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 a very few women) in the group.