Friday, May 11, 2012

Aspergers Syndrome in Young Women

What is it really like living with Aspergers Syndrome? Frankly people with this type of Autism Spectrum Disorder vary as much as everybody else. Last summer at the grand old age of thirty something I realized that I have Aspergers Syndrome.
This came about following the diagnosis of my son who also has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Like many other people in my position I also have an older daughter who is not autistic and I have been happily married for the last 14 years.
Today we are experiencing a new autistic phenomenon i.e. there are now an increasing number of parents who are only realizing that they themselves have Asperger's Syndrome when their child is given an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.
I grew up in a totally different world i.e. 1970's Ireland where Aspergers Syndrome was totally unheard of. If you had this condition back then there really was nobody to assess you or even an available diagnosis, as this so defined milder form of autism, only officially became a diagnosable condition in 1994.
So growing up I just learned through trial and error how to cope. Australian Professor Tony Attwood has a particular interest in studying the psychological make up of young women with Asperger's Syndrome. He too feels that the so called 'Aspie female,' learns her social rules through observing other girls from a young age. Eventually he claims she can in fact become a master of deception. Often a woman with undiagnosed Aspergers Syndrome have expertly learned how to copy every move, conversation and mannerism from her non-Aspie friends and associates. Observation and intuition, along with being female often means that the young Aspie woman often presents very differently from her male counterparts.
However no matter how good these girls become at acting the part or as one successful Aspie female author once put it in a very well received autobiography i.e. Donna Williams in her book, 'Pretending to be Normal.' Inside in these young women's minds there exists unimaginable turmoil.
Dr. Tony Attwood has also often pointed out in his extensive writing about girls with Aspergers that these females can certainly act the part of being neurotypical but underneath the facade these girls are often psychologically very insecure or maybe even unstable. Many young women out there without an official diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome will often go on to develop other problems that may mask their primary condition completely. Often to such an extent that this diagnosis never becomes recognized as the real source of their sensitivity, pain or anguish.
The young woman with Aspergers Syndrome can often develop any myriad of other issues because they actually have undiagnosed Aspergers Syndrome. Many female 'Aspies,' who have never received any early intervention and no on-going support whatsoever unfortunately often cannot take the strain of denying who they really are continuously. Every social interaction must be psychologically rather than instinctively played out until it becomes a tough, wretched existence constantly living with the pressure of trying to be something that you are not.
Pretending to be normal unfortunately can also lead to the development of personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Or a myriad of other psychological conditions such as recurring Depression, Social Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, or Anorexia Nervosa.
It is very unfortunate that this is still happening considering how much information is now available about Aspergers Syndrome. While many people may still not know an awful lot about the condition they will at least have heard of it. There are practically no people today who do not know at least a few individuals who are on the Autism Spectrum.
Many people told me my son was just shy, didn't talk much and wasn't highly sociable because he was like me. But I on the other hand have always known that I felt different but I just never knew why. I did know though that I didn't want my son to spend his life wondering why he felt on the outside looking in like I did. Instead I want my child to know from an early age why he feels different and in doing so give him a strong sense of self-worth that will hopefully allow him to grow up understanding fully who he is and how his mind works.
There are still huge economic and bureaucratic barriers to diagnosing children with Aspergers Syndrome, in Ireland in particular. Also with the current bleak state of the economy cut-backs are affecting all children with psychological conditions hugely.
If you look the same as another child then many may just think that you seem a bit strange but there's nothing obvious to worry about. What we need to make people more aware of in this country is that an undiagnosed autistic child is very likely to go through severe emotional trauma inside their minds growing up and this unfortunately often leads to them having a low sense of self-worth that will then affect their whole life.
Children with autism lack often social skills can have great communication barriers and often think and feel with great sensitivity. I believe that if you give a child with Aspergers Syndrome/ High Functioning Autism the appropriate early intervention then they can go on to live a rich, fulfilling life. However deny them this help and they will be a burden on the state forever due to the psychological damage they will suffer in their formative years.
Mary is currently a full-time carer to her son Adam but hopes in the near future to return to a part-time career as a freelance journalist and writer. She is currently blogging about her experiences of living with Aspergers Syndrome in Ireland today on her facebook page: At present she is also working on a Memoir, 'On the Spectrum,' about her personal experiences of Aspergers Syndrome and her son's autism story.
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