Asperger Syndrome in Girls More Common than Once Thought


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

38 Responses to Asperger Syndrome in Girls More Common than Once Thought

  1. Darren Hayward says:

    It is quite interesting to find out that both boys and girls have aspergers syndrome

  2. Susan says:

    Definitely shatters old stereotypes!

    Susan Moffitt

  3. Diana Vang says:

    I hope I can use this in my attempt to find and share everything I can about us aspien females…

    To use first in my own life, and hopefully later to clarify some other female aspiens questions???

  4. Susan says:

    Tony Atwood has written a book on girls with Asperger’s and also produced a DVD on the topic. His website is http://www.tonyattwood.com.au/

    I’m sure you’d get lots of information and comfort from hearing what he has to say.

    Good luck, and thanks for writing…Susan Moffitt

  5. PC says:

    OMG!!! gave me chills and I almost cried reading this… though, with my clinical research background, there is a new caveat … and I canot reveal it until I graduate… it is the key to Why the differences And similiarity in behaviors in boys and gifrls … we need to Stop putting Blue hats onboys and pink hats on girl … the “reason” Doctors back inthe day did this makes me “Sick”… the whole scientific realm of yesterday did so much “experimentation” and resulting Damage to but we have Miracle Human Beings, living, breathing, Finally starting to thrive, Like Me, today…. all I can do is Pray, and Never give up on Me, no matter what They or snayone Says… I don’t Care what anyone says Any More, Today! TY for this site/blog … one of the Best :)

  6. Susan says:

    We girls were definitely socialized in a way that rendered us self effacing at best.
    The good news is it’s never to late to come into your own.

    Good Luck, Susan Moffitt

  7. brieanna sincleair says:

    thank you. it will help me a lot! I have this disorder.

  8. Susan says:

    I’m glad you found it useful. You might check out http://www.tonyattwood.com.au/
    Dr. Attwood’s one of my heroes.

  9. Hannah says:

    I’m a 16-year-old girl, I was diagnosed at 14, unfortunately it was too late to solve the problems of the bullying, alienation, and teasing, as I’d been bullied from kindergarten-7th grade, but I feel much better about myself knowing that none of it was truly my fault and that there are others who understand what I went through and why I am the way I am :)

  10. Susan says:

    I’m glad the diagnosis brought you solace and self-appreciation. Aspies are
    awesome…

  11. Meg says:

    Thank you for this article. This sounds a lot like myself growing up too. I also enjoyed the quiz that you linked, I ended up with a 30, so it’s nice to see possible reasons behind, “you’re just shy”.

  12. Susan says:

    You are most welcome. It’s nice to have new insight into yourself, isn’t it?
    It came as something of a relief to me.

  13. lori says:

    Loved your article. Especially the “little philosopher” description – perfect! It is so true what you said about, “it does bring me new clarity and peace of mind in looking back on my life.”

    I feel like I don’t have to beat myself up anymore for any AS trait I’ve had all my life that I’ve been trying to “correct” or think I should be doing “differently.”

    I am 38 and just discovered that the lens I view the world through is called Aspergers. Such a validation for me and I am enjoying reading the stories from others.
    Thank you.

  14. Susan says:

    Lori, your comment was very poignant to me. Thanks for writing.

    Susan

  15. Normally I don’t read article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to check out and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, quite great post.

  16. Susan says:

    Thank you. I’m glad you liked it..

  17. This article descibes my growing up years prefectly. I have endured a lifetime of being misunderstood and bullied and my differences growing up were considered to be behavioral. Because o how people reacted to me, I internalized it all and entered into adulthood with lifelong emotional baggage that follows me to this day. If my daughter had not been diagnosed with PDD-NOS, I would still be an enigma to myself. While I’m thrileed that her outcome will probably be far better than mine, a formal diagnosis would be super, but I have no access to it.

  18. Susan says:

    I know what you mean. Seeing so much of myself in my sons was a real eye-opener, then reading the particular profile of girls sealed the deal.

    As for accessing a formal diagnosis, I would start with any autism organizations or centers in your area.

    Good luck.

  19. Thank you very much, Susan. I have been doing that. In January, when my new health insurance kicks in, I plan to contact neurologists in my area and see if any of them will screen me for autism.

    On another note, I have a blogspot and a post there about autism, which is called “What is Autism?” My blogspot can be found at:

    http://ldeherl.blogspot.com

  20. Susan says:

    That’s great about your insurance. And I will check out your blog.

    Best,
    Susan

  21. Thank you very much, Susan!

  22. Have you heared the fraise: “Asperger’s syndrome is a gift, autism is a burden”.. I think it’s the best comparison of autism and asperger’s syndrome..
    You may read more in my blog by the way

  23. Shaz says:

    I strongly believe that my 7yr old daughter has AS – she was previously identified as a GnT child, but her behaviour is so typical of so many Aspie traits – and she’s always been shy, quite introverted, has faeries that visit her. Her teacher refuses to have her properly assessed because the teacher has worked with AS children, and mine doesn’t ‘display the diagnostic traits in the classroom’. So frustrating!

  24. Susan Moffitt says:

    can you go around her or over her head? you could see if there’s another avenue to have her evaluated.

