Mutually Insured Insanity

We can’t insure ourselves against life.

All though I’m sure that at some point in time we’ll be encouraged to try doing just that.

After all, they’ve already got death covered now haven’t they?

Vulture Culture

Long ago, insurance was predominantly viewed as being a stop gap measure that was designed to cover you financially should disaster strike you.

As with most things back in the way back when, taking out insurance on one’s property was a luxury that only the rich could afford.

As such it both gave them a weapon to use against the honest and the poor whilst at the same time providing many with the means that would eventually make them targets.

But what about today?

Supposedly insurance is now something that everyone who owns anything should be able to afford.

That’s what we’re told right?

After all, what’s the point of owning a nice car, a nice home or even a nice laptop if you can’t afford to insure it against its potential loss?

I mean really, what on earth would you do if your car was stolen or trashed and…

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How our Public Housing system is creating Australia’s Public Housing Crisis.

All of you who are over forty and living in housing commission homes whilst working and earning a decent enough income to have new cars, boats, motorbikes, holidays abroad or whatever else your little heart’s desire, it’s time to get your snouts out of the public trough and give young families the same fair go you got when you were first starting out.

If you all did the right thing, there simply wouldn’t be a public housing crisis.

So come on older Australian’s.

Fair go.

Public housing was never meant to be seen as being a valid life style choice.

So wake up and stop being so darn selfish

Vulture Culture

Public housing was never meant to be seen as being a life style choice.

Yet unfortunately for far too many, that’s exactly what it’s become.

Many politicians and welfare groups consistently claim that Australian’s in need are experiencing a public housing crisis.

To further bolster this claim, every year at Christmas time there are ads on TV from welfare groups showing families living in cars complete with the said children of these car dwellers asking their parents the question “will Santa be able to find us this year”, as they sit in the middle of a car park.

At first these ads made me cry.

This is, of course, exactly what they’re designed to do.

Then I moved into a suburb that’s mostly filled with public housing or housing commission homes as we call them in Australia.

The neighbors to the right of me are a couple who have been…

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Australia Day – Invasion Day

“We lose nothing by tempering our own views in such a way as to be able to incorporate within Australia Day, both our gratitude for being able to live in such a beautiful land our acknowledgement that our fortune came at the loss of our Indigenous population.

Were we personally responsible for the past?

No, of course not.

But we are personally responsible for both the present and the future.”

Vulture Culture

I am truly grateful to live in this beautiful land.

At the same time, I am also honest enough to be able to acknowledge the history of dispossession that shadows our land and hence to seek to understand and honor the feelings of Australia’s traditional indigenous population regarding Australia Day.

In so doing, I offering up my humble apologies for the disrespectful way in which Australia was stolen from its traditional indigenous land owners all those years ago.

I believe that holding the capacity to acknowledge the wrongs of the past does not make anyone a “bad Aussie”.

If anything, I believe that holding the capacity to truly acknowledge our past, whilst also offering up a genuine willingness to pay respect to the true custodians of this land, would make us better Australians.

There is no shame in showing respect and understanding towards those for whom Australia Day is not…

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Discussion of Autism in A Different Key – Errors and Revelations…

neuro

In his latest  article ‘The errors — and revelations — in two major new books about autism’ (http://www.vox.com/2016/1/21/10801846/autism-in-a-different-key) ,Ari Ne’eman brilliantly reviews two very different and distinct portrayals of Autism  within the books NeuroTribes by  Steve Silberman and In a Different Key  by Caren Zucker and John Donvan

As Ne’eman unpacks these differences he’s also concise in pointing out that whilst all of the authors concerned are themselves non-autistic persons, Steve Silberman,  shares a unique key  empathy with  Autistic people.

Growing up as a gay man, he too, felt the sting of having both his worth as an individual and the right to make his own life choices, constantly restrained and questioned by the weight of an inadequately informed  public, whose  opinion over his “condition,” has at times, been to his disadvantage.

His experiences give light to the truth that there are many people, with many differing “conditions” who are forced to constantly battle against the subversive majority, whose misunderstandings and judgements of those who are different, in any way, creates the lifelong sets of discriminatory values that we all find ourselves having to fight against.in one or another.

