Asperger’s Syndrome – Could the concept of Superpowers be causing more harm than good?

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There’s been a lot of talk about the increasingly popular idea that people with Asperger’s Syndrome possess some kind of superpower.

Indeed, many people seem to genuinely believe it.

Search any website on the topic and you’re sure to find groups of people who freely name their superpower and then describe in minute detail the extraordinary things that whatever their particular superpower of choice may be, enables them to do.

To me, such talk of there being any form of an Asperger type superpower is ultimately harmful as it reflects the misbegotten and much argued against concept that those with Asperger’s Syndrome view themselves as being, in many ways, superior to everyone who does not have Asperger’s.

It wasn’t all that long ago that we were fighting against the claim that all people with Asperger’s Syndrome were arrogant, detached, cold, sub-human, robot type intellectual beings, who were capable of memorizing complex physics equations , but who were also seen as being every bit as humorless , heartless and as incapable of feeling empathy as a toaster is.

Fortunately, we’ve come an awfully long way since those days.

As a society, we are now able to openly acknowledge that individuals with Asperger’s are extremely loyal and loving people who are just as capable of feeling empathy and sympathy as everyone else.

We also know that individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome give as much care and devotion to those whom they love as the rest of the population do.

We simply could not account for the fact that there are so many happily married and/or dedicated and loving parents with Asperger’s if the opposite were true.

Yet it seems that correcting the many myths and multiple misnomer’s that once served to create the image of individuals with Asperger’s as cold, heartless, intellectual machines, is simply not enough for some people.

Now, we are being encouraged, if not told, to believe that we must all tow the party line and admit to having some kind of hidden, yet terribly important, superpower.

A superpower that only those with Asperger’s Syndrome can have.

A superpower that serves , once again, to prevent us from being seen as existing within the realms of common humanity by re-framing us as having powers that go beyond the scope of an average human being.

Given that we’ve spent years fighting for the acknowledgement that we are human beings who just happen to be differently neurologically wired, as opposed to being weird, cold and sub-human beings with a superiority complex, I find it incredibly ironic that there is now a movement out there that is openly seeking to regenerate the whole ‘superiority’ angle by declaring that we have superpowers.

Apart from the fact that such claims are all pretty much bunkum, to what end does it serve to seek to over emphasize a whole range of weird and wonderful , mystical, new age types of manifestations or hidden talents within individuals with Asperger’s ?

Okay it may be good for an individual’s level of self-esteem to believe or feel as if their talents are valued, but as for the rest of the en mass movement toward claiming superpowers as an Asperger’s only thing….. Well I just don’t get it.

Yes we have empathy for others and in some cases we can be overwhelmed by the empathy we feel due to not being able to process it and understand it for what it is, as quickly as others do, but why on earth are some people striving so hard to rename this difficulty in storing empathy and in not being able to release it, as a superpower?

Why are some people now saying that someone who is good at storing information, regardless of whether or not they actually want to store that information, now has an information storing superpower?

Or that someone who has a photographic memory now has a photographic memory superpower.

Should someone who can play a piece of music after only hearing it once now be said to have a music playing superpower?

Should someone who can sing in a pitch perfect tone each and every time they sing, now be given the title of having a pitch perfect superpower?

Does someone who can draw a perfect skyline based solely on memory have the superpower of drawing, memory or both?

You’ll have to forgive me but not so long ago, we simply called these unique attributes skills or talents.

We certainly didn’t call them superpowers.

And we certainly didn’t ascribe to the belief that only those with Asperger’s Syndrome could do such things and thus hold such superpowers.

There are many people out there who are good at storing information that don’t have Asperger’s Syndrome. Take pub trivia nights for example or quiz shows like Sale of the Century or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. You cannot seriously tell me that every single person who’s ever won big on any of those shows has Asperger’s.

