Don't miss diagnosing Aspergers in young girls

Asperger's is a developmental disorder that is almost impossible to self-identify because central to the dysfunction is very poor social skills. But poor social skills means that you are missing social cues which means that you don't know you're missing social cues. Everyone in the room wants you to shut up and you don't know it.

I didn't know I have Asperger's until I was 35, when my son was diagnosed. I mentioned to the psychologist, that I would answer yes to all those questions for myself as well.

People can identify boys with Aspergers because it's a stereotype:  Albert Einstein, the guy on Big Bang Theory, the crazy genius who looks like a dork. Ninety percent of Asperger diagnoses are for boys. Girls go largely undiagnosed.

Asperger's is much harder to identify in girls because girls with terrible social skills are still better than most men. A telltale sign of a girl with Aspergers is that her hair is always a mess. It seems too complicated to comb hair. (That's me in the photo – undiagnosed with messy hair.) But of course there are girls who don't have Aspergers who have messy hair.

So diagnosis of Aspergers in girls often focuses on executive function. Executive function is the ability to stay organized, to know that all details are not of equal importance and ignore unimportant details.

For example, there is five minutes at any given time when your bank balance might not perfectly reflect your expenditures. There might be lag time. Most people ignore this, and keep track of their finances. Someone with Asperger's would declare that keeping track of their bank account is impossible because the reporting system is so unorganized. If you argued with the person with Asperger's, that person would think you are a moron for not understanding the shortcomings of banking technology.

Another person with Asperger's would be amazing at balancing a checkbook because they like the rules, but they would have no understanding about why someone would spend their last dime to buy clothes for a job interview.

The pattern is not a particular thing that is off-key, it's that the person is always off-key and indignant that other people think she's off-key.

Poor executive function in kids is maybe not remembering what you are doing second to second. Not bringing the right books home from school. Forgetting to brush teeth. (I didn't brush my teeth consistently until I was 22. That's when I figured out how to remember on a daily basis.)

I have very poor executive function. Sometimes I have complete disasters. But mostly, I have a lot of people around me—paid and unpaid—to help me. Also, I have therapists who help my son who has Asperger's and, if I watch closely enough, they help me, too.

A lot of executive function is about transitions. For example, there are two things you like to do, but moving between them is hard, so you don't. You just never change. This looks like procrastination, or laziness, or irresponsibility in kids.

I'm writing this for homeschoolers because I think the logistics of homeschool can easily mask poor executive function, so it could be a real disservice to girls, who will grow up with off-putting social skills and not realize it and have no idea why success is so elusive. So much of what we put up with in quirky kids is completely unacceptable in the adult world.

Also, poor executive function is genetic, which makes it even harder for parents to recognize it in a daughter (they are used to it in their family). And the genetic component makes it more likely that homeschool for that girl is unstructured, because people with poor executive function have so much trouble with transitions that they don't do them, and transitions are the backbone of structure.

So take a good look at your daughter. If she looks scatter-brained, with no follow though, if she is a little weird socially, with no attention to typical girl concerns (like her appearance), then she might have Asperger's. So many girls go undiagnosed. I was one of them. And I see all the help the boys are getting as kids. I would have liked some of that.

Posted in Fitting in is good
54 comments on “Don't miss diagnosing Aspergers in young girls
  1. Rachel D. says:

    "Everyone in the room wants you to shut up and you don't know it."

    If that is Asperger's, then I wonder what keeping your mouth shut and being closed off is. I kept my mouth shut until I was 33. Then my mother died, and now I can't shut the hell up….and it feels great :) Oddly enough, people are listening.

  2. Shannon says:

    Thank you for this. My son was diagnosed with Asperger's a year ago and I'm so glad that I can recognize the signs in myself and watch for them in my daughter. I appreciate all of your posts about Asperger's because it's so hard to know how to teach your kids social skills when you don't have them yourself.

  3. Bec Oakley says:

    Thank you for writing about this, it's so important. Another reason why girls often go undiagnosed is because their obsessive interests tend to be more socially acceptable e.g. horses. And other girls around them are more supportive and helpful, compensating for her lack of social understanding. So while girls may struggle just as much as boys, it's less noticeable.

  4. christy says:

    Sometime, I'd love for you to talk more, and in more detail, about the difficulty with transitions thing. You've talked about it a lot, but I don't recall examples, and more importantly how it is difficult.

    Just trying to understand more fully to (hopefully) be more understanding/ helpful to those I know with Asperger's.

  5. Mark W. says:

    You do a really good job of explaining AS here and other posts and your experiences with it. And how the mental illness manifests itself differently in boys and girls. The Daily Beast/Newsweek article was well-written and informative.
    I remembered Tony Attwood and his work on AS so I went to his site. He wrote a foreword ( http://www.tonyattwood.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=917:girls-and-women-who-have-aspergers-syndrome&catid=215&Itemid=720 ) for a book (Safety Skills for Asperger Women) written by the woman in the Daily Beast/Newsweek article – Liane Willey. The foreword includes what you say here and more.

  6. toastedtofu says:

    I am pretty sure I've gone my entire life with undiagnosed ADHD, inattentive subtype. When we moved countries, my partner had to get re-assessed in order to get medication for his (diagnosed as a child) ADHD hyperactive subtype. He had always told me he thought I had ADHD, so he brought home a copy of the ICD evaluation (which is stricter about criteria than the DSM) and I scored higher than he did. He was more of a problem child than I was, and ADHD is widely undiagnosed in girls.

