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Could you be a woman with Asperger's?

By Maxine and Daniel

C’mon. You know you’ve wondered. As you’ve read about your child’s ASD, you give a nervous giggle as you realize that many of the things you’re reading about kind of, sort of, maybe apply to you, too.

I’ve gathered a list of anecdotal traits of Asperger women. This list comes from my own experience, my reading, and my work experience with many creative, resilient, and bright women on the spectrum.

Keep in mind I am not a therapist or a doctor, that this list is anecdotal, and identifying with this list does not confirm an Asperger's diagnosis. It is good information on your voyage of self-discovery.

Curious? Here you go!

  • Though she always had a friend or two, it may have been difficult keeping friends. She may interpret actions and comments from others as hurtful, then drop the offending riend like a hot potato. Twenty years later, she still cringes remembering when she saw that former friend shopping with another girl. How could she!! For some women on the spectrum, real or unintended social slights can contribute to anxiety--they can't stop thinking about these in unfortunate incidents.
  • They can work a room at a party or host a terrifically family Thanksgiving for 30. However, the next day or two may be a write-off. She wants to stay home in quiet solitude to recover from her social exhaustion.
  • She may be clumsy and uncoordinated and experienced phys-ed class as a nightmare. She just couldn't get the hang if team sports. Remember, thought: this is a spectrum. Many Aspie women excel at individual sports, others have no problem with team sports and are not clumsy.
  • The Aspie woman can have a strong aversion to horror movies, scary music, psychological thrillers—anything that triggers the anxiety response is a no-no. On the other hand, horror movies could be her special interest and she's sees all the scary movies she can.
  • There can be tears—lots of them-- especially when she’s tired or hungry. Meltdowns that were a regular occurrence in childhood never really stopped. They may continue in her adult life, especially with sensory overload, social overload or too many responsibilities to juggle at once.
  • Then again, she may never cry. It's a spectrum, and if there is an area of difference from typical responses in an Aspie woman, it can be experienced as one extreme or the other.
  • Do not like to be told what to do.
  • If you catch them in a mistake, they'll have a string of reasons why it happened. It causes shame--even minor faux pas. It can be hard to let go of the humiliation they experienced.
  • Can have lots of grit and resilience, and may be great at reinventing themselves or rebounding from personal difficulties or major life challenges.
  • May enjoy intimacy and sex and be quite creative if all emotional and sensory needs are met. That can be the challenging part. If a partner offends--intentionally or not, she can shut right down for long periods of time.
  • May not have any interest in sex at all. Ever.
  • May fall in love with your soul, your mind, you characters and your values. Your gender, age, looks or bank account are less important.
  • May have significant anxiety, but may never seek help for it. She may not know that she suffers from clinical anxiety, believing that her lack of internal calm is a normal state of being.
  • Then again, she may suffer from anxiety that has been identified as a mental health issue. Its severity may wax and wane but she is never free. She cannot stop thinking about all of life’s ‘what ifs’, and the more challenges and uncertainties that she faces, the more things she has to worry about.
  • May suffer from depression.
  • Studied social interactions as a child and teen to help her fit in. The responses never came too naturally to her and she always marveled at those who just always seemed to know the right thing to say or do. She always felt (feels) like she is acting in every social situation except with her family.
  • She doesn’t understand why she can’t maintain interest in her job (or anything) for very long, though she is great at acting interested. It is painful to pretend every day. She does not have a good sense of self—who is she without all acting?
  • Never really liked the gossipy small talk that girls engage in—unless her special interest is other people. Some women with ASD find other people fascinating and can talk about and analyze the motivation of other for hours.
  • Can be quite empathetic and intuitive. Very tuned to the emotions of others; if someone is not happy or is hurting, she can almost feel it. It really affects her mood.
  • May have a hard time keeping her emotions in check, resulting in socially inappropriate response.
  • Can have a hard time communicating how she feels, especially if stressed out. Can become mute if overwhelmed with emotion.
  • Can have a real problem asking anyone to do anything for them. Finds it really difficult to ask for help.
  • May be blunt—too blunt, and then be surprised if people tell her she was hurtful or rude.
  • She feels a mortifying wash of shame when she realizes, too late, that she has said something inappropriate.
  • She often thinks that friends or co-workers are angry or disappointed in her. She has a hard time reading intent in their tone of voice, body language and emails.
