Girls with Aspergers


Are there behaviors that are seen in girls with Aspergers, but not in boys, that we haven’t yet identified as part of the profile… or certain gender-related behavior that might fool us into ruling out the diagnosis? What about the “pretend play” that has been observed in many young girls at our center, which on the surface appears to be quite creative and imaginative?

There seem to be many girls (on the spectrum) who are enamored with princesses, fantasy kingdoms, unicorns, and animals­­. How many diagnosticians observe these interests and skills as imagination, and rule out a diagnosis based on these behaviors? Might this interest in imaginary kingdoms and talking animals be more common among girls than boys, yet still, exist alongside other autistic/AS traits?

And what about one typical response to confusion or frustration­­–hitting or other such outward expressions of frustration? Does this type of acting out occur more often in boys with autism than in girls? Is confusion or frustration simply easier to identify in boys than girls because we already look for it?

Among the general population, it is commonly thought that boys do “act out” more than girls. (You sometimes hear teachers complain there are too many boys in his or her class and its impact on the class’ personality!) Is it easier to identify boys as having autism because these behaviors are more obvious than girls who may experience inward or passive signs of aggression?

Professionals whose task it is to diagnose individuals with autism or Asperger’s need to learn more about the full range of qualities and personality differences unique to girls and women on the spectrum.

And what about the girls’ and women’s route to self-understanding? Indeed, several women I have worked with who have Aspergers have talked about the unique challenges they experience because they constitute a “minority” within this special group of society.

I believe that in order to gain self-understanding, each person with – or without – autism needs to see his or her own reflection in the world. I call this ‘seeing one’s place.’ For people with autism or AS, who already are challenged in this area, it becomes imperative that they meet, listen to, talk with, read about, and learn from others with autism. What happens as a result of this coming together is that they are able to see their ‘reflection’ and better understand their own unique styles of thinking and being. Women with autism, although benefiting greatly from getting to know other people with autism, often find that they might be the only woman (or one of the very few women) in the group.


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6 thoughts on “Girls with Aspergers

  • July 12, 2010 at 2:34 am

    This is stupid. Since autism is the trendy diagnosis of the moment, every child who behaves in an unusual or problematic way is diagnosed as autistic.

  • July 10, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    I had to write a paper about a communication issue that resulted because of gender. The trouble I had was first identifying WHAT gender. Half the time I have communication issues it is because people expect me to act like a typical woman, because I look like a woman. I don’t necessarily THINK like one, so even my behavior that might look like typical woman behavior probably has a completely different motivation than a typical woman’s would. It might be typical CARRIE behavior, but it means something completely different.

    Playing with my hair, for example. I do that because it is a stimming thing, not because I’m flirting.

  • July 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Now that I think about it, boys under the spectrum are easier to identify than girls. I guess it has to do with the fact that it is within a male’s nature, generally, to be more aggressive than females. I do Speech Stimulation Therapy and out of all my clients, I have noted that the boys are usually more robust and more difficult to get to. The girls are calmer, and into their animals, dolls, and ponies. You actually have to stimulate them to work! Growing up, most of the children I knew who were autistic were boys, and I can tell you that they had very difficult personalities. So I have to say I agree with this notion. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I write blogs on feel free to visit us!

  • July 7, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I have always had this fascination for fairtytales, in fact I am now a fantasy geek.  It’s funny you mention this happens in girls, but I am a transman (identify as male but is biologically female). It would be fun if someone studied autism on transgendered individuals.

  • July 6, 2010 at 3:17 pm

     – So very true! 🙂  All you have to do is walk into my daughter’s preschool class (which consists of about half a class of kids with autism and the other half of the class consists of kids who have hearing and vision impairments) and you can see it for yourself!

    I do think that the traits of autism and Asperger’s (and everything in between) manifests differently in girls than in boys.  But duh, that’s because the genders themselves are different! You put a NT girl and a NT boy together and you’ll notice differences!
    I do have to say that it was difficult to get an actual diagnosis for my daughter, because she is a girl.  It’s much more typical for boys to have autism than it is for girls, which I think set back our journey to diagnosis to some extent (she was sent for hearing tests multiple times, because they thought she only had hearing issues and nothing else).

  • July 6, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I think it was Daniel Tammet that made the comment “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism”. In other words, each person is different.

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