Wednesday, June 4, 2014

#MentalHealthAwareness: Understanding Girls With #Aspergers?

Welcome back to my series on Aspergers and Autism for the Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Hop. The last time I posted I introduced you to the term Asperger's Syndrome and how it affects those who have it. The guidelines given to medical and mental health professions in the DSM is supposed to help them diagnosis Aspergers but there are many who have Asperger's Syndrome that fall through the cracks. The majority of these patients are women.

The problem with using the DSM to diagnosing women and girls with Asperger's Syndrome is that the criteria was developed by the studies that Hans Asperger conducted on boys. Women who have Asperger's Syndrome often times do not exhibit the same symptoms as their male counterparts. It is estimated the male to female ratio is between 2:1 and 16:1. These ratios may be greatly distorted because many women and girls are left undiagnosed. It can be very frustrating for women who have Asperger's Syndrome but are left undiagnosed.

So just how do women and girls with Asperger's Syndrome differ from their male counterparts and what qualities do they share?

Here's are some great charts that was created by that can answer that question. 

Mental Health professionals are still trying to understand how Asperger's Syndrome exhibits itself in females. We've come a long way since Hans Asperger made his clinical diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome in the 1940's. In 2011, the National Autistic Society in the United Kingdom found the following differences in woman with Asperger's Syndrome. 

  • Girls are more able to follow social actions by delayed imitation because they observe other children and copy them, perhaps masking the symptoms of Asperger syndrome (Attwood, 2007).
  • Girls are often more aware of and feel a need to interact socially. They are involved in social play, but are often led by their peers rather than initiating social contact. Girls are more socially inclined and many have one special friend.
  • In our society, girls are expected to be social in their communication. Girls on the spectrum do not ‘do social chit chat’ or make ‘meaningless’ comments in order to facilitate social communication. The idea of a social hierarchy and how one communicates with people of different status can be problematic and get girls into trouble with teachers.
  • Evidence suggests that girls have better imagination and more pretend play  (Knickmeyer et al, 2008). Many have a very rich and elaborate fantasy world with imaginary friends. Girls escape into fiction, and some live in another world with, for example, fairies and witches.
  • The interests of girls in the spectrum are very often similar to those of other girls – animals, horses, classical literature – and therefore are not seen as unusual. It is not the special interests that differentiate them from their peers but it is the quality and intensity of these interests. Many obsessively watch soap operas and have an intense interest in celebrities.
There is still so much more we need to learn about Asperger's Syndrome.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked barbies and paper dolls and reading reference books. I didn't have much else in my life to obsess about as a kid. As an adult, I thrive and feel safest when I'm researching and gathering information and when I'm solving a problem. Those seem very general, but they are activities that have required steps. I make dolls as an adult and I never remake the same doll twice because the second doll isn't solving a problem. I also research the hell out of everything. If it catches my interest, it's the act of researching it that drives me and not the subject. Once I know as much as I can about the subject, I get bored and move on. :)