Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that falls on the autism spectrum. It affects how a person communicates and interacts with others. Women and girls with Asperger’s often present differently than males, which can make getting an accurate diagnosis more difficult.
What are some common characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome in women?
There are several characteristics that are commonly seen in women with Asperger’s Syndrome:
- Difficulty with social skills and making friends
- Trouble understanding nonverbal communication like gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice
- A tendency to have very strong, narrow interests or obsessions
- Repetitive behaviors or rigid routines
- Sensory sensitivity – being oversensitive or undersensitive to sights, sounds, textures, etc.
- Awkward movements or trouble coordinating motor skills
- Above average intelligence, often with strengths in math, science, music, art
- Difficulty regulating emotions or having emotional outbursts
- Hyperfocus on certain topics while unable to focus on other tasks
However, these traits often look different or are better masked in girls than boys. Women with Asperger’s are often quieter, more shy, and better at mimicking social interactions than their male counterparts. This can lead to them being overlooked for an accurate diagnosis.
How does Asperger’s present differently in women than men?
There are several key differences in how Asperger’s presents in women compared to men:
- Girls tend to be quieter and more shy as children while boys tend to be more disruptive
- Girls try harder to fit in and mask social difficulties while boys tend to stand out more
- Restricted interests for girls often focus on more socially accepted topics like animals or fiction
- Girls have lower rates of comorbid conditions like ADHD that might otherwise lead to a diagnosis
- Girls have better imagination and more flexibility in thinking than boys
These differences can make it much harder for girls on the spectrum to be recognized and diagnosed properly. Many girls aren’t diagnosed until adolescence or even adulthood when their difficulties become more apparent.
What social challenges do women with Asperger’s face?
There are several common social challenges faced by women with Asperger’s Syndrome:
- Difficulty making and keeping friends
- Social isolation or loneliness
- Problems fitting in with peer groups
- Trouble navigating complex social situations
- Appearing odd or different to neurotypical peers
- Misinterpretations and confusion during social interactions
- Feeling overwhelmed by too much social stimulation
- Difficulty expressing themselves or participating in groups
- Prone to social anxiety or withdrawal
Even when they desperately want to connect with others and be accepted, women with Asperger’s often feel like social outsiders due to their difficulties intuiting social norms. They may be seen as odd or overly intellectual by their peers. This can lead to bullying, exclusion, depression, and anxiety.
Are romantic relationships challenging for women with Asperger’s?
Yes, many women with Asperger’s find romantic relationships to be challenging in some key ways:
- Trouble flirting or gauging when someone is interested in them romantically
- Social difficulties being exacerbated in dating scenarios
- Sensory issues with physical contact, affection, intimacy
- Problems maintaining friendships with neurotypical partners
- Difficulty understanding partners’ nonverbal cues and unspoken wishes
- A tendency to be overly logical and less emotionally intuitive
- Discomfort navigating the social scripts and nuances of romantic relationships
However, being on the autism spectrum does not preclude a woman from having healthy, fulfilling relationships. With understanding, communication and sometimes counseling, women with Asperger’s can absolutely connect romantically with partners who appreciate them.
Do girls with Asperger’s have trouble in school?
Many girls on the spectrum do struggle in certain aspects of school due to their difficulties with communication, sensory overload, and executive functioning:
- Problems working collaboratively in groups
- Disorganization and forgetfulness with assignments
- Difficulty with open-ended, abstract assignments
- Trouble understanding teachers’ social cues or “unwritten rules”
- Learning differences like dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD
- Sensory overload from fluorescent lights, noises, cafeteria smells
- Social anxiety or fatigue during breaks
- Issues with performance anxiety during tests
However, girls on the spectrum often have average or above average intelligence. With the right support and accommodations, intellectually gifted girls with Asperger’s can thrive academically and pursue higher education.
Do women with Asperger’s struggle to find work?
Getting and keeping a job can be challenging for many adults with Asperger’s. Some common issues faced in the workplace include:
- Difficulty with the social aspects of work like small talk, office politics, collaborating
- Problems learning unwritten rules and expectations of the workplace culture
- Overstimulation from office noise, lighting, interruptions
- Fatigue or burnout from trying to mask difficulties and fit in
- Disorganization, time management difficulties, forgetting tasks
- Issues with executive functioning like planning, prioritizing, focusing
- Anxiety presenting during job interviews or evaluations
- Lack of support or accommodations from uninformed employers
However, women with Asperger’s also bring many strengths to the workplace such as attention to detail, reliability, honest, consistency, and strong skills in valuable fields like math, science, technology.
