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.
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.