We are failing to diagnose girls and women on the autism spectrum at such an incredible rate that some scientists think there is not a large gap between the number of males and females with Asperger syndrome – we just need to start diagnosing more competently. And this is urgent, because all people with Aspergers have a high rate of suicide, but it’s really high for women. I am a woman who was relieved to discover I have Aspergers, so I’m on a mission to help

The best way to figure out if a woman or girl has Aspergers is to think in terms of categorizing people on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum are super-social cheerleader fun-fun types whose emotional intelligence is super high. On the other end of the spectrum are the Albert Einstein types with very low emotional intelligence. Next to Albert Einstein types are typical males and next to typical males are typical females and then come the cheerleaders.

In this spectrum, Albert Einstein has Aspergers. And generally, when we wonder if someone has Aspergers, we compare that person to Einstein. (Or Sheldon on Big Bang theory or whoever your benchmark is.) Everyone else is somewhere on the spectrum either one, two, or three steps removed from the terrible emotional intelligence of someone with Aspergers.

But that picture only works for diagnosing men or boys with Aspergers. Women don’t function like men who have Aspergers. Women with Aspergers function like typical men. A way to think about this is that Aspergers shifts you down the spectrum one spot, to the next group. (This is called the extreme male brain theory of autism it is widely accepted.)

Standing out from the other girls. “The only girl to…”  is a common refrain. Or taking classes with all boys. Being an outlier for gender is a risk factor for Aspergers. Do not judge a girl by how similar she is to boys with Aspergers. Look at how similar she is to other girls. The conflict between autism spectrum conditions and traditional feminine identity is the biggest clue we have when it comes to diagnosis. For example, I have vivid grade-school memories of being the only girl to play kickball at recess. Every day.

Good at math. This means good at math compared to other girls. The president of Harvard said the outstanding mathematicians are usually men. He is not wrong. Math and autism go together. So it makes sense that girls with Aspergers will be as good at math as math-smart neurotypical boys. And the boys with Aspergers will be the math gods.

Anxiety disorder. Unlike boys, girls with Aspergers can camouflage when they are younger. And people are likely to say their daughter is “a little different but totally fine”. But we need to redefine what it “totally fine,” because camouflage gets increasingly difficult as girls age: first it becomes exhausting, and then it becomes an anxiety disorder. My life is 100 times more manageable because I take medicine for anxiety, and this is true of most women with Aspergers.

Eating disorder. Most eating disorders emerge as an extension of a sensory processing disorder and/or OCD. Both these disorders are common for people on the autistic spectrum. But eating disorders are especially prevalent in girls with Aspergers. Even as we are under diagnosing girls with Aspergers, we know 20% of girls with eating disorders have Aspergers.

ADD or ADHD. Girls with Aspergers don’t look like they have ADD because they look like neurotypical boys. Even the teachers miss it. But look at attention levels compared to other girls. Most girls have longer attention spans than boys do. It’s not until puberty that boys catch up. Girls who look like they are “just being kids” are not okay. Girls need to look like they are “just being girls”.

Hyperlexia. Most girls with Aspergers love to read. Learning to read at age 2 or 3 is often a sign of hyperlexia. It’s related to Aspergers and it comes from a fascination with letters and puzzles rather than a love of stories. My son was in a classroom of autistic 3 year olds who could all read, and the classroom did not have any books with words because at that age the brain needs to develop social-skills patterning instead.

Dyslexia. Re-reading books, and reading series books are ways girls with Aspergers deal with dyslexia. Dyslexia, often means you can read but comprehension is low, and girls with Aspergers mask that with a high IQ at school and easy books at home. I was in honors classes but I read children’s picture books throughout high school.

Gender dysphoria. Studies show a high occurrence of gender disorder in autistic populations. For girls with Aspergers this issue is especially prevalent because thinking like neurotypical boys is already happening via Aspergers.

Refusal to cross the midline. This is walking before you crawl. In an older kid it looks like being clumsy. Or maybe impressively clumsy which we mistakenly label ambidextrous. Or it looks like having perfect posture, which looks awkward in a boy, but almost ballerina-like in a girl so people overlook it.

Sexually abused as a child or teen. Girls with Aspergers do not read danger signs as well as neurotypical girls, which makes girls with Aspergers much more likely to get into a situation that is bad for them. While the girl with Aspergers will think she’s acting within the realm of normal, a predator looking for a target will see the abnormality as an inviting sign.

Work in the sex industry. Understanding sexual norms is a social skill. Feeling embarrassment is also a social skill. So the sex industry doesn’t feel as emotional risky to women who have Aspergers. Also, its easier to get the unofficial list of social rules in the sex industry than it is in a typical workplace.  In my first book I wrote about how I tried to be a sex worker, and now I understand that I couldn’t get someone to hire me because I never looked like I understood the rules.

Having a mother or paternal grandmother with these traits.  Or having a mother who is white, college educated and raising children alone – that is, did not remarry after the loss of a partner. (Only 2% of white, college-educated women get divorced, but pretty much all moms except those with Aspergers find a new partner after a divorce.)

Having a weird laugh. Women laugh more than men. And for women laughter is a way to identify themselves as good partners. It’s a social skill. Women with Aspergers have a hard time figuring out how to use a laugh; often they choose not to laugh or they laugh in a stilted or uncomfortable way.