(Here’s a hint, a contestant with Asperger’s would likely by so nervous or stuck in the midst of experiencing sensory overload due to the bright lights, movement of cameras and audience noises, that they’d have to be working extremely hard on just hearing and processing the questions, let alone getting out all of the answers required to win in that environment).

There are also numerous people who can play music by ear, draw pictures from memory and sing pitch perfectly every time, without ever first holding the prerequisite of having Asperger’s Syndrome in order to have their talents recognized without turning them into superpowers.

As far as I’m concerned, the minute we claim that the skills and talents that have always been apparent within a sub-set of the general population belong only to one particular sub-group, and we then name those skills and talents superpowers, we are falsely claiming a degree of superiority over every other group or individual, no matter how talented, that are not of our chosen ilk.

I believe that anytime a sub-set of the population declares itself to be the holder of superpowers; they are in a very real way, also declaring themselves to be superior to every other group and are therefore actively seeking to set themselves not just apart, but above, all other groupings within society.

I believe that in making the claim toward having superpowers and therefore superiority over the rest of society, some within the Asperger’s community are indeed trying to set themselves both apart and above society.

Which to me makes no sense at all, as up until now, the emphasis for many within the Autism Community has been on creating acceptance via the understanding that we are all, each and every single one of us, equal as human beings, no matter what our neurological status may be.

So please, think about what it is you are actually saying when you say that [insert type of skill here]  is my superpower because when you actually claim this as an individual with Asperger’s, you are effectively adding to the erroneous myth that each and every person with Asperger’s either is or considers themselves to be gifted and talented beyond all normal human measures.

After all, isn’t that exactly what a superpower?

So I ask you, is this really just a harmless way of making individuals with Asperger’s feel better about their unique traits, skills and talents, or is it something that could potentially cause more harm than good in terms of the concepts of equality and acceptance for all within our society?

Autism Expert Uses Clients with Female Autism as an excuse for her unethical behavior

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So called ‘Autism Expert’ Caroline Goldsmith has found herself having her professional qualifications questioned after giving what can only be described as an horrifically bizarre talk in Ireland recently.

Much to my disgust, in an effort to side step the questioning of her lack of qualifications, Goldsmith not only jumps on to, but entirely hi-jacks, the lack of  awareness over Female Autism bandwagon, by using it as an excuse for her poor clinical practices, such as diagnosing a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome after only a single, one hour session or charging exorbitant fees for a guaranteed diagnosis.

She then worsens this situation by justifying her unethical behavior by using the truth of the plight of Females with Autism within the diagnostic system  as an excuse for her actions by sating:

“what concerns me the most is female Aspergers and how it goes undiagnosed and misdiagnosed…. patients….end up at my door after going through a long wait of years, sometimes where they are eventually seen but not given the diagnosis due to their presentation of traits which doesn’t fit some archaic notion of what autism is supposed to look like. Some doctors are even unaware it can present in females and class it as a male-only condition.”

Yes she is undeniably speaking the truth. Women on the Autism Spectrum have been rampantly under and misdiagnosed for decades but this fact alone does not and should not, continue to be used to justify unethical behaviors by those within the psychology community.

Nor should the lack of knowledge regarding Female Autism, continue to be used by charlatans, as some kind of ‘get out of jail free card’ (or mask) to hide behind, whenever their unethical behaviors are caught out.

Goldsmith and those like her are causing Women on the Autism Spectrum more harm than good.

So let me make this clear to anyone out there who may be tempted to apply their own twisted form of logic to justify mistreating, misrepresenting or in any other way, providing Autistic Women with substandard treatment at a higher than average fee.

It is not Okay to charge us more money for a private diagnosis just because the ‘State’ system has failed to recognize our Autism.

Nor is it Okay to give us shabby, unprepared, poorly written and on the whole, virtually useless bits of paper that are supposed to be ‘diagnostic reports’, just because we’re Women with Autism and we are supposed to be grateful just to have found a psychologist who was ‘wise’ enough to recognize and diagnose us.