  25. My local Touchpoint Autism Services evaluates adults for autism spectrum disorders. But since they ask for a flat $400 fee before granting a psychological assessment appointment, I have applied to the Modest Needs Foundation for a grant so I can get the assessment. I don’t know if they will fund it and they have not promised that they can make that happen. And my mom is not happy that I want to get myself checked out and wants me to drop the idea. I refuse to drop it. I won’t stop until I can somehow make this happen. It may not change my circumstances but it will give me answers which I have been looking for for so long.

  26. Susan says:

    I admire and respect you and hope your mother will join me in that appreciation. Knowledge is power. Knowing more about yourself can’t help but help.

  27. Joseph says:

    I took the test and got a 21, but I have been clinincly diagnosed with asburgers syndrom, what does that mean?

  28. Susan says:

    the thresholds of the test are too high???

  29. Ece says:

    Hi everyone!

    I read the article and comments above. I’m 20 now and suspicious that I might have Aspergers. I want to take this test to see if I’m an aspie girl. How can I get this test that is mentioned in the article ??

  30. Tania says:

    I’ve got a case where I can remember this being told to me by mum and an “uncle” – only the bi-logical father furiously objected to having a child with a disability. I then remember being in the doctors, after some abuse, with mum, who was seeking diagnosis, and DNA at the same time. The bi-logical father, burst in, and punched mum out – later that weekend the doctors surgery burnt down – what is a further co-incidence is that my medical records for the first seven years of my life are missing.

    And now I am remembering these events?

  31. Susan says:

    Wow. That’s intense. I hope you can get some help and support addressing these memories.

  32. Lisa Smeltzer says:

    We just found out our 19 yr old daughter has Asberger’s. She was misdianosed with ADHD since she was 7. She has difficulty driving. She managed to get her license, but since has refused to drive by herself. Is this common for people with Asberger’s? She said it’s too stressful and she’s afraid of getting hit by another car. We don’t know what to do about it.

  33. Susan says:

    This happened w/my AS son. In teaching him to drive he was so anxious it was virtually impossible. He finally completed a driver’s ed class but has driven since.

  34. Ashley says:

    I am struggling with the fact I think my 3 year old daughter has Aspergers. My son who is 6 was diagnosed with it at age 3 also. They are similar in their behavior but my son has obsessions that are so easy to identify. She on the other hand is obsessed with her TV shows but doesn’t go on and on and incorporate them into every conversation like him. The other thing I think that could be an obsession is her hoarding. She carries bags and bags of stuff around and if someone touches them she loses her mind. She also stuffs her room full of things and sleeps in the middle of them. She always keeps her door closed and no one can go in. She is struggling and school and doesn’t play with other kids. She craves routine at home and school. At home she can’t play or share with her siblings. She has a great deal of anxiety and cries alot. She is super tiny because she doesn’t eat any foods because they make her gag. She does play a little but it’t more imitating there isn’t much imagination. Loud noises bother her and I just don’t know what to do.
    My whole family thinks I’m crazy but they did with my son too and now they are my biggest supporters. I know I need to help her by changing how people react to her. Many people just think she is naughty. I’m not sure if I’m heading in the right path or if she doesn’t have aspergers. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    Thanks!

  35. Susan Moffitt says:

    Sounds like you should certainly have her evaluated. It won’t stop the “naughty” perception amongst the ignorant, but it will give you a blueprint moving forward. I would also get an AL-Cat food allergy profile. It’s a blood test that identifies all the foods she may be allergic to and to what degree. My AS son had undiagnosed allergies until he was thirteen and has improved immeasurably after getting rid of those foods. There’s a numbing cream call Emla that makes the needle of the blood test painless. It’s a saving grace. Pediatricians should use it all the time.

  36. Ashley says:

    Do you think the hoarding and carrying around numerous things everywhere could be her “obsession” that’s where I’m confused. She doesn’t have an obsession like my son does. That obsession consumes him. It’s hard to find a symptom list specific to younger girls with aspergers.

  37. Susan Moffitt says:

    Well, my sons’ didn’t have clear obsessions at age 3 and they’re both Aspies.
    They did activities w/an obsessive zeal. I would leave the fine points to the experts who will diagnose her. Dr. Tony Attwood has written a book about girls w/Aspies. I would look him up for more info specific to girls.

  38. Yasmine says:

    I think this is a very good article. I’m also an Aspie, and I’m a girl. I’ve never read an article that can describe AS this well. It’s nice to know that some people can almost literal read an Aspies mind. It’s kind of a relief for me.
    I’m really obsessed by playing the piano. So, the fact that Aspies are characterized by obsessive interests is clearly right. Another fact is that, I remember from primary school, I always was alone. I had absolutely no friends. Sitting on a bench and thinking about turning home again and philosophize about life were my main pursuits. Even now it’s still the same every day. I have more friends but there are persons (mostly adults) where saying hello and goodbye to in a polite way is impossible. It’s very annoying!
    Most people don’t see an Aspie in me. It seems to be very hard to see. But, sometimes, I wish it was more clear to see. So that people think twice before they say something, before judging me.
    I was diagnosed with it at the age of 11. I had always known I was different. It didn’t scare me up when I heard it. It was more like a confirmation.
    Anyway, today I’m happy I have Aspie. I’m happy my life turned up like this and made me the person I am now. I’m happy, except when I realize again that there still are things that don’t change, bad things of course. But, it’s fine.
    If there is anyone who would like to contact me, here is my email: yasmine.bogaert@hotmail.com
    I’m always available to help or just talk about it.

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