Which makes me wonder if you thought the ribbons in the photo up top are funny and appropriate for this post, or if you thought they were offensive. I wanted to buy them to hang on my wall. But I worried that neurotypical people would not like them, so I hung them in a post about Aspergers instead. Which is, perhaps, an example of me doing camouflage as an adult.

67 replies
  1. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    Thanks for this. It’s very interesting. Your gendered view of autism got me wondering about the intersection of homosexuality and autism, and sent me on a search (that didn’t bear any notable results). I know that you have one autistic kid and one homosexual kid, and they aren’t the same kid. I was just kind of pondering the apparent phenomenon of many homosexual men seeming or acting more feminine than other men, and how that might interact with Borat’s cousin’s “extreme male brain” view of autism. (Thanks for that, btw, interesting article).

    I’m wondering how it works to have both an “extreme male brain” and a more feminine brain at the same time (e.g. Savic and Lindstrom published a study in 2008 demonstrating brain anatomy and activity patterns that were similar for gay men and women, or for gay women and men).

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I wondered the same thing. And while I was wondering that I discovered that most of the kids in the “gender issues groups” my son went to had Aspergers. When I asked a group leader about this — why so many kids had Aspergers, she said it’s probably because if you have Aspergers and you’re transgender it’s more difficult than just having one, so you go to a support group.

      But then I did some research and found that transgender kids are disproportionately female to male and disproportionately have Aspergers. I was actually pretty shocked. There are published papers on the topic yet I don’t hear people talking about it.

      That said, I think the gay question is just sort of a spectrum issue – like if you are a guy and you have Aspergers and you’re gay then you shift toward Einstein one notch for Aspergers and you shift toward Cheerleaders one notch for being gay, so a gay male with Aspergers might read as a neurotypical male. This last part s conjecture, though. I haven’t read anything.

      Penelope

      • Bostonian
        Bostonian says:

        I guess the theory at work here is that a woman who is both lesbian and autistic would shift two notches and end up presenting a clearer diagnosis, whereas the shifts from a man who is gay and autistic would cancel each other out, making his diagnosis as autistic less likely or clear.

        For example, a boy who is gay or otherwise not typical of his gender may prefer the “female” empathetic interaction (such as sharing, responding empathetically, and valuing relationships) over the “male” aggressive interaction (such as rough housing, aggression, and competitiveness)…. while at the same time displaying other traits suggesting autism, such as fascination with systematizing behavior and lack of social awareness. I should imagine that would have a similar effect of delayed diagnosis to being a girl.

      • Coriander
        Coriander says:

        When I took the unofficial online Australian based Asperger question test years ago, I scored 177/200. I cannot find anyone that agrees with me that I am on the spectrum. I was born as female bodied, and started transitioning to male a year and a half ago. I just turned 42. Your descriptions make a lot of sense to me. One thing of note – I always tested as INFJ as female, but now I test as ENFJ.

  2. LisaP
    LisaP says:

    Einstein was INTP, right? How would an INTP woman know whether to chalk up her weirdness to personality or asperger’s?

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Thisnis such an interesting important distinction. If you tell someone with Aspergers they did something wrong they will be either very very sorry or incredulous at the social rule they broke. A neurotypical person would not have either of those responses.

        Penelope

    • Tracy L Lehane
      Tracy L Lehane says:

      I am INTP and have Asperger’s too…go get tested for autism by someone who knows what they’re doing.

  3. Sally
    Sally says:

    Interesting read! I was diagnosed with autism at age 20 and ADD at age 18.

    I learned how to read before anyone else in my age. And before I knew how to read, I loved writing letters. Even if it was nonsense, I did this a lot. I would say I knew how to write before I knew how to read though, funny enough.

    When we began school I excelled my peers. Three books ahead them in math, I did math so much my teachers had to refrain me from doing it. I got to jump a school year to go with the 1 year older peers.

    At the age of 9 I developed an eating disorder, which I still have. Only it was anorexic then and now it’s unspecified. I was obsessed with numbers and I wanted to weigh less than a specific number. Nothing with my body to do. That’s why the normal treatment didn’t work for me.
    This was also the time I began feeling depressed and anxious. I’ve been in treatment ever since. Although in some cases when I was younger I would go mute if I was overwhelmed.

    As a teen I socially changed my name to Arnold and started dressing as a boy. Because I didn’t feel like I fit in with the girls. I didn’t understand them, their hobbies, their rituals and so on. I was a boy for 3 years until I realised that gender isn’t important to me at all. Now I embrace my own femininity and masculinity. Still I find boys easier though. This has gotten me into some problems where I’ve trusted them too much to be my friend. Because they probably thought I’ve been leading them on.

    My posture as a child was very odd though. I would keep my head&neck like a vulpture. My gait was heavy and broad.

    My mother has never had a steady partner after she split up with my dad which is 21 years ago. She has been dating however, but never have they lasted long.

    I don’t laugh much, only if I feel comfortable. I do think speech is also something to look for in autistic girls. Me and my friends with autism have a quite steady voice, there’s not much emotions going on. I also mumble quite a lot. My friends hate calling me on the phone because I’m mostly quiet or just “mmm… mmhmm… mmm…” I’ve also been told that I look apathetic because I don’t express my emotions all the time.

    So I’d say everything is pretty accurate for myself, except that I would never work in the sex industry. But that’s because I don’t like being touched by people I don’t know, I don’t like that my body would have a value,  the risks of STDs (condoms doesn’t save you from everything) or being abused.