His empathy for Autistic adults over the fact we are often talked at and about, but never talked too, comes from the genuinely  authentic center of having felt the same way for most of his own life.

Hence his sensitivities toward and awareness of many of the issues facing people with Autism, lead him to tackle both the past and the present conversations surrounding Autism with respect and dignity.at all times.

In this manner, Silberman’s work stands in stark contrast to that of Zucker and Donovan, who discuss the issues surrounding Autism from a much more parentally based, outsiders perspective of Autism.

The problem with this is, as Ne’eman so eloquently points out is that “autism happens to autistic people, not their parents”.

As both a parent to two teens with Autism and an adult with Autism myself, I know that there have been many parents over the years who have indeed broken down the majority of the walls that once prevented inclusion in terms of educational policy and funding, but there are still times when I wonder whether or not it was ever meant to become a system where by every single child with Autism, regardless of how well they can handle it, must, by the dictates of state, be placed in mainstream schooling.

In fact these days, I find myself on the other side of the debate. Arguing instead for the right for a child, teen or young adult with Autism to be able to decide for themselves which form of learning environment they find to be the most comfortable and enjoyable.

 This aspect aside, there can be no doubt that parents have played a vital part in dispelling many of the myths that have surrounded the origins of  Autism, particularly when it came to the debunking Bettelheim’s infamous “refrigerator mother” syndrome.

Yet despite all of the work that they do, one simple fact still remains and that is the fact that they cannot, no matter how hard they try, ever fully experience what Autism feels like from the inside.

Parents  can and do,  comprehend what many of the triggers for someone with Autism are  and they can become very adept at helping their children adopt coping skills and mechanisms to help them during a ‘meltdown’, but what they can never do is actually feel that awful sensation of building pressure, of every raw nerve being heightened to the point where you feel as if you are boiling within your own skin.

And that’s just one of  the key issues that Ne’eman explores alongside the issue of ‘othering’.

Silberman, although also non-autistic, does a much better job of describing the impacts that being viewed as “different” or “other’ has on an individuals self-esteem and their broader life.

Though he may not know what it feels like to constantly experience sensory overload, he does know all too well, what it feels like to have himself and those whom he considers ‘kindred spirits’ , talked about in the media and discussed by  policy makers and the general public, as if they themselves, have no right to either speak or be heard, or even be trusted enough by their own families, to  make ‘the right’ decisions for themselves.

In a very similar way, when it comes to speaking for ourselves and having the right to be heard, many Autistic Adults working within the realms of advocacy, frequently express the feeling that parental advocates, by focusing exclusively on their needs and their understandings of Autism,  were quite literally writing the perspectives of children and young adults with Autism “out of  [their] own stories”.

Thus robbing Autistic Adults and children not only of the right to speak for themselves, but also of the right to be heard and taken seriously when they do.

The right to be taken seriously, to have our views and needs respected and to have our understandings of ourselves honored and validated, instead of constantly having our truths questioned and instead of  being heard, being told things like:

“You can’t possibly have any understanding of yourself and be Autistic at the same time. That just doesn’t happen’.

‘Why do you always look so sad? You should smile more”.

‘Get out of the house and you’ll feel better’

Being constantly told that we’re wrong or mistaken whenever we try to speak our truths or having our facial expressions always read as if they were some kind of social barometer that might give the reader insight as to what we’re feeling, then being blamed when it fails to do so, is insulting.

Please stop doing this.

Try asking us what we’re thinking about instead.

Try believing us when we tell you that we’re not sad we’re just so completely and utterly lost in thought that our faces automatically relax.

This process of relaxation includes our mouths and lips.

And just in case your’ not up to speed with anatomy, it actually takes muscle contractions to create a smile.

So if a person’s face is completely  and I do mean completely relaxed, there will be no muscle contraction, hence no smile.

Also, for those of us who are feeling overwhelmed due to sensory overload, the last thing we need to be told is to “get out of the house’, or ‘be around people’, when what  we really need is peace and quiet and the ability to withdraw into our own safe space.

