I’m just reading this article in Newsweek, “Why Girls with Asperger Syndrome Might Not be Diagnosed” by Janeen Interlandi:
Some things that struck me are quoted or paraphrased in green, and my thoughts are blue:
–AS presents itself “less obviously in girls . . . that factor is also causing them to slip through the diagnostic cracks . . .. Some specialists predict that as we diagnose more girls, our profile of the disorder as a whole will change. Anecdotally, they [specialists] report that girls with AS seem to have less motor impairment, a broader range of obsessive interests, and a strong desire to connect with others, despite their social impairment.” -I could see this turning out to be true, though with individual differences. Not that NLD and AS are identical, but I know of some NLD males who really want to connect with other people socially, too. I’d also want to know more about the “broader range of obsessive interests.” I suspect lots of individual variation on this issue, too. And also differences in how people perceive others’ interests (i.e., whether or not someone can tell if someone is or isn’t interested in a topic,et cetera). I’d like to learn about examples of the strong desire to connect with others, and compare/contrast with studies of NLD males and females of different ages, if possible.
–Girls tend to be more focused on copying and imitating the behavior of others: “When social settings change, this can spell disaster. ‘As you move from high school to college, or from one group of friends to another, you have a whole new set of rules to learn,” said one Aspie woman who asked not to be named. ‘Not only do you lose your own identity, but if you end up surrounded by the wrong people—mimicking their behavior without understanding the motivations behind it can lead to big trouble.'” –I agree very much. I’d add that this can be a problem in the workplace. Women with NLD or AS might not see the signs of workplace negativity upfront. This may cause them to get manipulated by negatively-focused coworkers–and due to not being able to hide feelings and behaviors as easily–receive the consequences someone else should have gotten. Social pressure in general–whether from peers or older people–is often impossibly seductive to many with NLD (or related issues). Wanting to be included and accepted is a basic need. Even if a peer’s idea to do something is wrong, the accompanying illusion of acceptance is very hard to resist. It’s like trying to imagine saying no to being asked out by whomever your favorite movie star (or celebrity or person you most admire) is. This feeling doesn’t go away just because you become an adult. The desire for acceptance and meaningful relationships with others follows and haunts us at all ages.
–According to Ami Klin, director of Yale’s autism research group, girls’ “desperation for human interaction–combined with their inability to gauge the intentions of those around them–can make girls with AS easy prey for sexual predators.”–This message is an important one. I do think, though, that with guidance, mentoring, and appropriate social coaching, girls can learn the signs of manipulative behavior. When a girl with AS, NLD, or a related condition has a safe person to discuss concerns with, she can learn to build safety skills and stay away from difficult people. Of course, if someone isn’t diagnosed in the first place, this problem is a really horrible one. A good, if somewhat exagerrated, example occurs in the Hannibal sequel Red Dragon, where a blind scientist named Reba McClane (played by Emily Watson) who also may have some learning differences, is depressed and falls for a psychopath, nearly getting killed. Though I saw her vulnerability in the movie, I could see this happening to a younger version of myself. Sometimes in the past, I’ve overlooked signs of trouble because of wanting a relationship (both friendship and romantic–different poisons that appear to be pleasures until something bad happens) so much, then gotten hurt.
It is imperative that more studies on gender differences and learning conditions be completed. More on this as I learn more.