  4. Minami
    Minami says:

    I like those ribbons. I think you should hang them up in your room/bed-closet, where you can see them from your bed and turn around the ones you did that day so you can feel good about your day. Except the adulting honorable mention one, which seems like a depressing reminder of one’s failures, kind of like participation trophies for kids who suck at sports but have to play sports anyway. So don’t hang up that one, because it’s probably bad for your self-esteem.

    Putting on pants and saying things everyone else was thinking are great. Nobody wants to BE the person who does the latter, but everyone appreciates that person, so it’s a reminder of how you’re valuable.

    Also, the colors of the ribbons are nice. They probably match your apartment walls.

    Anyway, this is a really great and helpful post for us Asperger girls (Aspergirls?) I’ve still been working on getting anxiety medication like you told me to when I did a coaching call. It’s hard when one is too anxious to ask for it in the first place, but at least you convinced me of how urgent it is, and this post is a nice reinforcement of that.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Anxiety medication has been a life saver for my daughter. You can just make a regular dr appointment to get them.

      For instance, I made a dr appointment for something and then at the end of the appointment I asked for Xanax for my upcoming flights because I hate flying and was given a prescription.

      • Minami
        Minami says:

        “You can just make a regular dr appointment to get them.”

        Yeah, I tried that, and my doctor told me my only problem was that I was “situationally depressed” and told me to go get therapy instead and refused to prescribe me any medication because “I think your depression is causing your anxiety”.

        When I told Penelope this, she said I needed to change doctors. But it’s too hard. Just making that first appointment was so hard I get panic attacks thinking about changing doctors. So “just make a doctor’s appointment” might be very simple and easy for a neurotypical person, but it isn’t for someone with Asperger’s. That’s why we need anxiety meds in the first place: to handle things that are simple and easy for people like you.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          Something that has helped me is to ask a friend to do it with me. So, the friend makes the appointment. The friend remembers. And the friend calls me and stays on the phone with me until I leave my house and am at the doctor. It’s terrible. And it’s hard. And I’ve done all this and then not answered my phone when it’s time to go to the doctor. But this is what has worked best of all the things I’ve tried.

          Penelope

          • YMKAS
            YMKAS says:

            This is true. I do everything for my DD. People with aspergers need a helper. A trusted friend or family member.

            Excellent suggestion Penelope.

  5. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    When I was having my oldest daughter tested a few months ago I made sure to ask the psychologist if she knew that sometimes ASD looks differently for girls than boys. She did. But all the testing results still explained it the normal way…the psychologist was still able to show how my child met 5 out of 5 of the criteria.

    One not is that it’s not called Asperger’s …it’s Autism Spectrum Disorder…even though they all know that what my daughter has is Asperger’s syndrome, it’s not a diagnosis anymore. I think it should be changed back because it’s very confusing to everyone.

    She’s 11, and along with ASD she was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Childhood Social Anxiety Disorder, and Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depression. Additionally, because of all the overlap, she didn’t directly receive an ADHD diagnosis, however her executive function was noted to be severely impaired, along with her gross and fine motor skills. And I’ve always suspected dyslexia.

    Another note, she is an artistic girly girl who thinks like a boy and has similar interests as same aged boys. Despite her deficits all these years she is a pretty fantastic fencer and swimmer. We meet with the middle school team to finalize her 504 plan and we’re getting everything I’m asking. No P.E. and extra performing arts classes instead, as an example.

    And the reading thing is totally her. She has several book series that she reads over and over.

    So much of this applies to her… I don’t know about the paternal grandma or whatever…genetically.

    We’ll see if we end up homeschooling again… if we do we will definitely be moving back to CA where it’s so much better to homeschool.

  6. JB
    JB says:

    I “get” the joke of the ribbons but didn’t laugh, my suspected Aspie hubby would likely chuckle, our 8yo ASD daughter would find them hilarious and laugh heartily. I feel like your post is pretty much on point. She was Dx’d at 3 with level 2 but it looks like Aspie level now, large thanks to implementing RDI. She was echolaliac, hyperlexic, anxiety but supremely confident, self harm by biting and slapping self, some sensory issues with noise and is the loudest person I know, ADHD (impulsivity and hyperactivity), no embarrassment, loves “boy things,” hates pink, crossing the midline is still a problem. She crawled and walked nearly the same week. Loves people, prefers male friends. She is wonderfully herself in all things and we LOVE her big laugh. She is the oldest of three girls so I wonder how and when she will notice how different she is from them and when. We talk about her ASD and ADHD, meds and therapies and she is learning to advocate for herself. Thanks for sharing your insights. Always something good in each post!

  7. anonymous
    anonymous says:

    I think this is so true and very helpful.

    I’m a woman with probably borderline Asperger’s, from a family of people who are all probably a little more Aspie than I am.

    I was hyperlexic (started reading at 18 months).
    I was gender dysphoric. I really tried to learn to be feminine (learn makeup, clothes, hair, etc.) and it’s not as bad now.
    I have worked in the online sex industry.
    I had an eating disorder (anorexia) as a teenager.
    I felt like none of the other girls growing up; I felt more like a boy.
    I was good at math and majored in math at one of the top 10 colleges. I was “the only girl” to take as much math as I did in high school.
    My mother also had these traits, had a research/analytical job, was not good at makeup, not feminine, and didn’t remarry after my dad divorced her.

    I was especially alienated from other girls after about age 11, when the friends I did have left me, probably because they saw me as a liability now that they were interested in boys, and I couldn’t keep up socially as the social scene became more complex.