Your shabby treatment of us harms us because it makes others question our diagnosis.

As if our authenticity as Autistic Women hasn’t already been questioned enough.

So don’t you dare sit there and state that you’re worried about the treatment of Women on the Autism Spectrum as an excuse for your own poor behavior when all the while you’re building your own fortress of wealth and forging yourself a reputation for being an Autism Expert, by exploiting those whom you openly declare that you recognize as being an already vulnerable, mistreated, minority group.

Don’t be fooled by the words of Goldsmith and those like her.

(If this is what they mean by the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then wow, there must be an awful lot of ‘experts’ on there.)

No matter what they say, they are not making the world a better or a fairer place for Women on the Autism Spectrum by over charging us for a diagnosis or by not paying us the due diagnostic attention we deserve.

If anything Goldsmith, and the many others out there who are like her, are causing Women on the Spectrum more harm than good.

I  do still firmly believe that women and girls on the spectrum need to be recognized and diagnosed earlier instead of being aimlessly shuffled around from pillar to post.
However, the way forward is not to be found by associating ourselves with those seeking to build infamy based on their ability to recognize us as a category of easy targets upon which to build a name for themselves.

The way forward is to create sound, accurate and quantifiable research regarding Female Autism from the inside out.

And by this I mean research that is conducted by Women with Autism that fulfills all of the necessary academic criteria, whilst also providing a sound, realistic and workable basis for a legitimately recognized understanding of Female Autism to be formed, which would then enable all of those working within the field of psychology in its entirety, to be able to recognize and accurately diagnose Females with Autism at an earlier age.

Hopefully then, we will stop the charlatans by cutting off their main source of revenue, which is, unfortunately still, our vulnerability in the face of a diagnostic system that continues to deny us, our very state of existence.

 

 

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?

 

Autism – What will I gain from being diagnosed later in life? It won’t change anything for me, so why should I bother?”

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People often ask me: “What will I gain from being diagnosed later in life? It won’t change anything for me, so why should I bother?”

Well, my answer as to whether or not anyone should “bother” to get diagnosed is this.

Firstly, on a purely personal level, it depends entirely on what your personal circumstances are and what the biggest issues are that you’re facing at any given point in time.

If you’re a person who’s main problem is that you’re always feeling misunderstood or blamed by your family member for being the way that you are, then perhaps receiving a formal diagnosis may help your family members to comprehend and accept that some of the onus for understanding both who and how you are, falls upon them to make more of an effort to accept you as you are, rather than allowing them to continue to always view you as being the one who needs to change.

Secondly, if you find that you may be in need of some form of formal support or assistance, then receiving a diagnosis may help you to better be able to access whatever support systems are in place within your area.

A diagnosis should also, at the very least, help others around you to become aware that you are genuinely more in need of care, understanding and support than they had previously thought.

Thirdly, if you want to increase your own levels self-understanding and awareness or further seek to validate your own understandings of yourself as being both true and accurate, then receiving a diagnosis may also provide these assurances for you.

But, if you are a strong-willed person who is confident enough to be able to self-identify with having Asperger’s, without feeling any twinges of doubt about it what so ever, then you’ll most likely feel that either the seeking out, or the receiving a diagnosis, is not for you as it holds little potential to offer you any great benefits.

And that’s okay.

But for me, I have found that those who benefit the most from older women such as myself coming forward and being diagnosed, are the generations of girls who are yet to come and the generation of girls and women who are still today, young enough to incorporate this deeper understanding of themselves as females who are Autistic,  into their daily lives and move on.

At my age, receiving a formal diagnosis offers me purely the ability to understand myself better and enables me to finally ask for the things I’ve known for so long that I’ve needed all of my life, things such as solitude, peace and quiet, but have never been made to feel as if it were okay for me to ask for these things, because I am a woman and women are supposed to love company and to always want to be social creatures.