So please, please, please try and understanding these few simple truths of Autism.

We’re not being stubborn or willful or malignantly anti-social when we insist on the need to have our own space and to take things at our own pace.

What we are doing is being is respectful of ourselves and we wish that others could be too.

In the meantime I urge you to click on this link and read Ari Ne’eman’s  brilliant article here http://www.vox.com/2016/1/21/10801846/autism-in-a-different-key

Life Without Facebook – Why I Chose to Jump off the Merry-Go-Round

merry

About 6 months ago, after years of participating in various Autism/Asperger’s groups and pages on Facebook, I decided to delete my own Facebook account and the fledgling Women’s Asperger’s Awareness page that I’d been running.

I’m not sure whether others will agree with me on this, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s been a gradual deterioration regarding the overall quality of the topics posted within Autism/Asperger’s groups and an unsettling lack of authenticity appearing within many of the comments and responses that have filled group discussions, over the last few years.

Many of the groups that I enjoyed participating in the most were those that started out as small, authentic, safe and friendly spaces to interact with others with Autism online.

Many of those same groups have now become victims of their own success.

Some have become so large and fuelled by so many conflicting opinions, that it’s almost impossible to have a decent conversation about anything without having to combat those who either disagree with everything and anything or those who wish to simply hijack threads for their own amusement.

Many groups have also become inundated by members who do not themselves experience Autism/Asperger’s but who are there instead because they are seeking information about those of us with Autism for some reason or another.

Now generally, I don’t mind if non-autistic people want to join Autism based groups, but I do mind if they join such groups without declaring their real purpose for being there.

Especially those who are using such groups to tout for clients and build up their own professional profile or who are attempting to make money out of those with Autism in any way, shape or form.

This issue aside, there are also multiple clashes of perspectives going on within these groups as well, due entirely to the fact that non-autistic people do not declare themselves to be so.

For example, I’ve witnessed many nasty exchanges within Autism/Asperger’s groups that have occurred purely because some members are parents of a child with Autism and have taken offense at topics covered within the group simply because they have completely misunderstood, or to put it perhaps more honestly, held no internal comprehension of the lived experiences, that other autistic people within the group were trying to discuss.

And of course, this same scenario goes the other way as well where autistic people have attacked parents’ due to similar misunderstandings.

Such exchanges often lead to person’s with Autism feeling as if they need to leave the group for their own emotional well-being.

Which, as far as I’m concerned, is completely unfair.

Yet this is what Ioften witnessed happening as a result of such online conflicts.

Along with this issue, there was also a tendency for group after group to all post the same topic within minutes of each other.

Often I would find myself commenting on a topic in one group, only to find that the exact same topic was also the lead post in 5, 6 and even 7 other groups.

It made me wonder what the point of being a member of more than one Autism/Asperger’s group actually was if they were all going to run with the same topics.

This issue only became more pronounced once I’d decided to start running my own page.

Now I’m a big believer in original content and to that end, I’d spend endless hours searching for original blog posts and information written by other women with Autism/Asperger’s to share on my page..

Yet time and time again, within minutes of my posting a newly discovered piece of information or blogger, half a dozen other pages or groups would take the same piece of information and post it to their wall.

So in the end it felt as if all I was actually doing was spending my time finding interesting and informative pieces of work, only to have other pages and groups claim them as their own.

It was about this time that I realize that ‘I’m possibly not supposed to feel this way about the eternal loop of “sharing” that goes on in regards to Facebook groups and pages.’

Yet the feeling remained and I simply could not shake it off.

So I started spending less and less time working on my page and participating in group discussions.

Instead I just sat back and observed how this thing called Facebook worked.

This may seem strange but the more I observed the way in which Facebook groups and pages both endlessly and simultaneously feed off and devoured each other, the more I realized that Facebook, just like every other business model, is designed to perpetuate its own success above and beyond anything else.

The more Autism and Asperger’s groups, or any other groups, pages or causes it hosts, the more users Facebook gains.

The boffins behind Facebook don’t care about duplication or authentication.

Heck, they actively encourage their users to “share” everyone and anyone’s pictures and posts, regardless of whether they’re witty one liner’s or withering examples of stupidity.