    I realize being a girl is a real skill, particularly when it comes to being a girl in relationships with men. I’ve done a lot of reading and learning and it’s getting easier and more enjoyable.

  8. mia
    mia says:

    where is the test? or the citations? this was neat and all, but really more of an opinion essay based on the author’s experience. i dont honestly buy in to the whole “autism/asperger’s” thing. i think some people are just different, and that’s perfectly okay, and unnecessary to put labels on it.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      We were testing with a psychologist and these were the tests given:

      Clinical Interview
      Review of Records
      Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R)
      Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition: Module 3 (ADOS-2)

      Autism Spectrum Rating Scale (ASRS)
      Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration Test, 6th Edition (VMI)
      Behavior Assessment System for Children, Third Edition (BASC-3), Parent, Teacher & Self
      Rating
      Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function, 2nd Edition (BRIEF-2) – Parent & Teacher
      Report Form
      California Verbal Learning Test for Children (CVLT-C)
      Delis-Kaplan Executive Functioning System (D-KEFS), select subtests
      Impairment Rating Scale –Parent and Teacher Report
      Integrated Visual and Auditory Continuous Performance Test (IVA-CPT)
      Klove Grooved Pegboard Test
      Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children, Second Edition (MASC-2)
      NEPSY Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment (NEPSY-II), select subtests
      Rey Osterrith Complex Figure Test
      Vanderbilt ADHD Rating Scale – Teacher Report
      Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fifth Edition (WISC-V)
      Wisconsin Cart Sorting Test (WCST)

      That being said – Penelope and I have been talking for nearly 8 months about this and it is difficult to ignore what she is talking about in this blog post.

      An additional thing I would add to her list is that female INTJ/INTP have a high likelihood of having aspergers. This is anecdotal on my part.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        That’s a really good point about INTJ/INTP. I should have added that to the list. Thanks.

        Penelope

      • Unanxious Me
        Unanxious Me says:

        Yikes! Let the kid be himself/herself. All of this testing & labelling doesn’t seem like a good idea. Perhaps there are some skills or social situations that are more enjoyable or easier for the child, but we each are individuals.

        I was on anti-anxiety medication for about 25 years, but with learning new coping skills (including meditation, yoga, breathing techniques & DBT–Dialectical Behavior Therapy) I have been off the medication for about 10 years now.

        I rarely feel anxious now & if I do, I know it is a fleeting thing & don’t get all worked up about it. Just because you have had “symptoms” & have been on medication(s) doesn’t mean you have to be on them for life. Forging new neural pathways is possible.

    • AutisticSince1957
      AutisticSince1957 says:

      This “test” contains some truthful elements and some generalizations. A lot of known autism co morbids are listed. A lot of these traits also occur with a bunch of other conditions. This is a checklist that can be used as a preliminary step for suspecting aspergers. Claiming more especially that it is some sort of definitive test is irresponsible.

      • Butcherbaby
        Butcherbaby says:

        I am a woman with dyspraxia, a neurodevelopmental movement coordination disorder that effects the planning & execution of movement- all movement, every aspect of movement, including procioception. Dyspraxics are often extremely clumsy & discoordinated, lack balance, and so on, these are the systems and processes most impaired. But it also shares traits with autism spectrum disorders (which it is sometimes comorbid with) in the social skills department as dyspraxics often have difficulty reading facial expressions, body language, tone of voice and so on. It ALSO shares traits with ADHD (executive function difficulties) which it is OFTEN comorbid with.
        Dyspraxia is rare and under diagnosed in everyone, ADHD is *still* vastly under diagnosed in women & girls, and it has much more to do with how we socialize boys & girls to fit in with gender essentialist cultural stereotypes than actual differences in expression of symptoms between them or the BS Ms. Trunk is spouting here about “male” and “female” brains…what hogwash!
        It is starting to become recognized that there is a clear gender bias in the way these disorders are diagnosed. In my case it is especially astounding, as I’ve shown clear and obvious symptoms my entire life, yet was not diagnosed (or even suspected of having them) until I was FORTY EIGHT (I’m now 51.) I know a great many women that this is the case for.
        I’ve never fit the traditional mold of what society expects of women, not even as a child, but I have also never had the slightest bit of gender dysphoria or desire to be or live as anything other than my biological sex of female*, because when I was told I was “wrong” for not fitting into that narrow little box of “feminine”, I KNEW that *I* was just fine as I was, that women and men were much more alike than they were different, and that the only thing that was “wrong” was a society trying to stifle the natural desires and interests I had AS A FEMALE in the name of some kind of ridiculous conformity. I figured that out *in grade school* and it honestly astounds me that grown-ass adults still cling to a false gender binary that doesn’t actually exist in nature.
        And now to try and link actual, non-sex gene/chromosome related neurodevelpmental disorders to that false gender binary like it means something? My head is currently SPINNING. (And yes, such disorders as dyspraxia, ADHD, and ASD DO have a genetic basis, NONE of which are related to those that govern or influence a person’s sex. Also, where does your theory leave intersex people with those disorders? Among others that don’t fit your bias.)
        You *might* want to do a little research the genetics of sex selection & how the sexes are differentiated (or not) during fetal development, because not only is it fascinating, you will have a much more solid basis for coming up with your theories.
        Also good research: our closest evolutionary relatives, the bonobos, to see how another primate society works, and the sheer number of creatures in nature who do not have binary sexes (all female species of lizards, creatures that can change sex, etc)

        *I’ve never had an eating disorder, never had an anxiety disorder, I am HORRIBLE at math (dyscalculia, yo!), wasn’t sexually abused as a child or teen (and the way you state that is INCREDIBLY victim blamey, UGH!), and not remotely dyslexic (I read early AND comprehended what I read) despite being so socially unskilled as a kid I felt like an alien or circus freak, sticking out like a turd in a punch bowl from ALL the kids around me, not just the girls, hating pink, and having TONS of interests generally ascribed to boys (I still loved Barbies, clothes, sewing, dollhouses, & horses)
        As for working in the sex industry…there are plenty of jobs in the sex industry that are easy money for women who are might otherwise be stuck in crummy low paying/minimum wage jobs for any number of reasons, of which being on the spectrum is only one, and in my experience, not even the most likely.

