Asperger’s Syndrome (or Asperger Syndrome or AS) is a form of high functioning autism, characterized by obsessive interests and a difficulty in making friends. While commonly characterized as a “mild” form of autism, it is devastating in its own right.
Starting in the 1960s, scientists theorized that boys inherited only one male X chromosome from their mothers, but girls inherited two (one from each parent). Thus, girls do not develop AS because the extra X chromosome from their fathers somehow “protects” them from it. This premise was never successfully proven.
Today, experts are realizing that the frequency of AS in girls is much higher than previously believed. The male-to-female ratio of Asperger’s is thought to be 3-to-1, but Dr. Tony Attwood, the world’s foremost authority on Asperger’s Syndrome, maintains that there is actually much more parity between the sexes in incidence.
"Aspie" boys often appear like “little professors” who are experts in one subject, but Aspie girls are more like “little philosophers.” They often appear odd or aloof or seem to live in fantasy worlds. Typically in elementary school, they cling to a single best friend and the loss of that friend is very traumatic.
All Aspie children have problems navigating the social world. However, when boys get frustrated, they tend to act out in aggressive ways that garner adult attention. Aspie girls tend to internalize their suffering, appearing shy and passive.
Aspie girls have a facility to camouflage their social confusion and successfully mimic social behaviors. Since they do not understand how to process and express emotions in a normal way, their faces often develop a “mask-like” quality. With a permanent smile on their faces, they constantly attempt to please others.
Tragically, these “good girls” rarely get the help they need and this results in low self-esteem, depression (often clinical), vulnerability to relationship predators or living in abusive relationships, excessive weight loss or gain or selective mutism, among other things.
Girls can be identified as having Asperger’s Syndrome through their special interests and unique behaviors. The diagnosis is a point of liberation for them to understand why they experience the world as they do and discover they are not alone.
I have to admit, this description of Asperger’s in girls rang like bell in my own life, right down to my best friend moving in fourth grade being as traumatic as a death. Having high functioning sons, I see a lot of myself in them and it inspired me to take the autism test for adults featured on our website. I scored a “35," the typical score for someone with Asperger’s.
While it’s too late to undo all the hardships I bore as an undiagnosed girl with Asperger’s, it does bring me new clarity and peace of mind in looking back on my life. Hopefully, with new information, more girls will receive the help they need and avoid the perils of camouflaging their pain all too well.
To access the Autism Spectrum Quotient Quiz for adults, visit http://www.autismkey.com/autism-spectrum-quotient.php