I had no way of explaining to anyone, let alone myself, why I’ve always felt that I needed so much time alone.

Yet for girls of my daughter’s age, receiving a diagnosis is offering them so much more.

It is offering them the opportunity of being able to grow up with the gift of truly knowing not only who they are, but also understanding how they are, and that they’re okay.

That it’s okay to be different.

And this to me, as both a woman and a mother, is the gift of understanding that I truly believe is worth fighting for.

I am so glad that there were women in the past who had the strength, courage and forethought, to lead the way forward and to lay the foundations that so many of us today are now standing on, by arguing, on our behalf’s, that High Functioning Female Autism is a very real phenomenon.
Believe me when I tell you that I am all too aware that if no woman had ever dared challenge the male based status quo of the understandings of Asperger’s Syndrome of the past, that neither my daughter nor I, would now be diagnosed.

So how exactly does receiving a diagnosis later in life help anyone and what does it solve anyway even if you do get one?

Well, for one thing, it is likely to allow many women to make sense of their pasts.

To knit all of the previously unresolved elements of their lives, their personalities, their characteristics and their traits, into some semblance of a perspective that will finally make sense to them.

So if that one singular perspective that makes sense of your life is the one thing that you’ve been missing, then getting a diagnosis, even at a much later stage in life, can still provide you with a huge feeling of relief.

In terms of gaining greater access to benefits and assistance, if you are already financially secure or successfully working, then no, receiving a diagnosis later in life, may not help you in any way in terms of on the job support training and alike.

But what it will do, is benefit your children, and your children’s children.

And if you’re not a mother yourself, then please understand that your actions and your choices, may end up benefiting your sister’s or your brother’s children.

The knowledge and validity that we as women gain from receiving a formal diagnosis, could well prevent future generations of girls from having to put up with the kinds of constant bullying that are caused by male bias ignorance.

This will enable them to grow up holding all of the answers to all of the questions that we once, as children held locked inside of our own heads, like fragile eggs, and were too afraid to ask why it was that we were so different from everybody else.

If being diagnosed later in life can help to take away from another child, that awful sense of confusion and self-loathing that comes from knowing that they don’t belong, without ever fully knowing or understanding why, then I’m all for it.

So whilst a formal diagnosis may not seem to be such an important deal individually, in the grand scheme of things, I can see how each and every woman and girl, diagnosed today, can help create a stronger, better defined and more brightly lit path, for our Autistic girls of the future to walk upon.

Unlike us, they won’t have to spend over half of their lifetimes stumbling around in the deep and uncertain dark, and that’s a good thing.

I’m not sure whether holding ideas like these makes me a dreamer, or simply yet another deluded fool.

Either way, the more women and girls who are diagnosed today, the harder it will be for the powers that be, to dismiss the needs of Autistic Women in the future.

I understand that this way of looking at things is not everybody’s cup of tea, but it certainly is mine. So comment and let me know whether or not you agree.

Autism – Is it really our duty to educate you?

Artwork by San Base

Many within the Autism community seem to feel that we have a duty to help educate ‘professionals’ by exposing our own personal experiences of Autism to them with in Autism specific forums.

Personally I’m not at all sure that I agree with this premise, as it all too often holds the potential to place  those of us with Autism,  in the unenviable  positions of feeling over exposed.

Which for many, can also amount to making us feel vulnerable.

The belief that it’s up to any one particular minority group to educate the wider community in order to create the understanding that they have the right to be treated as equals, is an issue that many other minority groups have faced.

And just like those within the Autism Community, many other minority groups have also had to cut their teeth on the harsh reality that not everyone who’s interested in you, is genuinely trying to help or understand you.

For example, back in the late 70’s, early 80’s, a male a researcher who was interested in researching gay males, pretended to be a gay man himself in order to win their trust,  and acted as “lookout” for them in bathrooms and public venues, whilst at the same time recording details of their interactions with each other.