    • Butcherbaby
      Butcherbaby says:

      Autism spectrum disorders have a genetic component. They are very real, and many people who have them need extra help to be able to function in life. THAT’S why we have diagnoses and labels for people who are “just different”.
      I have a whopping list of neurodevelopmental disorders that I’ve struggled with my entire life and did not get diagnosed until I was nearly 50. Having been aware of them when I was younger would have made a HUGE amount of difference in my life, and I came from a wonderful, loving family with parents who fully accepted me as “just different” my entire life.
      Now, this author’s theory here doesn’t amount to a hill of beans because it doesn’t seem like she’s done much research on ASD, and has very outdated ideas on gender, and is trying to link the two in a very bizarre way, but that doesn’t mean autism spectrum disorders aren’t REAL.

    • Tracy L Lehane
      Tracy L Lehane says:

      Autism is a legitimate neurological disorder. It isn’t a question whether or not it exists, and to hear you say that is invalidating af. I’m 40, have never been able to get a job,never driven a car, I’ve been thrown in jail multiple times. I survived my youth by being an attractive female…and then in my early 30s I applied for and was approved for SSI disability. Autism doesn’t affect me just a little bit… it has severely impacted my whole life.

  9. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Thank you for the test. I got 9 out of 13, no eating disorder, no dyslexia, no sexual abuse, no work in sex industry. In your other blog post on Aspergers in girls, I fit all qualities: scatterbrained, little socially weird, no follow through, and messy hair.

    While I believe that I may have Aspergers, how will that knowledge help someone who doesn’t live in a developed country with good mental health facilities?

    Two months ago, I visit a hospital with a center for autism and request for a diagnosis or appointment, the nurse said they will take calls only by September. Last week, I requested a psychiatrist’s office for an appointment, but they haven’t given me feedback.

    Last Tuesday, I met a counselor and told him that I have always experienced depression and anxiety since high school and maybe I have Aspergers. He said that I do not have psychosis and my problems are behavioral. He said I can consult a psychologist but I do not need medicine.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Whoa! Find a different dr. I’ve always had female Dr.’s for myself and my children and have never been belittled. I get better care and more understanding and patience from women.

      I was done with all the mansplaining decades ago-before it was called mansplaining. In fact I was reminded recently of what a great decision that was, during one of my daughter’s sessions with her psychologist she asked if her male colleague could sit in and watch, and I told her no he definitely was not welcomed. He proceeded to come in anyway after she said we didn’t want him to come in and without us asking or caring he began to give his whole life story before leaving the room and it was all I could do to contain myself from yelling at him to please leave our session and that we didn’t care. He sure felt great about himself though- ugh.

      If you have been dealing with depression and anxiety your whole life that is not behavioural! Please find someone else.

  10. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    Here’s a link to a checklist for identifying Asperger’s in females: https://taniaannmarshall.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/moving-towards-a-female-profile-the-unique-characteristics-abilities-and-talents-of-asperwomen-adult-women-with-asperger-syndrome/

    It surprised me how this list describes everything in my life to a T.

    Re refusal to cross the midline: I don’t know if it’s even remotely relevant, but it reminds me of my delay in speech development when I was a toddler. According to my parents and relatives, I didn’t utter individual words like other babies did. My parents tried a million tactics to get me to say something but I didn’t budge. I didn’t start speaking until I was almost three, but when I finally did, it was meaningful, structured speech, and I could carry on a conversation as well as any other kid.

    In college I asked my psychology professor about this. He claimed that it’s more common in young boys than in girls – girls tend to use speech to socialize and connect with people earlier in their childhood so they may start experimenting with words, whereas boys the same age aren’t as mature in this aspect. So this weird progression of speech development that happened to me was probably a sign of Asperger’s. Just an anecdote.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Wow. This list blows my mind. First because I, too, have everything on it. But also because the list is so insanely long.

      I have such a difficult time explaining to people why Aspergers is so consuming. I have a hard time explaining to people why just because I am able to look normal doesn’t mean that I’m not struggling all the time. But this list is so long, and covers so many different aspects of life, that it’s sort of a visual representation of why someone with Aspergers doesn’t want to leave the house or talk to anyone: the problems are literally everywhere.

      Penelope

  11. Tabitha Messmore Martin
    Tabitha Messmore Martin says:

    Thank you for this Penelope!! I’m starting to have much stronger suspicions about my 11y/o daughter. Any suggestions on books and also how to go about getting her tested??

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      MY DD is 11 and our insurance completely covered all of our testing, minus the $25 copay for the office visit.

      Find a testing center that is under your insurance. Tell them you suspect ASD, ADHD, and Anxiety and they’ll test for everything.