We think we are using Facebook, but the truth is, Facebook is using us.

Making billions of dollars by selling advertising space on our pages whilst at the same time gathering up all of the information we are silly enough to give away about ourselves for free and selling it on to interested third parties.

Whoever ‘they’ may be.

Once I realized this, I also realized that each and every Facebook user, regardless of type:  group,  page,  organization or  individual, they have all been groomed via the “share” button, to cannibalize each-others ideas, fashions, hairstyles, food fads and on and on it goes.

I ended up eventually having a …‘Wait….stop the world… I want to get off…’ moment.

So I decided to jump off the Facebook merry-go-round.

I realized that I felt wrong about other pages and groups “sharing” my finds for a very good reason.

And that reason is, that in the real world, if someone walked into my home, without my permission and took one of my family photos, or one of my books, and then walked away with it, it would quite rightly be called “stealing”.

After all, isn’t that exactly the kind of example they use to try and tell us that downloading movies or “movie piracy” is a wrong?

It’s a crime.

So, if someone else is losing money from online “sharing” it’s a crime.

Yet, if Facebook is making shiploads of money out of allowing everyone to “share” whatever they want online, regardless of whether or not the thing they’re sharing is their own , it’s called social networking.

Personally, I can do without the sense of confusion that being told one action is wrong in one place, while the exact same action is not only considered right but actively promoted in another place.

Thanks but no thanks.

I much prefer the way Autism Facebook groups were when they first started up.

Back when the awe of simply finding another person in the world who thought like you, was enough.

A Day in the Life – Doing things differently.

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Over the last few years I’ve become increasingly aware that the way I go about my daily life has a tendency to either annoy or confuse other people.

No matter what I’m doing, I always appear to be doing it wrong.

Take shopping and bill paying for example.

I’ll choose one day out of the week to go off into town and do absolutely everything that needs doing in one big hit.

This often includes paying bills ahead of time simply because I have no idea whether or not I’ll actually feel like going out on the day that the bills are actually due.

Standing in line and waiting my turn to be served by real life people inside a bank, rather than using ATM’s as I really don’t like the idea of withdrawing money out of a machine on the side of a street.

I also insist on paying for all of my purchases in cash and in person rather than using internet banking or being tempted to buy something over the phone with a credit card.

By the way, I actually don’t even have a credit card as I see no point in going into debt just to buy something that I obviously cannot genuinely afford.

No, if I can’t pay for it in cash, then I’ll either wait and save up for it or I simply won’t buy it and no amount of gimmicky popularity tripe will make me change my mind on that

According to my sister, I’ve also developed the bad habit of grossly over shopping.

Only, I don’t see it as a bad habit at all.

I see it as common sense to buy all regularly used items or any items of use that happen to be on special, in bulk, whilst grocery shopping.

Yes this means that my trips to the supermarket often take much longer than your average person’s do, but I’d rather struggle with an overly laden trolley than face the horrors of having to return to the store later in the day, or even later in the week, simply because I’ve run out of something.

Once all the bills are paid and the banking and the shopping are done, I like to decompress for an hour or so inside of the only building in town that I actually like being in.

My local library.

For me, no trip into town could ever be complete without raiding the local library for as many books and DVD’s as they’ll let me leave with.

The thrill of returning home and bolting up my lane way is only dampened by the reminder that I’ve yet to face the thankless task of unloading the car of all of the bags of groceries I’ve brought and then in turn unpack their contents away in to cupboards.

So that when my children come home, it looks to them as if I’ve been nowhere and done nothing all day, as the car is back safely in its garage and all of the shopping bags have been removed from sight.

Yes, the irony of it all bites.

Despite the fact that everything that needs to get done does actually get done, my family and friends keep questioning why it is that I continue to insist on venturing into town only one day per week.

Especially when it means that doing so equates to me becoming completely exhausted and overwhelmed by the world.

They continually tell me that trying to do everything that needs to be done all in one day is completely nonsensical and they insist on questioning me as to why I keep doing it.

Yet the answer to me is really quite a simple one and I cannot understand why they can’t see it.

