Monday, July 9, 2012

Asperger's and Girls

Did you know that for every girl who is diagnosed with Asperger's, 10 boys are diagnosed? Because of the differences in how Asperger's presents itself in boys and girls, it is harder to determine if a girl is AS that if a boy is. I have heard it put simply: boys "act out", girls retreat inward, learning to copy and paste behaviors into their lives and actions. It doesn't make the the social difficulties go away, but it intellectualizes their behavior. This can make people think that a girl with AS is perfectly normal, when indeed, inside, they are struggling with an internal battle! This is what I have experienced in my life.

There is a book called "Asperger's and Girls" featuring Tony Attwood and Temple Gradin, plus 7 more experts......
I have read it and i HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who is interested in whats going on in my head, as well as maybe learn something more about what makes girls with AS different that the boy with AS. 

There are some quotes that I highlighted as I read, and I will share them here, along with my comments on the quote, in ( ).

Tony Attwood:
"They often lack reciprocity in their natural social play and can be too controlling when playing with their peers. This is illustrated in Liane Holliday-Willey's autobiography.
The fun came from setting things up and arranging things. Maybe this desire to organize things rather than play with things, is the reason I never had a great interest in my peers. They always wanted to use the things I had so carefully arranged. They would want to rearrange and redo. They did not let me control the environment."
(I totally remember this with Barbies. I would want to dress and redress, and set everything up, a lot more than actually playing.)

"Like boys with Asperger's Syndrome, girls may see no value in being fashionable, preferring practical clothing and not using cosmetics or deodorants. The latter characteristic can be quite conspicuous."
(While I have no issue with deodorant, I do find fashion to be nonsensical, and I hate makeup, if only because it is irritating! I always end up rubbing my eyes because it makes me itchy.)

Sheila Wagner, M.Ed.:
"Girls with AS who have difficulty making sustained eye contact with others are often viewed as shy, coy, embarrassed, or naive and innocent, rather than as having the poor social skills inherent in an autism spectrum disorder."

"School psychologists above all should be knowledgeable enough to at least question the presence of Asperger's Syndrome in female students who are referred to them. Any time there is the combination of social immaturity, perserverative interests, lack of eye contact, poor handwriting, poor gross motor coordination, repetitive behaviors, isolation or teasing by peers, falling grades, and being viewed as "odd" by teachers and peers, Aspergers Syndrome should be investigated."
(I am in COMPLETE agreement, and with the exception of the fact that I don't know if I had poor gross motor coordination, other than I was not "graceful" enough for sports.... I can relate to EVERY SINGLE CHARACTERISTIC here.)

Lisa Iland:
"Levels of Relationship
5. Close Friends
4. Friends
3. Acquaintances
2. Familiar Faces
1. Strangers"
(The author goes on to say that there are differences between these groups, and I'm sure everyone knows there is, and how you would relate to these different groups of people in your life.)
"A Close Friend might not mind hearing about Star Wars for 30 minutes, but it could cause the end of an Acquaintanceship."
"Sometimes girls with AS may believe that they are Friends or Close Friends with a Familiar Face or an Acquaintance. This can cause social upset and potential humiliation in front of peers."

"Friendship is like a game of tennis; if you are the one serving the ball all the time and no one is hitting it back - it is not a real game."
(I feel this all the time. For me, I have a hard time with the categories of friends. If I go out of my way to be friends with somebody, I want to be Close Friends with them, not "just friends" and not acquaintances. Either you are my friend, or not, because I wont put time into someone I'm not interested in being friends with. Sounds snobby, but really, it simplifies in my mind who I know I can trust, and who I'm not sure I can. These "not friends" can become Close friends, but I feel like a switch is constantly being flipped from Friend, to Not Friend.)

Jennifer McIlwee Myers:
"As an Aspie who has both conditions, I can assure you that being in love and having special interests (aka "autistic obsessions") are much the same feeling. However, being in love involves another human being, who has free will, while an obsession with, say, trains, usually does not."
(This is so, deeply true. I have had obsessions both with things, and with people. These people can be viewed as "things" because they were not actually people who could be in love with me in return, so they were a "living thing obsession" of sorts, I suppose. If that makes any sense.)

"When that snap happens, watch out! A girl or woman with AS who has been sociable when she needed solitude is not going to mince words. The word "meltdown" does not do it justice. A person who is strained to her utmost ability to cope and then asked to do just a little more will have plenty of rage and no emotional resources for recovery. It's not a pretty thing."
(I OFTEN need time to myself. To my own little world. I get awfully cranky when I don't get it!)

"I have had many opportunities to talk to parents of teens and pre-teens with AS, and the questions they most want an answer to is, "How can I make my child socially adept? How can I get her to want to be sociable like the other kids?"
The answer is, of course, you can't. The more important answer is you shouldn't. Girls with AS need more time to recover from social interactions than typical girls, and they must work harder in social situations than typical girls. Trust me, even when I am in a social situation I've learned to deal with well, and it looks like I'm just blending in, it's a huge effort. That doesn't mean I never have fun in a social situation; it just means that I need less time socializing and more time recovering in order to manage. You can have fun hiking all day, but there's a limit to how much hiking a body can stand."

So there, a list of blips from the book. This book was excellent, and I think anyone who has anything to do with children should read it. Especially, of course, educators who are constantly meeting, teaching and observing many of their students each day, month, year.....

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