      IT was the best thing I ever did. I even did a pharmocogenetic test that let me know which medications would be the best for her. Sadly, we found out she also had the MTHRFR gene and have also had to make dietary changes for her as well. But it’s an excellent test if you can afford it.

      • Bostonian
        Bostonian says:

        I wish we had your insurance. Our insurance only covers neuropsychological testing for brain injury, stroke, neurosurgery, rehab, etc. All that costs more than 4K if you have to pay for it.

        Our insurance explicitly rules out any neuro-psych testing having to do with education, ADHD, or ASD.

        So my advice to Tabitha is first review what your insurance covers.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          I had that issue, too, when I was getting my son diagnosed. And then there was a two-year wait for the less expensive people who will test in NYC. We had very little money, so we cashed out a 401K to do it.

          And, if anyone is thinking about this, it’s a decision I never regret. The earlier you get a diagnosis the more you can help the kid before they won’t take help. So much of parenting a kid with Aspergers is making the kid aware of the fact that the people who are most successful with Aspergers are the people who are best at taking help/input/medicine.

          Penelope

          • Tabitha Messmore Martin
            Tabitha Messmore Martin says:

            Thanks! That’s the first place I checked, and my insurance is the same in that they don’t cover ASD testing. But I’m looking at other resources, through her current therapist and school as well.

            And the funny thing about the midline is that my daughter went to a Waldorf school from PreK-3rd and that’s one thing they actually “test” for and she was borderline as a Kindergartener. She’s also always been super sensitive and is a super picky eater her whole life.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          If we had to pay for testing it would have been 4k minimum.

          I had to do testing for my youngest DD as well and our insurance covered it. It’s just whatever comes with my husband’s insurance at work…I had no idea that it was unusual. Wow… I’m just not sure what to say now.

          However, there are other alternatives through universities for instance, that offer very low cost testing, and yes there is a wait, but it’s worth it because then you get on their list for all the social skills groups and don’t have to wait the 6 months for that.

  12. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    This actually made me relieved…after seeing some of the other things you’ve wrote about markers for women with autism, I started worrying I had it (slight social anxiety, borderline OCD according to stupid tests I’ve taken on the Internet but never officially been diagnosed with, disordered eating but not an eating disorder, trouble figuring out how to date/get married (although that is changing now – yay!, etc…).

    But I scored very low on this. I’m an INFJ and an HSP (and a bit of a hypochondriac, haha)…so I’m going to chalk up all my weird quirks to just that. I’m extremely intuitive and good at reading people…

    Also – funnily enough, I feel like I’m a prototypical female, but sort of had that crushed out by society & the feminist movement who said we all need to act more like men. I got made fun of growing up for NOT being a tomboy and hating sports, so I’ve been sort of camoflaging and repressing my “feminine” traits over the years to adapt. How effed up is that? I am good at math though. But probably better at English & other related subjects.

    But overall, this is just plain fascinating, especially the gender dysmorphia part.

  13. Shannon Graham
    Shannon Graham says:

    > Refusal to cross the midline. This is walking before you crawl. In an older kid it looks like being clumsy. Or maybe impressively clumsy which we mistakenly label ambidextrous. Or it looks like having perfect posture, which looks awkward in a boy, but almost ballerina-like in a girl so people overlook it.

    Could you expand on this?

  14. jessica
    jessica says:

    I find this post really interesting. Anecdotally and from my small pool- What would make a tomboy girl an aspie? I know a typical female who has her PHd from Columbia in Math and works as a chief of staff at Google. How do you know the difference between the outliers that are non-typical? Strictly social skills?

  15. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    A big differentiator would be executive function. You need great executive function to be chief of staff, and people with Aspergers have poor executive function.

    But the other clue here is that most people who have a PhD in math would die before they’d take a job as chief of staff. So I have a feeling she’s not that good at math. And my guess is that she doesn’t have Aspergers.

    Penelope

  16. Diane Ott
    Diane Ott says:

    You asked about the flags at the top of the post. I think they make perfect sense here and cannot imagine anyone being offended. I put on pants today is hysterical! I might hand these flags anywhere.

    Dee

  17. J.E.
    J.E. says:

    With Asperger’s is it an all or nothing deal? Meaning, is it possible for someone to have “some” Asperger’s? Can people exhibit Asperger traits in some areas, but not others or is it pretty much the full range of characteristics if someone has Asperger’s?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Intrinsic to Aspergers is not understanding what makes you different. That is, if someone can see social differences then they don’t have Apergers. Most people with Aspergers think they have it only a little. That’s why it’s so hard to live with people with Aspergers — they never think it’s “that bad”.

      Penelope

      • Bostonian
        Bostonian says:

        Do you suppose that if parents have Asperger’s and their kids have Asperger’s too, that the parents are similarly likely to think their kids have it just a bit?

  18. Kyra
    Kyra says:

    I love the ribbons, and “saying what we’re all thinking” definitely deserves a prize! I hope all parents of girls read this article.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I’m assuming this comment comes from someone dating a woman with Aspergers. Women with Aspergers don’t cheat. Sneakiness I a social skill. Most women with Aspergers don’t even like leaving the house if they don’t have to, so cheating is far from their minds. That said, women with Aspergers are at high risk for partnering with cheaters. It’s easy to take advantage of a woman with Aspergers because they don’t notice.