You see, for me, the very idea, let alone the reality of having to go into town, is, in and of itself, so overwhelming that I can only face it if I know that I’ll only have to do it once.

I wish that I could tell them that once a week is quite enough, thank them for their concern and tell them to just go away and leave me to it.

Without offending them !

Even though they seem to have no concerns about offending me by telling me how silly I am for doing the things I do.

Once again the irony bites.

I wonder why it is, that just because I do things differently, I’m often automatically seen as doing things wrong, or in the wrong way.

This idea that if someone’s doing things differently to them, then the different person is automatically wrong, seems to be a default position for some people

Have you noticed this and if so, how do you deal with it.

We’re Women with Autism – Not Mystical Imps, Sprites or Fairies….. Get it right.

Artwork by Devushka
Artwork by Devushka
Sorry to disappoint all of those who wish to believe that Women with Autism are made out of some kind of unique fairy dust that endows all of us with “special talents” or “super powers”, because we are not magical beings.

We are Women Wired Differently…. not Women Wired Magically.

Please stop confusing our different skill sets, ie, our tendency to focus on the finer details of life that often make us more likely to pick up on the inconsistencies that are usually hidden within the bigger picture that people present to us, with being the equivalent of having a “super power”, “gift”, “unearned talent” or whatever else some would like to call it.

The truth is, that for us, our intense focus on fine details, whilst it may have started out as a fascination, has also become a survival mechanism.

Our intense focus is not magical. It’s practical. It’s what we do when we can’t “read” a person’s level of sincerity simply by looking into their eyes, listening for and recognizing the tonality in their voice or knowing automatically whether or not a smile is authentic at a glance.

Yes we may see the world in ways that others do not, but it’s still the same world and we’re still viewing it with eyes that are made up of all of the same biological matter as everyone else’s eyes are.

Yes at times it may seem as if we see more, but that’s not because we’re psychic beings floating about in fairy dust, it’s simply because we look harder and longer at the simplest of gestures, in order to decipher and makes sense of them for ourselves.

When we feel an emotion, we often feel it deeply but that’s not because we’re “super empaths” or somehow magically connected to the pain of another, it’s because we feel in fine detail too.

Yes we have a degree of empathy for others that may run deeper than most, but that’s not because we’re psychic, it’s because we’re focused.

Just as we focus visually and intellectually on the finer points that others may have missed, we can also focus our feelings on the finer points of emotions that others may have by passed.

We feel all of our emotions often simultaneously specifically because we live our lives without the benefit of having the filters that other people apply to their thoughts, their feelings, even their ways of seeing.

Which is why we can become so overwhelmed by our emotions that it makes it difficult for us to talk about or even explain them.

The depth of our feelings does not make us magical beings simply because we can feel that which we cannot explain.

It in no way means that we are magical beings. It simply means that we are unfiltered beings.

We’re not made up of different stuff or fairy dust at all. We just don’t have a way of filtering out the world around us the way that other people do.

I know that some would like to believe that this state of affairs somehow also makes us “purer beings”…. but does it?

Does it really?

And isn’t the idea of “purity” also linked to “innocence”, which is also linked to “children”…. as in the “innocence of a child”…….

Just think about it. We’re not magical, we’re not pure and we’re not children. We’re Women who take in and understand the world differently simply because we see it differently.

Do we really want the realities of our lives as Autistic Women being overlooked and marginalized simply because we’re being linked to the infantile ideals and imagery that being viewed as either ‘supernatural’ or ‘overtly innocent beings’, brings along with it?

 

Asperger’s Syndrome’s missing trait

best-life-quote_325404-4 There are many websites, blogs and books that provide lists of traits that are purportedly said to be the common signs of Asperger’s Syndrome in Females.

However, each and every one of these lists has a tendency to focus exclusively on the outward signs of Asperger’s Syndrome in women.

Signs like:

‘difficulties with social interaction’,

‘dislike of small talk’,

‘poor co-ordination’,

‘fixation on special interests’,

‘preference for spending time alone’

I‘m sure by now we are all nauseatingly familiar with the above list of symptoms.

