Sexual/gender orientation challenges.
Boys with AS sometimes look to girls, their sisters and mums and think of how sociable they are and how many friends they have. They then start thinking "if I became a girl, I could be liked and have lots of friends". Boys wanting to be girls, and vice versa, due to not liking oneself or not feeling comfortable within their own skins, tend to look at who is socially great. "If I became a girl or a boy, then I could be popular, like myself, and be happy".
Girls with AS who don’t like who they are tend to see themselves as failures and want to be a tomboy to avoid the bullying and teasing from female peers and/or to feel like they fit in. They may think that if they can be someone else other than who they are or change their gender, they believe that they can become more skilled. Some of these children grow out of it and some don’t.
As adults with AS, some men with AS are transgender. However, by changing their gender, they didn’t change their social circles or their social issues and/or difficulties.
Girls will mimicry and act to become who they are expected to be but INSIDE they have no idea who they are. Lots of popular people go into drama, so enrolling them in theatre or drama is highly beneficial.
Other difficulties for women and girls involve reading the signals of when someone has a crush on you or you have a crush on them, fashion, difficulties in what other expect of a women as a wife and partner (Nt partner needs to understand the challenges on a partner, i.e. touch, sex, sensory sensitivity, frequency of intercourse, etc).
What about doctors? Who should I take my child to see or see myself? It's takes several years to get girls diagnosed. Ask your doctor how many girls with AS have they seen. They must have seen as least 50 girls with AS, because girls camouflage their social confusion so well.

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