      Penelope

      • Fairybells
        Fairybells says:

        Hello Penelope,

        This is a wonderful thread, I can relate to a lot of it and am currently awaiting a diagnosis, I would like to outline a few of my troubles/experiences, I am awaiting a referral to a psychiatrist for potential Asperger’s,

        As a teen when growing up, I had what I would call my first breakdown, I spent days sat under my bed reading and crying and feeling sick and confused about ‘ growing up ‘ and the feeling of it almost made me feel ‘ homesick ‘ but I cant put a definite emotion on it, I can also remember spending alot of my time tidying things up, sorting socks into pairs in my sock drawers, playing ‘ teacher ‘ and imaginary friends, I also loved counting cars that drove by, categorising them into color, after enjoying the activity so much at school, I spent hours singing, and perfecting this, and according to my mum I could sing before I could talk! ( apparently I loved the spicegirls )

        I apparently when I threw a temper used to say diddly diddly and stamp my feet on the landing, which my parents saw as me being me, but as hillarious as it sounds, it does seem incredibly odd haha.

        Apparently my mother recently told me when I was upset about change, id repeatedly hit my head against my radiator to a point where I would leave a bloody mark :( and they said the way they dealt with this, was leaving me alone as there was no way to stop me’

        ( I hope people don’t mind me sharing ) I feared having to shave, going through puberty, I hid my legs under jeans! arms under long sleeve tshirts, and the idea of becoming a women terrified me! I just wanted to stay the same, something id always known. I ended up opening up to my dad ( wierdly ) thankfully he was supportive and helped me, and made me realise its normal, as well as breaking into laughter as I broke into tears, saying ” Im a gorilla ” haha! and then telling me to go and speak to my mum, my poor dad!

        Then my periods happened. Ive researched this everywhere and I can’t find it so im going to describe my account of how it made me feel.

        I didn’t know when to ‘ change ‘ it didn’t feel natural so it resulted in me having to run to my mum asking her should I now, and she found this incredibly embarrassing, but to me it felt like a normal question to ask, I just hated the entire idea of my life changing forever from what id always know.

        In primary school, all of my friends were boys, I played with them every playtime, and was close friends with them all, I found I didn’t enjoy playing with the girls, joining in their games, I just didn’t ‘ relate to them ‘ however my best friend was a girl, but she was a tomboy, so I feel this will be why, I find it odd however how Im very girly, but found boys company ‘ more natural ‘. Its the same in my adult life, resulting in me going through friends like no tomorrow :( as they felt ive lead them on romantically which is devastatingly sad, as I don’t find friends too easily.

        My father has a special interest in nature, he is very knowledgeable on the subject, and he has described his love of keeping animals as an ‘ addiction ‘ rather than something that can be taken or left, which makes complete sense to me, he is dyslexic and has epilepsy, but his social skills seem to be quite ‘ great ‘ I find though, this seems to be more of he speaks, and we listen, which I honestly don’t mind because hes highly intelligent and a great story teller!

        My aunt is into antiques, heavily, and takes in information like a sponge, I feel you could ask her anything general knowledge related and she could provide an answer! she also writes poetry and is wonderful at it. I would say her special interest is antiques, recently she opened up to me, and it amazed me, she said she doesn’t like to make friends, as the idea of the dynamic of being friends, scares her off! she said she doesn’t feel shes capable of keeping up the expectations of friendship, she has been married to my uncle for 60 years, and they’re best friends,.

        My other Aunt is an opera singer, her sister an artist who paints beautiful vases, we are all very musical and very creative, but we really struggle socially.

        The reason I have gone into such depth, and forgive me for doing so, is because I think autism runs ryfe in my family! without them realising ( which they’d never admit or get diognosed unfortunately as they’d hate for people to know,in the fear of being treated differently, as it would play on their anxiety! ) , but its when I was fed up with suffering with my lack of social skills, and finding life generally hard that all the puzzle pieces seemed to come together, it feels ive been masking who I really am for a very long time just to be ‘ accepted’

        I am wondering whether it sounds to you, like I carry any of the traits? id be very interested to know, especially from somebody who seems to have a vast knowledge on it, <3

        Thanks Penalope!

        Fairybells

        ps id prefer to remain anonymous for this as some of the things I speak of, are quite embarrassing topics, thankyou!

  19. Anon
    Anon says:

    How does getting a diagnosis help exactly? The issues one needs to face still remain- with or without the label.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      If you’ve lived your whole life feeling like you don’t fit in, you sort of get used to it. You adapt and accept you just won’t fit. So when you hear there’s a reason, it’s almost unbelievable. It seems incredible. Having someone who is a doctor tell you, yes, it’s true, Aspergers is true, then you are more likely to believe that. If you accept you have Aspergers then you can start to understand why things are difficult and what you can do to work around it. The first step, though, is knowing what’s causing the problem.

      If you can believe you have Aspergers without getting a diagnosis then you don’t need a diagnosis.
      Penelope

  20. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    My daughter is eight and after repeatedly asking for a referral I finally have a doctor that listens. She is almost 100% all of this. The more I read about Aspergers and girls the more. I’m excited for her in many ways because hopefully we can find ways to help her navigate the upcoming puberty and adolescence.
    Her only “friends” are boys. She reads CONSTANTLY. I’ve always compared her to Johnny Five (the robot from Short Circuit). She NEEDS input. She needs to learn constantly. She is in the gifted program already. She was cognitively evaluated as gifted as well. So all her teachers act like she’s fine but she struggles daily with all the nuances of socialization. She gets overwhelmed and exhausted.
    Thankfully she is very confident (as of now) in herself and feels like she is perfect just the way she is (because SHE IS!). And she does have playmates at home and in the neighborhood (all boys). Thanks for giving me insight in how SHE feels. She is young and struggles identifying her feelings.