Perhaps we’ve even become so familiar with these lists that we’ve stopped looking for the traits that have been missed.

Well here’s a trait that continues to remain unlisted, although I cannot for the life of me understand why this should be so, as it is a trait that has been mentioned over and over again, by every woman with Asperger’s Syndrome that I’ve ever communicated with.

In fact, it may even be the one trait that is common to every woman with Asperger’s Syndrome.

And that trait is:

The early personal recognition, awareness or sensation that they feel, think and perceive the world differently to those around them.

                “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel different to everyone else”.

                “I’m pretty sure I was born different. No two ways about that.”

                “Different is something I’ve always been.”

                “I must have been the oddest child on earth. I know I certainly felt that way.”

“Evan as a kid, I felt, I don’t know, just different to my sisters and brothers.”

Given that this sense of personal awareness occurs long before the outward signs of Asperger’s Syndrome appear, it is perfectly logical to hypothesize that the early onset of this awareness may indeed be the exact reason why the outward signs of Asperger’s first appear to others.

“I didn’t like doing the same things that kids my age did, so I used to just go off and do my own thing.”

“I could never understand why other girls wanted to play with dolls. Dolls were boring to me.”

I believe that  this early personal sense of ‘not fitting in’ or of ‘not belonging’ within one’s own family, peer group or circle of friends, needs to be considered as one of the fundamental indicators of Asperger’s Syndrome or High Functioning Autism in females.

It therefore strikes me as extremely odd that researchers, psychologists and other related professionals’ continue to ignore the one experience that, so far, appears to be common to all AS Women, and instead focus on ideas such as ‘masking’.

Imagine how many girls could be helped if all it took to recognize their potential for being on the spectrum entailed the asking of just one simple question.

Do you ever feel different?

Does this post ring true to you?

Have you always felt different?

Asperger Syndrome in Females: An Underdiagnosed Population

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Asperger syndrome (AS) is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) characterized by significant impairments in social interaction, and rigid, stereotypical, or repetitive behaviours that exist alongside normal language and cognitive skills (Fitzgerald & Corvin, 2001). Researchers often use the terms Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism interchangeably (Attwood, 2006), and so for the purposes of this paper, Asperger syndrome will encompass both diagnoses, and assume an IQ in the normal range, i.e., > 70. The ratio of males to females with AS is currently about 10:1, and on average, boys are referred ten times more often for diagnostic assessment (Wagner, 2006). Overall, the lack of knowledge about girls and women with AS is mirrored by a relatively small amount of empirical research dedicated to this population (Thompson, Caruso, & Ellerbeck, 2003). Much of the available literature includes clinical observations, case studies, and anecdotal evidence.

Some feel that the uneven gender ratio is a natural reflection of biological sex differences. Jones, Skinner, Friez, Schwartz, and Stevenson (2008) propose a sex-linked genetic cause, and argue that the single X chromosome in males is inherently vulnerable, creating a lower threshold of susceptibility to AS. Alternatively, Baron-Cohen and Wheelwright (2004) hypothesize that gender differences in brain specialization may explain the male-dominated ratio, and contend that while females are naturally better at empathizing, males tend to think in a systemizing way. They conceptualize Asperger syndrome as an extreme systemizing form of the normal male brain that may develop due to high levels of testosterone exposure in utero. The question arises, however, as to what extent sex differences are biological, or influenced by sociocultural factors.

In contrast to the researchers that find support for the current gender ratio, many believe it is inaccurate (e.g., Attwood, 2006; Rastam, 2008). Thompson et al. (2003) claim that a long-standing sex bias in AS research has resulted in diagnostic criteria too dependent on a male prototype, and point out that 80% of all ASD study samples have been male, on average. They suggest further that our present knowledge about ASD is actually knowledge about males with ASD. Nyden, Hjelmquist, and Gillberg (2000) highlight comparable issues in the diagnostic criteria for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), while Rastam (2008) parallels the development of criteria for clinical eating disorders, based largely on the signs and symptoms prevalent in females. Hully and Lamar (2006) suggest that overdependence on a male prototype means that traits in females must appear exaggerated for diagnosis. Ironically, researchers are finding it difficult to obtain samples on females that are large enough to allow for comparison by sex (Hartley & Sikora, 2009). This paper will explore how psychiatric disorders may mask AS in females, gender differences in phenotypic expression that can cause diagnostic confusion, and the attitudes and behaviour of others toward females with AS that can contribute to a missed diagnosis.

