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

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Characteristics of Females with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Females with Aspergers (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often present with a unique set of characteristics that can make diagnosing their disorder very difficult. In addition, their strengths often mask their deficits.

There has been considerable discussion among professionals about the way girls with AS and HFA demonstrate their major characteristics. Some girls have obvious social difficulties, whereas others appear to have excellent skills because they imitate the behaviors of others (often without understanding them). There are many females who do not receive a diagnosis, possibly because, compared to males, (a) they have fairly good social skills (particularly when interacting with adults in a one-to-one situation), (b) their special interests are different, and (c) their clinical presentation is different.

Sometime during childhood, a female with AS or HFA characteristics will begin to know she is different compared to her peers. For example:


1. Due to adopting an alternative persona, she may begin to have problems of self-identity and low self-esteem
2. Due to observing and analyzing social behavior and trying not to make a social error, she may become emotionally exhausted
3. During the stress of adolescence, she may develop routines and rituals around food and a special interest in calories and nutrition that develops into the signs of an eating disorder
4. Her interests may be different to her peers in terms of intensity and quality of play
5. She may be an avid observer of human behavior and try to decipher what she is supposed to do or say
6. She may be extremely sensitive to the emotional atmosphere at a social gathering
7. She may be like a chameleon, changing persona according to the situation
8. She may be more likely to apologize and appease when making a social error
9. She may be overly well-behaved and compliant at school so as not to be noticed or recognized as a different.
10. She may be vulnerable to “peer predators” who take advantage of her social immaturity
11. She may become increasingly aware of her social confusion and frequent faux pas, and thus prefer to be on the periphery of social situations
12. She may enjoy living in a fantasy world and creating a new persona
13. She may escape into the world of nature, having an intuitive understanding of animals, but not people
14. She may fear that her “true self” must remain secret because she is defective, thus she is almost always acting like someone else
15. She may have a pet that she views as a loyal friend
16. She may have a single - but intense – friendship with another female who may provide guidance for her in social situations
17. She may have a strong desire to collect and organize her toys (e.g., dolls) rather than to share her toys with friends
18. She may have an aversion to the traditional concept of femininity
19. She may have an encyclopedic knowledge of specific topics
20. She may have an intense interest in reading and escaping into fiction
21. She may have an interest in ancient civilizations to find an old world in which she would feel at home
22. She may have an interest in other countries (e.g., France) where she would be accepted
23. She may identify with a fictional character (e.g., Harry Potter), who faces adversity but has special powers and friends
24. She may not be interested in the latest craze among her peers to be 'cool' and popular
25. She may not identify with her peers
26. She may not play with her toys in conventional ways
27. She may not want to play cooperatively with her peers
28. She may prefer non-gender specific toys (e.g., Lego)
29. She may prefer to play alone so that she can play her way
30. She may prefer to play with males, whose play is more constructive and adventurous than emotional and conversational
31. She may suffer social confusion in silence and isolation in the classroom or playground, but she may be a different character at home
32. She may talk to imaginary friends, or write fiction at an early age
33. She may think that the way her peers play is stupid and boring
34. She may use imaginary friends that can provide companionship, support and comfort when she feels lonely
35. She may use passive-aggressive behaviors in order to control her family and/or social experiences

As young girls, many (but not all) females with AS and HFA:

1. Apologize frequently and want to please others
2. Are an expert on certain topics
3. Are determined
4. Are honest
5. Are involved in social play, but are led by their peers rather than initiating social contact
6. Are kind
7. Are misunderstood by peers
8. Are more able to follow social actions by delayed imitation because they observe other kids and copy them, perhaps masking the symptoms of AS and HFA
9. Are more aware of - and feel a need to - interact socially
10. Are perfectionists
11. Are so successful at "faking it" that they only come to the attention of a therapist when a secondary mood disorder emerges
12. Are specially gifted in the areas of mathematics and engineering
13. Are very good at art
14. Are visual thinkers
15. Are well-liked by adults
16. Become a target of teasing
17. Do not ‘do social chit chat’ or make ‘meaningless’ comments in order to facilitate social communication
18. Enjoy solitude
19. Have a faster rate of learning social skills than males
20. Have a single friend who provides guidance and security for them
21. Have a special interest that is more likely to be unusual in terms of intensity rather than focus
22. Have difficulty knowing what someone else may be thinking or feeling
23. Have difficulty making friends
24. Have difficulty managing feelings
25. Have difficulty showing as much affection as others expect
26. Have difficulty taking advice
27. Have difficulty with writing skills
28. Have extremely detailed imaginary worlds
29. Have imaginary friends
30. Have interests that are very similar to those of neurotypical girls (e.g., animals, dolls, classical literature), and therefore are not seen as unusual
31. Have what is classified as a "male brain"
32. Make reliable and trustworthy friends
33. Mimic or even try to take on all the characteristics of someone they are trying to emulate
34. Notice sounds that others do not hear
35. Read fiction to help them learn about inner thoughts, feelings and motivations
36. Show little interest in fashion
37. Speak their minds (sometimes to the point of being rude)
38. Still need to be directly taught certain social skills
39. Try to understand a situation before they make the first step
40. Use doll play to replay and understand social situations

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

7 comments:

Jannie said...

Sounds like my son!

Rosemary Winter said...

This is my daughter, although after a couple hours with developmental pediatrics at MUSC, they would not give her a diagnosis. Proving to me that it is very hard to diagnose in girls, especially after years of them copying "normal" behavior.

K. Day said...

Yes, many of these traits sound just like me...

Unknown said...

My 4 year old daughter also went to an assessment recently and I was told that she has the characteristics of Aspergers but that (in the two hours they worked with her one on one) she did not show them the severity in which they would be comfortable giving her a diagnosis. She happens to be at her best in highly structured activities with adults (which I told them). So frustrating!

saraleh82 said...

Sounds like my son and my mom.

Peyton Taylor said...

Everything here, except for maybe three or four things list, I have been described as by both parents, and both their peers and mine.

elanaoali said...

Hi all I am looking at the list above for my daughter sake as she could possibility have high function autism or just have social anxiety disorder. Why does the list sound like me? I was told that we are all on the austic spectrum. That was my daughter's physcharist treating her for her anxiety disorder.

IF this is me then I being to understand myself even better. At the moment we are waiting to see if my daughter's psychiatrist is going to assess her for autism. This would have to be with the agreement of my daughter.
So I waiting to see what happens with her. Then perhaps I will do something about me. There are lots of pluses to austism and not just all negative. Understanding yourself is part of the journey to helping yourself.

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

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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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