    • fairybells
      fairybells says:

      Hello Sarah!

      I got emotional reading this, as this is how I was as a child, all of my friends were boys and I loved playing with them, I also loved reading! to a point where my teacher would allow me to read out in-front of the class, as they knew I enjoyed it so much at story time, and I had my own box of books, more advanced ones as I finished the entire library! :)

      She sounds like a wonderful young girl, with a very supportive mother, I wish I had this kind of foundation to fall back on as a child, as I think now as a 25 year old woman, my mental health would be alot stronger, with more of an understanding of who I am, and why I am this way.

      Since having suspicions about autism, I already feel better about who I am because I have a reason for it, and I am exited for a diagnosis

  21. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    What about nonverbal learning disability? All the hyperlexia, many autistic traits and sensory processing issues, not much of the being good at math.

  22. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    Penelope,

    Thank you for sharing your life and life experiences with us. I was recently “dumped” by a woman who I suspect is somewhere on the schizoid spectrum, but also has definite aspi traits as well, something that she alluded to while we were dating. She never openly came out and revealed any of her issues, I coincidently stumbled on some articles linking INTJs to SPD and to a lesser degree, Aspergers. To a small degree, we had an affair as we are both separated, but the affair was sexless, aside from text sex.(both our schedules were so busy, we rarely had time to get together) and it was usually during the day. We dated for 3 months. Every time we scheduled a rendezvous for sex, she found a reason to cancel or reschedule, but each time our plans would be foiled. The pattern would always be me getting her worked up over the phone or texting, us making plans, then her canceling the plans. When we would kiss, it as like I was kissing a robot or an alien that took on human form. Just nothing there behind it. I am a very emotionally open, empathetic and agreeable person. I think in the end my desire for intimacy scared her off or just made me otherwise undesirable. She would never talk about feelings.

    It’s been 6 months since we stopped dating,but we are still friends as we work in the same industry, but I am still very interested in her for some strange reason. I’m drawn to her. I want to tell her that I wasn’t aware of who she is as a person and I had unwittingly said and did many things that would probably make her very uncomfortable. I would like to explain things to her, but I’m not sure it would matter as it seems she places very little importance on close relationships outside of her nuclear family. I’m also afraid that if she knows I know “who she is” this will chase her away permanently. Don’t know what to do…..

  23. Gandi
    Gandi says:

    I agree with many of your insights. However, your stereotype gender views are totally wrong. Many girls hear at school that boys are better at math – then they don’t want to do anything with math. I’m an aspie girl and professional artist – many girls I know from art school were autistic. I hate stereotypong and it is sad that on one of so few blogs about aspie girls you wrote stereotyping old theories.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      There are a lot of uses for stereotying. One is diagnosing people with autism. We don’t really have another way to do it.

      Penelope

  24. Laura Brisbane
    Laura Brisbane says:

    I wasn’t sure what to make of the picture of the ribbons until I read the post twice. The idea of the unusual laugh really resonates with me – was constantly accused of ‘faking it’ my whole life. Handy information I wish my parents could have imparted in my teens…

  25. Laura
    Laura says:

    The ribbon that describes me is “Best at saying what we’re all thinking.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that about myself, and I take pride in it.
    I am 32 years old, and I fully believe believe that I have high-functioning Autism (no official diagnosis). I already take SSRIs, which have helped with my symptoms tremendously.
    At this point, is it even worthwhile to get an official diagnosis of Autism, or am I too old? For some reason, I REALLY want that diagnosis. The thought of having an Autism diagnosis is very calming to me.

  26. Angela
    Angela says:

    Holy crap! Wow. Thank you.
    I’m in my 40’s now, currently being tested. (If I don’t chicken out.) My adult children (I had them very young) have been thinking I was on the high-functioning end of the spectrum for a long time. I’m terrified, and almost relieved at the same time. Social anxiety (anxiety in general) has gotten so bad as I’ve gotten older that I can hardly function.
    Yeah–I never got the ‘sex norm’ thing. Even now I can’t tell when someone’s blatantly flirting with me, and they take that response as encouragement. (That alone has caused so much pain.)
    People always thought I was gay, because I preferred being around boys. But I’m not. Sometimes I thought it’d be easier if I were.
    I had no idea . . . thank you for this.

  27. Claire Ann Benson
    Claire Ann Benson says:

    Hi there I really am saddened by this becsuse ive tried to take my life 4 times in my life over the past 5 years….. I see tge world as patterns repeats and im over the top ive always had higher functioning intelligence but since the death of my mum im worse but noone either at work nhs or family will take the time to understand

  28. Tracy L Lehane
    Tracy L Lehane says:

    Please stop spreading your opinion as fact. Not everyone with autism is good at math, some of us even have dyscalculia. We don’t all have an eating disorder. Not everyone with Asperger’s has a high IQ, actually most are in the normal range. Your diagnostic criteria are not accurate, just silly stereotypes. You seem a bit narcissistic to be totally honest.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Diagnostics are stereotypes. That’s why the DSM tells people to diagnose mental disorders if they have “five or eight traits” or experience “one feeling in each of the three categories” etc. Also, I have dyscalculia. I get it. You can have Aspergers and not have all the traits.

      Do you know the easiest way to tell if someone has Aspergers? They argue when most people wouldn’t.

      Penelope

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