Several disorders have the potential to overshadow Asperger syndrome in females including depression, ADHD and Anorexia Nervosa (AN) (Hartley & Sikora, 2009; Rastam, 2008; Ryden & Bejolet, 2008). Researchers feel that the risk of misinterpreting signs and symptoms is strong, and could lead to misdiagnosis, or failure to recognize AS as the primary disorder (Cooper & Hanstock, 2009; Ryden & Bejolet, 2008). Hully and Lamar (2006) observed that as girls grow older, the presenting problem is less often associated with a developmental disorder, and stress that clinicians must take a detailed patient history to rule out AS in females. Accordingly, Ryden and Bejolet (2008) found that adult women with AS comprised a large portion of the psychiatric outpatients that they studied (39 females and 44 males), and speculate that many females do not receive an accurate diagnosis until they seek treatment for a comorbid disorder.

Although the gender ratio for childhood depression is 1:1 in the general population, by adolescence, females are three times more likely to receive a diagnosis of depression (Cooper & Hanstock, 2009). In fact, Ryden and Bejolet (2008) found a history of depression most often in patients that had not received a diagnosis of AS until adulthood. This could underscore a lack of awareness of how Asperger syndrome looks at different ages, and in females. Symptoms that often cause diagnostic confusion include a flat affect, minimal facial expressions, flat intonation in speech, irritability, and social isolation (Cooper & Hanstock, 2009). Hartley and Sikora (2009) found that girls with ASD, as young as 1.5 years of age, displayed an anxious or depressed affect more often, which lends support to this idea. In addition, Cooper and Hanstock (2009) discovered that Jane, initially referred for confirmation of a mood disorder, had a stable baseline mood over a long period. They concluded that failure to recognize significant social impairments, along with a flat affect and monotone voice, a number of school changes, and normal IQ and language skills, resulted in a misdiagnosis of depression.

Holtmann et al. (2007) found that females, across the entire sample that they studied, had significantly more attention difficulties than males, and similarly, Nyden et al. (2000) established that girls, aged 8 to 12 years, had greater impairment on the Freedom from Distractibility subscale than boys in the same age range. Greater attention difficulties in girls and women suggest that a misdiagnosis of ADHD may occur more often in this population. In accordance with this, Ryden and Bejolet (2008) assert that the lack of common sense and social disinhibition inherent in AS could be mistaken for impulsiveness, further increasing the likelihood of an incorrect ADHD diagnosis.

Ryden and Bejolet (2008) also discovered that adult female patients with Asperger syndrome scored higher on scales measuring borderline and passive aggressive traits, and mood instability, despite presenting with the same core AS features as males. Holtmann et al. (2007) uncovered a similar trend in their analysis of a matched subgroup of males and females.

Although core impairments were also equal in both genders, girls scored higher on scales measuring peer relationship impairments, social immaturity and dependency, as well as compulsive and bizarre behaviour, with older females scoring the highest. Similarly, Cooper and Hanstock (2009) found that Jane’s social impairments and deviance from her peers were more obvious as she grew older.

These findings suggest that if a clinician fails to notice a girl’s severe social difficulties in childhood, the result could be an incorrect diagnosis of BPD later on. Likewise, Ryden and Bejolet (2008) state that undetected AS might exist in a subgroup of older females diagnosed with BPD, which further emphasizes the importance of taking a detailed patient history when considering diagnosis. In addition, they stress that concepts of personality disorder and abnormal personality traits are difficult to separate in Asperger syndrome, and propose that a different model is needed to explain “odd personality” in this population.
Written by A. MacMillan

Yes – Asperger’s may present differently in women – but…

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I’m still not sure what to make of this notion (now being presented to us as an absolute fact), that women with Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome are being diagnosed less frequently, due to their apparently inherent ability to ‘mask’ their symptoms by ‘mimicking’ those around them.

