I just found an article on this site: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/apr/12/autism-aspergers-girls, which appears in The Observer and is written by Amelia Hill.
I think it’s also relevant to NLD. Girls with social communication troubles are not being diagnosed early enough, or at all. Some AS/NLD gender similarities from the article follow, with article quotes in purple and my thoughts in blue:
–Girls with undiagnosed AS may turn to “self-harm or anorexia”–Though I didn’t have chronic struggles with anything besides normal teenage dieting, I could see how NLD issues could cause someone to develop anorexic thought patterns. Anorexia requires rigid thinking and uses rules. Plus girls may think it’s just a normal behavior that will presumably help them fit in, when in reality it’s very dangerous. Plenty of AS and NLD females have no trouble with eating issues, BTW. As for self-harm, I wonder if the self-harm habit may partly result from a) hypo-sensitivity to pain and b) untreated depression. I could see someone with NLD issues resorting to self-harm during their adolescent years, but more often, those with NLD are very positive-health-focused. I struggled with depression in my teens and had times of death ideation, but I never wanted to be dead or commit suicide. I also have little tolerance for pain or medical procedures, and am hypersensitive to pain, so would never self-harm even if depressed enough to contemplate. I’m even squeamish about tattoos and have never gotten one, though my ears were pierced in my teens to fit in. The holes close if I don’t wear earrings every day, and I hate even the sting of re-piercing with a safety pin. My medical condition requires routine blood tests, which I’m used to, but sometimes I cry afterwards; it’s mildly traumatic to have tubes of blood drawn by a stranger.
–Dr. Judith Gould, Director of the National Autistic Society, says: “Girls are not being picked up because there is still a stereotyped view of what Asperger’s is, which is based entirely on how boys present with the condition,” she said. “Professionals are not up to speed in knowing how girls present. We are working with the government to ensure they highlight this concern in their upcoming consultation. We are hoping to convince them to target this much under-investigated but vitally important issue.”
-For instance (to parphrase the article), girls with social communication issues are more likely to find a small number of friends and pay more attention to social rules than boys.
-Girls, Tony Attwood says, learn to “observe from a distance and imitate people” and may “escape into fiction.”-When I was growing up, my favorite activity was reading books, though not fantasy or sci fi per se. I very much agree that as a kid, and now as an adult, I observe people from a distance and imitate them. I’d argue that this behavior is a survival adaptation.
I hope that in the future, adults will look more closely at childrens’ struggles and not hesitate to provide social guidance and meaningful, creative intervention. Too often, children with NLD are talked down to. And adults are left to figure out the impossible.
Yesterday I was thinking how even email can include communication anxiety. Calling is worse, but sometimes just sending something–perhaps due to the power I attach to words–feels like an emotionally-charged task. There’s such a need for an NLD community online. I hope this is the beginning of one. I think it is. 🙂