  • She gives so much detail when she talks that she bores people and buries the main point.
  • Writes lengthy, detail-laden emails that can overwhelm the recipient. Has a hard time figuring out what is important and what is less so.
  • Expects immediate responses to her emails. She can be indignant or devastated when that doesn’t happen.
  • Hates injustice—has a finely tunes sense of right and wrong. Will not let an issue go until she is fully understood. Might point out the mistakes of others though she feels terrible if she is corrected herself.
  • Is often brilliant with great long-term memory. Can be highly artistic and creative.
  • Unless appearance is a special interest, will prefer a low-maintenance hair style. Often have really long hair. May have no fashion sense (again, unless it is a special interest).
  • May really need to control the routines in the household. May be happier in the home because she can control what happens there.
  • Can be fidgety—twirling or chewing hair is common; may rock when sitting or standing.
  • Prefers to have one close relationship (often a spouse); may not have a close girlfriend, though she can have many acquaintances; prefers the company of her family.
  • May love fantasy books, movies, art—and may have had an active imaginary world as a child.
  • Can have anxiety from being misunderstood all her life. Her words, tone and expression are often misinterpreted.
  • If she has to be overly social for a period of time, it can take her days to get over this.
  • Loves to spend time with her special interest. This can be reading, movies, art, crafts, couponing, social issues—or something entirely different. Interests can change quickly or be lifelong.
  • Can be great a presenting to group but unable to attend a party because of social anxiety.
  • Can take things too literally and miss jokes, but have a great sense of humour herself.
  • Can be highly disorganized and messy. Has a difficult time managing both home and work responsibility—she may do a good job, but is highly anxious in achieving it. Has a pervasive sense of dread that she is going to forget something very important and people will figure out that she finds her roles difficult.
  • Can be highly expressive and emotional or withdrawn and unable to share feelings. Is sometimes accused of being cold and unfeeling. She’s not! AS women feel very deeply, but may be immobilized when overwhelmed with emotion.
  • Asperger women may not be able to speak at all at times. If they are overwhelmed with emotions—extremely anxious, frightened, joyful or exited, for example—it is not uncommon for her to go non-verbal or selectively mute. The silence is not playing head games—the damn words just won’t come out!
  • Aspie women love their partners or besties, but they also love their solitude. Anyone who is lucky enough to have her heart must accept that there will times when she wants to retreat and be alone. She’s not angry. She’s not rejecting you. She often just needs to decompress from the sensory and social overload of day to day life.
  • She is creative! Aspie women are often artistic and can be gifted visual artists (anime is a favorite for your Aspie femme), creator of crafts, home stylist, writer, or actor.
  • If something catches her interest, she’ll be a self-taught ‘expert in no time. She will immerse herself in the topic until she knows all that is available to learn. Often, she has superior intelligence.
  • Women with AS have a higher risk of eating disorders...less than 1% risk for the typical population , yet nearly 30% of those diagnosed with anorexia nervosa are on the spectrum
  • Women with AS feel terrible if they feel they have done something wrong. If they are told they’ve done something incorrectly, they have a really hard time letting go of it.
  • Women with AS avoid conflict like the plague—unless someone is threatening their cubs! Moms with AS will often step way outside of their comfort zones in order to get their children what they need.
  • Though women with AS avoid confrontation, they will step up to protect the rights of others if they perceive an injustice. They are finely tuned to social injustice and often want to save the whole world.
  • Women with AS may have sensory differences. Examples: she may chew on straws, pens, hair, sleeves or something else. She might like tight hugs to calm her and no touch at all when she's upset. She could need seven blankets to fall asleep ( six or eight may feel wrong), and like to wear layers of clothing even in warm weather. She may have an extremely high pain tolerance--or extremely low. People may accuse her of being a drama queen for saying light touches or bumps or pulls hurt.
  • She often has digestive differences. They may be very picky eaters who don’t really know when they are hungry (or full) or thirsty until they are VERY hungry or VERY thirsty. At this point, they may have very little patience. This is when we can see crying, meltdowns, or low mood. Chronic constipation can be a problem--or frequent diarrhea. Both can hamper her love life. She doesn't want to cuddle if she's bloated, gassy or crampy.
  • Many of these experiences of female Aspies are never or rarely shared with others. You'd never know that this bright, beautiful woman is struggling in some areas of her life. Here's hoping that increasing understanding of yourself will lift you up. You are so courageous every day!