There are just too many assumptions hidden within this concept that have not been deeply analyzed enough for my liking.

It almost seems like once again, we as women, are being told to turn a blind eye to any and all personal experiences that do not match up succinctly to the now, almost biblical accounts being written by psychologists, as to how women with Autism should present.

Accounts that not only seek to define our presentation, but come complete with a rationale as to why our supposedly ‘hard to spot’ tendencies have, for so long been so tricky, that it’s entirely understandable, and therefore forgivable, that we’ve been over-looked by the very profession that has at last finally deemed us worthy of recognition.

Call me a cynic, but I can’t help but feel that there’s something a little too psychologically tidy and self-serving lurking somewhere beneath the surface of all this.

Yes, Asperger’s may present differently in women, but just how differently and why those differences occur, are issues that I believe should still be up for debate.

As it stands at the moment, there are women in their 60’s who are now finally being diagnosed with Autism after living through decades of feeling disconnected and different, rejected and misunderstood by their families and enduring years of being misdiagnosed by professionals.

So how can it be that the same professionals, who have clearly recognized the level of difference, disconnect and/or difficulties with sociability that these women experienced, at least enough to have diagnosed them with depression, bipolar or personality disorders, now suddenly see fit to turn around and make the bold claim that Women with Autism ‘mask’ their symptoms?

If these women were ‘masking’ their difficulties/symptoms so well, then how come they were misdiagnosed with any psychological conditions at all?

The only evidence of ‘masking’ to found within these revelations, comes not from the women, but from the psychologists who were unable to accurately diagnose them due to their own erroneous belief, that women could not experience Autism.

Which of course is how psychologists, via their own actions in refusing to view such women’s behaviors as evidence of Autism, turned the notion that women do not experience Autism, into a very neat and tidy self-validating and self-sustaining psychological fact in the first place.

Only of course, it wasn’t a fact at all. It was nothing more than one profession dictating and reinforcing the terms and conditions under which it would see fit to operate.

By so doing they also set out the definitions and the frames of reference upon which the foundations our understandings of Autism were formed.

Which means that for decades, thanks to psychology, women with Autism were often left out in the cold, alone and confused, and more often than not, grossly misdiagnosed and subjected to harmful treatments.

It’s an incredibly sad but true piece of history and I can well understand why those within the world of psychology would like to pretend it hadn’t happen.

But ignorance, whilst it may be bliss for some, can prove to be incredibly dangerous for others.

I for one, have absolutely no desire to ever see this kind of history repeating itself again.

And yet..

Once again, our understanding of the way in which Autism presents in women is now being crafted in much the same manner.

Psychologists are telling us that women ‘mask’ their Autistic symptoms, hence the majority of the population will believe that this is true.

Yet history has already shown us that this notion of women ‘masking symptoms’ is not a particularly true one.

If, (as has been the experience of many older Autistic women), there has been a propensity within the psychology profession toward misinterpreting and therefore misdiagnosing Autistic women’s symptoms, then they should already have in their grasp, the many well documented cases of older Autistic women who’ve been misdiagnosed with other mental health conditions in an attempt to explain their ‘different’ behaviors.

This in itself, should be enough to indicate that the notion of women ‘masking’ their symptoms may not be entirely true.

After all, one cannot be misdiagnosed with a mental health condition if one is not showing any indications or awareness of having behaviors that would mark one out as being ‘different’ or in need of a diagnosis.

So are we to believe that these older women were just a rare bunch who were exquisitely bad at ‘masking’ their symptoms, because let’s face it, if they were actually trying to hide their differences and their difficulties, yet still ended up being diagnosed with a mental health condition, they must have been exceptionally bad at?

Or are we to listen to their eyewitness accounts and give ourselves permission to explore these hidden implications?

I for one, am in favor of taking the time to listen to the real life experiences of our older Autistic women, the ones who are only just now, after years of struggling to find answers, being acknowledged and diagnosed with Autism.

If we do, we may just find ourselves questioning the validity of the idea that women with Autism have a history of ‘masking’ their symptoms.