He  then began following them back to their cars, taking down their number plates and with the help of a friend in the DMV, used that additional information to track down their real names and addresses so that he could turn up at the homes of these men, some of whom were married, and proceeded to blackmail them in order to gain more personal information about their lives, habits and preferences, all in the name of  his “groundbreaking” new research.

Since then, it has been widely recognized by governing bodies, that lying, deceiving or in any way attempting to befriend or pretend to be a member of a minority group in order to attain personal information, is not just morally and ethically wrong but also potentially emotionally, psychologically and in some instances, even physically harmful.

Yet despite this, there are still members within the Autism Community who seek to enable and even justify the actions of professionals who routinely intrude upon the privacy of those within our community, by saying that ‘we as Autist’s need to teach professionals the truth about Autism’.

Yet I believe it is wrong for everyone within the Autism Community to constantly be made to feel as if it’s up to “us”  to teach those who are often in positions of power over us, the truth of Autism via the revelations, either intentional or otherwise, of our own personal experiences.

This belief presents many within the Autism Community with a false sense of security because it implies that all ‘professionals’ are trustworthy individuals who are  not only capable of viewing and understanding individuals with Autism as they wish to be viewed and understood, but are also willing to fly in the face of past theoretical frameworks, in order to genuinely present new research.

Yet, the truth is, those of us within the Autism Community, have no way of knowing for sure, whether or not said ‘professionals’ are intending to do either of these things.

Time and time again, it has been shown that those researching Autism often can and do, come up with new twists on the same old theories that many of us have found to be repugnant, simply in order to make a name for themselves.

Whenever such instances occur, we feel betrayed, lied too and let down.

And it is only after the fact that we realize all too late, that we’ve either misinterpreted their ‘professionals’ interest in us, or understand that they’ve misrepresented their intentions towards us in the first place.

Which ever way it goes, it’s always left to those of us who are not too afraid, or who have not been made to feel too vulnerable, to speak out.

Many of us lose friends along the way in doing so, as it can be difficult for others to understand exactly why and how another person may feel betrayed by participating openly within what they had assumed to be an Autism only group.

So insidious has the automatic acceptance of the “right” of ‘well meaning professionals’ to lurk within our groups for the purposes of ‘educating themselves’ become, that many no longer question it.

Yet I don’t believe that research ‘professionals’ have anymore  “rights” to interact with ASD specific groups than a gynecologist  would automatically retain the ‘right’ to interact within feminist groups, simply because they contain women who may discuss their private anatomy.

I think it’s time we took on board the lessons that have already been learned regarding the pitfalls of allowing professionals to engage with us so easily and without restrictions of any kind at all, on the internet.

I think it’s time we stopped thinking about Autism in terms of our perceived duty to try to educate our way into acceptance and equality and instead focused on protecting the “rights” of those within our community to feel safe, to remain free from harm and to not be taken advantage of by others when participating in online ASD groups.

We, as a community, need to keep in mind, that not everyone with Autism is either fully informed of the participation of ‘professionals’ within ASD groups, nor aware of the potential consequences of sharing highly personal information within such groups, should anyone within them hold any alterior motives for doing so.

Wouldn’t it be far easier for those who wish to engage with ‘professionals’ on the internet in order to ‘teach them the truth about Autism’,  to actually do so in groups that are openly and specifically  designed for that purpose?

Rather than allowing ‘professionals’ access to any and all ASD groups without question?

Wouldn’t it be easier, if we as a community, made a stand and decided that ASD specific groups should remain exactly that, ASD specific.

Just a thought.

 

Artwork by San Base

Respecting the Views and Opinions of Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

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Whilst many ‘professionals’ appear to view their inclination to seek to interact within public forums, such as f/b pages and groups that have been specifically designed for individuals with Autism, as acceptable behavior, a growing number of people within the Autism Community are beginning to question the validity of this.

