A look at the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome in girls, and why female children often go undiagnosed.
Asperger’s Syndrome has traditionally been thought of as a “male” disorder. Asperger’s is often overlooked in females, because professionals tend to look for symptoms only in male children. Many of the symptoms of Asperger’s also present differently in affected females.
One of the biggest obstacles that females aspies face is getting the correct diagnosis. Though it is thought that there are many more males with Asperger’s syndrome and autism, some researchers now believe that it is almost as prevalent in females, but that the majority of females go undiagnosed.
Like their male counterparts, girls with Asperger’s syndrome tend to have “special interests” or areas of interest in which they are obsessed with. However, females may not have as strong of an interest in their “special interest” as males. It is also not uncommon for their “special interest” to be something more socially acceptable than the interests selected by male aspies. Whereas a boy with Asperger’s may become fascinated with train schedules, a female might be obsessed with horses or dolls. Because they may focus all of their attention on things that are normally seen as acceptable interests for little girls, the intensity of their interest may go unnoticed.
Whereas boys with Asperger’s are often described as “little professors” because of their tendency to become experts on one particular subject, aspie girls are usually described as “little philosophers.” They may spend hours thinking about things such as whether everyone sees the color “green” as the same color or analyzing the meaning of concepts such as the “mind.” Girls with Asperger’s syndrome may appear odd to other children and adults, and may spend a lot of time living in a fantasy world.
The social difficulties in female aspies may also not be as apparent, even if they are just as serious. Females are better at “scripting” social situations to be better able to fit in. This means that a girl with Asperger’s might be able to interact in an almost normal way by simply mimicking what those around her do in social settings. A telltale sign that a child is “scripting” is that they tend to mimic not only the words being said, but the inflection used. By monitoring a child for odd inflection and patterned speech, it may be possible to detect Asperger’s.
Some of the Asperger’s traits are also seen as more endearing or socially acceptable in girls than in boys. A child with Asperger’s may be more quiet and withdrawn. Since girls are expected to be more quiet and timid than boys, a girl with these traits might be seen as “sweet” or well-behaved. This can cause a diagnosis to be overlooked.
In general, girls are better at hiding their problems and difficulties, so girls on the spectrum might never be noticed if the adults around them don’t take notice of their condition. Girls on the autism spectrum with a high IQ may be especially adept at hiding their symptoms.
It is important to make sure that girls with Asperger’s syndrome get the diagnosis and help that they need.
To read about the unique set of challenges that adult women with Asperger’s syndrome face, read this article: Women with Asperger’s Syndrome
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