Do girls exhibit repetitive behaviors or special interests?
Yes, repetitive behaviors and special interests are very common in girls with Asperger’s, even if they may look different than in boys. Some examples include:
- Collecting specific objects, toys, figurines
- Getting very absorbed in topics like animals, fiction, celebrities
- Spending excessive time researching niche subjects online
- Getting heavily into gaming, anime, cosplay
- Memorizing facts, statistics, dialogues, maps, schedules
- Routines around food, clothing, exercise, sleep
- Mannerisms like rocking, pacing, hand-flapping – often subtle
While the obsession may be less obvious than in boys, girls on the spectrum do gravitate towards repetitive activities that provide comfort and mental stimulation.
Are girls with Asperger’s prone to anxiety or depression?
Unfortunately, anxiety and depression are very common in girls and women on the autism spectrum. Contributing factors include:
- Social isolation, loneliness, bullying from peers
- Feeling like they don’t fit in or are “weird”
- Exhaustion from constantly masking difficulties
- Sensory overstimulation in school, social events
- Hormones, menstrual cycles exacerbating autistic traits
- Lack of support from families, teachers, employers
- Judgment, discrimination due to being “different”
If unaddressed, these issues can lead to crippling anxiety or depression. But with proper treatment, coping skills and acceptance, women and girls with Asperger’s can live happy, mentally healthy lives.
Should women with Asperger’s have children?
Women with Asperger’s can absolutely have healthy pregnancies and be good parents with the right support in place. Some considerations include:
- Partnering with a supportive spouse who can co-parent
- Arranging help from family or professionals when needed
- Learning effective parenting coping skills
- Seeking treatment for comorbid conditions like anxiety
- Joining autism parenting groups for advice and resources
- Explaining autism traits to children in positive ways as they grow
- Making time for self-care and recharging
- Adjusting communication styles to meet the child’s needs
With preparation, women on the spectrum can utilize their strengths like honesty, loyalty and attention to detail to raise happy, healthy kids.
How can women get diagnosed properly with Asperger’s?
Here are some tips that can help women get an accurate Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis:
- Seek evaluation from an autism specialist familiar with how it manifests in girls and women
- Come prepared with thorough examples of childhood and current traits
- Bring a detailed account from someone close to you like a parent or partner
- Be open about challenges you face so the specialist gets an accurate picture
- Ask about any other conditions that should be assessed like anxiety, ADHD, etc.
- Get testing for intelligence, working memory, processing speed, etc. for fuller profile
- Seek a second opinion if the first clinician dismisses your concerns
Getting properly diagnosed and understanding Asperger’s creates valuable self-awareness and access to helpful resources.
What tips help women with Asperger’s day-to-day?
Here are some helpful daily tips for women living with Asperger’s Syndrome:
- Carve out alone time to recharge from social exhaustion
- Use relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, meditation
- Stim with fidgets, noise-canceling headphones, weighted blankets
- Communicate your needs directly to loved ones
- Make lists, schedules, reminders for organization
- Join online or in-person autistic women’s groups
- Practice social scenarios that are challenging
- Make time for special interests that provide joy
- Work with therapists on social and coping skills
- Find work environments where unique skills are valued
With the right adaptations and support, women with Asperger’s can live full, authentic lives true to themselves every day.
Where can women find community and support with Asperger’s?
Here are great resources for women seeking connection, advice and support with Asperger’s Syndrome:
- Online Forums: Wrong Planet, Autism Forums, Reddit r/Aspergirls
- Groups: Meetup, local autism/Asperger’s organizations
- Conferences: Autreat conference for autistic women & girls
- Social Media: Facebook groups, Instagram influencers/advocates
- Schools: Autism student orgs, clubs, resource centers
- Therapy: Individual, group, family counseling
- Books: Memoirs by autistic women authors
Connecting with others who share their experiences helps women feel less alone and build invaluable wisdom.
Living with Asperger’s Syndrome presents unique challenges for women and girls that often go unrecognized. But with the right support and coping strategies, women on the spectrum can still thrive socially, academically, at work, and in relationships. By better understanding how autism manifests in girls and women, we can help provide them the tools to live empowered, purposeful lives true to themselves.