Personally, before a professional chooses to engage in an ASD forum, I think they need to sit down and ask themselves a few honest questions regarding both their motives for participating within ASD groups and what it is they wish to communicate by engaging in them.

I also think they need to be able to ask themselves questions such as – How would they feel if someone they’d assessed had a negative opinion of their methods or skills and posted their concerns / complaints on a public forum that they as a professional, were a part of?

Would being faced with a situation like this make them, as professionals, feel uncomfortable?

Would they, as professionals, be able to accept such input as constructive criticism?

Would they as professionals, wish to respond to the individuals concerns, within that public forum format?

Would it even be appropriate for them to respond to an individual’s concerns, as a professional, within such a public format?

As professionals, would they be able to respect that forums for individuals with ASD’s are first and foremost there to enable those who need to express their views openly and honestly, the opportunity to do so without recrimination?

Or would they as professionals, feel the need to fire back at the individual concerned?

Why do professionals, even feel that they have the right to be privy to opinions and concerns that any individual with Autism may have regarding them, if those concerns are being posted in forums designed specifically for people with ASD to share such concerns?

For me, this is what many of the issues concerning the participation of professionals in ASD specific forums, groups and pages, all boils down too.

If professionals can’t honestly answer that they wouldn’t be offended by an individual with ASD’s right to hold and express an opinion on them as a professional within a public ASD forum, without firing back at that person, then they shouldn’t be there.

If professionals can’t maintain the understanding that many people with ASD feel the need to discuss their personal experiences, and that many of those personal experiences will also incorporate the expression of negative past or present experiences regarding areas of practice such as psychology and mental health services, without taking it personally or attacking the individuals concerned, then perhaps they need to consider the possibility that they, as professionals, really shouldn’t be engaging in forums that are not designed for them, yet all too often end up including them, almost by default, simply because professionals are attracted to them.

Asperger’s Syndrome in Females – A biased perception.

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Tony Attwood (2006) observed that parents and teachers often send boys for evaluation at the point when their aggressive behaviour becomes a significant problem at home or school. The practice of making referrals based on acting out behaviour, means that overall, more boys will be evaluated, and the perception that aggressive behaviour is significant in AS may mean that parents and teachers overlook children who do not display disruptive behaviour (Attwood, 2006; Wagner, 2006). Girls, for example, may not have tantrums or meltdowns at school, but may instead, refuse to respond to requests or participate in activities (Wilkinson, 2008).

An often present feature in Asperger syndrome is an intense interest in one or more areas (Beteta, 2009), and long, encyclopaedic monologues, often on obscure subjects, are usually recognized as indicating a possible AS diagnosis in boys (Attwood, 2006). Findings suggest, though, that girls tend to have more age-appropriate interests, that generally reflect those of their peers, e.g., horses, or creative pursuits (Attwood, 2006; Beteta, 2009).

Attwood (2006) emphasizes, however, that the dominant role these interests play in the life of a girl with AS is qualitatively different from the role that the same interests play in the lives of her female peers. Attwood (2006) stresses further that a girl’s intense interests can extend well beyond an appropriate age,  and that this can help to determine abnormal intensity and focus.

Overall, these observations suggest that increased insight into how these interests function differently for girls with AS, may help to clarify diagnosis.

The use of social echolalia, i.e., mimicking others through imitation and modelling, exists almost exclusively in girls with Asperger syndrome  (Beteta, 2009; Wilkinson, 2008). In an effort to reduce their social and communication impairments, girls may copy the mannerisms, voice, persona, and behaviour of others, often quite successfully (Attwood, 2006).

However, Beteta (2009) points out that although girls may seem to benefit from the use of social echolalia, often they do not truly understand the contextual meanings of what they are mimicking.

Ryden and Bejolet (2008) found that adult females also seemed more successful at mimicking social behaviour than adult males, and for this reason, they rarely fit the original description of Asperger syndrome.

