HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Girls with Aspergers

Aspergers, an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by compulsive pursuits, awkward communication skills, and problems with social cues, is more often identified in males than females.

The signs and symptoms of Aspergers (high-functioning autism) in females are often exhibited in a more subtle manner, which leads to missed or incorrect professional diagnoses, a lack of access to special education services and provisions in education, along with an increased potential for interpersonal and psychological difficulties in the adult years. A number of unique differences exist regarding the ways that young ladies versus males with Aspergers behave.

Females that have Aspergers aren't usually aggressive once they get irritated; instead, they tend to be withdrawn and may very easily "fly under the radar" in classrooms and other interpersonal situations. Female kids with this high-functioning autism spectrum disorder can also communicate their feelings in a more calm way than their male counterparts. Aspergers females tend to be safeguarded and nurtured by their neurotypical friends, who assist them to deal with challenging interpersonal situations. Acceptance from friends can occasionally cover up the problems these girls have so they aren't recognized by educators and moms and dads. Consequently, grown-ups are not as likely to suggest psychological and social evaluations for females that have Aspergers.

There are specific personality characteristics and warning signs that moms and dads, educators, and specialists can search for when they believe that the young female may have Aspergers. Females with the disorder often exhibit compulsive traits regarding animals, dolls, and other female-oriented pursuits. While neurotypical females will play with dolls by pretending that they're interacting socially, Aspergers females might collect dolls and never use them to interact socially with other females. Their passion for certain subject matter can result in them lagging behind their friends in terms of maturation and age-appropriate conduct: for instance, a pre-teen with Aspergers might be captivated by stuffed animals or cartoons long after other females their age have outgrown this stuff.

Females that have Aspergers might be incorrectly assumed to possess a character disorder simply because they imitate typical kids but use phrases inappropriately. They are usually bored with individuals their age and possess problems empathizing with their friends' concerns/problems. While their behaviors tend to be more unaggressive than those typical of males with Aspergers, grown-ups who pay close attention to females with social and psychological delays can make sure that correct diagnosis and therapy will take place. The younger a female is when she starts to receive the appropriate speech, occupational, and psychological services for Aspergers kids, the greater likelihood she'll have of living a completely independent and functional adult life. Just like other autism spectrum disorders, Aspergers syndrome in females is most effectively addressed via constant professional support.

Females with Aspergers have the same difficulties with sensory processing and social navigation as males. In addition, girls have telltale intense focus on a particular subject of interest. Symptoms of Aspergers in females include:

Routine—
o Appears anxious when there are changes in routine
o Intense focus on a particular subject
o Practices rituals that appear to have no function
o Resists change

Physical—
o Difficulty coordinating movements
o Odd posturing
o Repetitive movements (stims)

Sensory processing—
o Dislikes textures in foods, clothes or objects
o No response or extreme response to noises
o Resists activities that involve movement (slides, escalators…)
o Seeks out sensory experiences (spinning, rocking…)
o Strong aversion to certain smells

Social difficulties—
o "Scripts" daily conversations
o Appears excessively shy
o Appears uncomfortable during conversation
o Avoids interacting with others
o Hesitant to make the first move
o Tends to "blend" into the crowd
o Tends to mimic rather than providing natural responses

It's not uncommon for females with Aspergers to go undiagnosed well into adulthood. Like heart disease, Aspergers is 10 times more prevalent in boys, so doctors often don't think to look for it in girls. But some experts have begun to suspect that unlike heart disease, Aspergers manifests differently, less obviously in females, and that factor is also causing them to slip through the diagnostic cracks. This gender gap may have implications for the health and well-being of Aspergers females, and some specialists predict that as we diagnose more females, our profile of the disorder as a whole will change. Unlike males, Aspergers females seem to have less motor impairment, a broader range of obsessive interests, and a stronger desire to connect with others, despite their social impairment.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Mark,

I am speaking at a retreat Aug 4 on the female perspective of AS. I am co-founder of Asperfemme, a support group for self- and officially-diagnosed women with ASD in Ottawa, Canada

I was 48 when I was diagnosed, three years after my two-decade long married ended, and have splinter skills in music (absolute pitch) and language (hyperlexia) which I have parlayed into self-employment as a private music teacher (after several failed careers.) We older women are struggling with financial needs, broken or troubled relationships, sometimes children on the spectrum, on top of the regular aging stuff.

I would be interested if any of your research and writing deals with this largely unexplored group (a subgroup of "the spectrum within the spectrum" as Dr. Kevin Stoddart of Toronto's Redpath Centre calls Asperger's). I do find we women are less rigid about routines, and have fewer self-soothing behaviors (stims) than the men. We also tend to get sad and anxious rather than angry, a fact my marriage counselor could not deal with.

I was introduced to you in the article "Children with High-Functioning Autism: 'Gifted' or Hyperlexic" on the My Aspergers Child web site (excellent by the way.)


My precocious reading skill was considered cute, and not a sign in 1963 that anything was wrong. I think my parents were relieved that I amused myself with books, because I was quiet and no trouble while they dealt with my two rambunctious younger brothers born 11 months apart. I ended up in a Gifted class for 4 years (Grades 5 to 8) and had few friends, being chosen only for the spelling team. I flew entirely under the radar with my good academic record--a child seen and not heard.

Looking back I also had selective mutism, excellent mimicry, apraxia and poor executive function. I firmly believe the piano saved my life, as it gave me an outlet and later a means to communicate. Public performance was very hard, but I learned to develop 'show' and private persona.

CoolMama said...

I'm glad to see someone writing about girls/women on the spectrum. Like ADHD, women tend to present differently than boys/men do with regard to "symptoms" or characteristics. For myself, when I got into middle school (junior high back then), I learned about acting. For me, being involved in theater classes allowed me to become someone else, someone who wasn't "weird", who wasn't bullied or teased. I learned about personas, roles, and finally felt like I'd found a group where being a misfit was accepted and even embraced. Some might think being on stage as completely opposite to the social awkwardness inherent to ASD/Asperger's--I disagree. When you act, you aren't yourself, so you have the freedom and confidence to overcome your weaknesses. Plus, most interactions are scripted (I didn't do so well at improv, for example). You memorize your lines, and you learn techniques for portraying emotion. It's pretend play at the highest level. Not only was it a life-saver for me in school, it helped me once I tried to get a professional job. Interviews are all about presenting an image, and presenting an image is about projecting a persona, or playing a role. Other ASD individuals may have difficulty with "feeling like a fraud", and I totally get that--but I chose to look at it as being on stage. The "role" I created was just the best parts of me, the parts I wanted to stand out and be noticed. Theater isn't the solution for every person with ASD...but it is something to consider.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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