This suggests that the use of social echolalia may hinder the recognition and diagnosis of AS, and consequently, access to relevant support (Attwood, 2006), and that girls and women may experience increased stress in dealing with the consequences of mimicking behaviours that they may not quite understand.

Overall, a greater awareness of gender differences in phenotypic expression is vital so that girls will receive an accurate diagnosis, and access to services that could lessen the impact of AS, particularly beyond childhood.

Furthermore, as researchers discover the extent to which statistical gender differences translate into clinical significance, it is likely that support services will need modification to accommodate this new knowledge (Giarelli et al., 2010).

Differences in attitudes and behaviour towards females with Asperger Syndrome may also contribute to a delayed or missed diagnosis (Giarelli et al., 2010; Hartley & Sikora, 2009).

Attwood (2006) noticed that parents were more hesitant to seek a formal diagnosis if their daughters appeared to be functioning adequately, and that clinicians tended to hesitate in making a diagnosis unless the signs were quite conspicuous. This reinforces the observation made by Hully and Lamar (2006) that AS traits need to be exaggerated in females for a formal diagnosis.

In contrast to boys with AS, who are more often teased, ignored, or bullied by their male peers, girls more often experience support and even protection from some of their female peers, which could result in failure to recognize significant social impairments (Attwood, 2006). Beteta (2009) stresses that these friendships rely on the willingness of a girl’s peers, and accordingly, Rastam (2008) found that many girls with AS tended to have only one friendship that was usually tenuous in nature, and few peer relations overall.

In addition, the perception that many girls with Asperger syndrome seem to manage in social situations, can cause others to question the accuracy of diagnosis.

One result may be that when a girl exhibits behaviour common to AS, it is misunderstood as deliberate or wilful (Beteta, 2009), and she may not receive the necessary supports. Cooper and Hanstock (2009) found, for instance, that school staff continued to feel that Jane’s behaviour was “put on”, even after she received a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome.

Moreover, parents and teachers often connect social and functioning difficulties with intrinsic personality traits rather than to a developmental disorder like AS (Cooper & Hanstock, 2009). Specifically, they may misinterpret deficits in social skills, such as poor eye contact, as signs of shyness, embarrassment, or naivety (Wagner, 2006).

Girl’s social impairments, for example, are often misconstrued as stemming from their reserved natures, hence girls initially received an incorrect diagnosis of early onset anxiety disorder (Wilkinson, 2008).

In conclusion, there are a number of possible explanations for the 10:1 gender ratio in Asperger syndrome. Some think that the large number of diagnosed males accurately reflects natural sex differences in brain specialization, or points to sex-specific genetic susceptibility to AS (e.g., Baron-Cohen &Wheelwright, 2004; Jones et al., 2008).

Others believe that the current gender ratio misrepresents the incidence of AS in females (Thompson et al., 2003).

A biased perception of how AS presents may contribute to underdiagnosis (Attwood, 2006; Beteta, 2009), as many emphasize the overuse of a male prototype (e.g., Hully & Lamar, 2006; Thompson et al., 2003). Clinicians may attribute symptoms to psychiatric disorders more commonly seen in the general female population (Cooper & Hanstock, 2009; Rastam, 2008; Ryden & Bejolet, 2008), gender differences in phenotypic expression could mean that core impairments go unnoticed or are misinterpreted (Attwood, 2006; Beteta, 2009; Wilkinson, 2008), and the attitudes and behaviour of others towards females with AS may also contribute to underdiagnosis (Cooper & Hanstock, 2009; Wagner, 2006).

It is clear that one explanation for the uneven gender ratio is not sufficient on its own. The reasons are multifaceted and complex, and it is likely that other possibilities will emerge with additional research.

However, a greater understanding of gender differences in Asperger syndrome will likely play a large role in balancing the 10:1 ratio, as more females will receive an accurate diagnosis.

Written by A. MacMillan