    A lot of the struggles you talk about resonate with me deeply. Some of it I think is just the pure stress involved with being unable to interact with the world like a normal person. You mentioned in a blog post ages ago about transitions, and how your son flipped a quarter to switch subjects, so I started doing that too, and I find it really helps.

    I also buy a chocolate bar on my way to work every day. ahem.

    There are a whole bunch of secondary mental illnesses that come with having untreated issues like asperger's or ADHD like depression, eating disorders, self harm and drug abuse (all of which I've had) so not treating them, even for unschoolers, could hurt your child's future.

  7. MBL says:

    Thanks so much for writing about this.
    I figured out that my daughter had it when she was 5.25 y/o when I was looking into regarding my husband. I had attributed the red flags to asynchronous development, Dabrowski's Overexcitabilites, and plain ole' variation in coordination and personality traits. OT has been amazing for balance and crossing the midline. Since she was a non-stop chatterbox from 8 months on, that she might need speech therapy seemed never occurred to me. He enunciation and vocabulary are excellent, but pragmatic use and reciprocity are harder for her.
    Other red flags are extreme sensitivty to sounds (flushing toilets, microwave, coffee ginder, ticking clock . . ) and over or under reactive to touch, may feel as though she has been hit if barely touched or may not notice if she crashed into you.
    Yikes, there is so much I want to say in a PSA while you have this audience kind of way.

    On the executive function side, I am off the charts ADD (undiagnosed until 42) and off the charts Dabrow/overexcit. The one good thing that I think that has come out of it, is that I am soooo chaotic and last minute that my daughter has HAD to adapt. She is extremely flexible, considering what I see in other Aspie kids. I have found that if I do the 5 minute warning, now 2 minute thing is doesn't go well, but she can hustle like nobody's business when it is down to the wire, get out of the door, crunch time. However, she is almost 7 and I think we have milked all we can out of that strategy and I need to get things more organized and scheduled now that we are starting to officially homeschool. I gave up her highly, highly coveted, two blocks away, 2nd grade slot two days ago and it was/is scary.

    Okay, one more PSA thing, it was a godsend to figure out that my daughter was very literal and was interpreting something like "I'm going to eat you up!" as something frightening. She knew that I wasn't going to, but she thought that I was saying something mean. Once I explained about things being literal, figurative, sarcastic, facetious, etc, she caught on and had fun with it.

    I'll stop now. Thanks again.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      This is a great public service announcement! Thanks MBL. I want to say that the stuff in this comment is so common in our household:

      I don't flush toilets because the sound makes me want to cry. And jokes aren't allowed in our house because my son and I don't understand them.

      Penelope

      • Bec Oakley says:

        You know what's interesting about this with girls too, is that they're allowed to be a lot more sensitive before someone thinks it's dysfunctional.

        • gradalis says:

          @Bec:
          Consider also that girls are less likely to get away with things like not flushing toilets, dropping things, bumping into people or being in any way "messy", because it is expected of them to fulfill gender roles imposed on them by others and behave "properly". Boys can usually get away with those behaviours. Girls with Aspergers' (or boys, for that matter) don't understand gender roles, let alone implied expectations that are never properly explained to them. They are not having it easier.
          The sounds of people slurping drinks or loudly whispering make me want to curl up, cover my ears and scream inside, not to mention they make it impossible to concentrate on anything else. I twitch and and my whole body convulses if somebody touches my head lightly from behind. My parents never tolerated those reactions as merely sensitive, even when i explained them – they laughed at me, mocked me, or screamed at me to stop the silly crap. And that's just scratching the surface of how undiagnosed kids are treated… Another example, i know that scratching the surface is a metaphor and use it myself, but every time i hear or say it, i literally visualise some surface being scratched. I learnt early (the hard way) that it is improper to make comments about that, but it didn't go away. There is more pressure on girls to stop "acting out" than on boys, they learn to suppress it (and that's why Aspergers' is not picked up), but it remains very, very stressful.

          @Penelope:
          Maybe you should install compost toilets at home, they don't need flushing! They can look just like the regular ones, they don't smell, and can be very practical on the farm. That of course doesn't solve the problem when away from home, but at least it's a partial solution.

          • Bec Oakley says:

            Trust me, I was in no way saying that they have it easier. I was making a point about another reason why women as a group tend to be under-diagnosed. Which in turns makes it a lot harder on them because they don't get the help that they might need.

        • gradalis says:

          Point taken, Bec. Only after replying i noticed some pertinent comments above were written by the same person and looked up your site (which i find lovely and useful) and, well, realised i might have misunderstood.

    • tina k says:

      Hi I love your reply you gave many examples of traits Apspie girls can show I have had my daughter seen and evaluated by many professionals and still undx.. has sensory issues and adhd, but I know for sure those are the symtoms of Aspergers… Her executive functioning is evidently delayed, very unorganized a pure mess, has trouble with social cues has no empathy nor understands it, and nothing is consistant. Sensory needs are over the top auditory, tactile and visually defensiveness effects her every move…I need help understanding her and getting a real dx

  8. Rachel says:

    You are so cute in that picture, with or without messy hair. Speaking as a messy-hair lady who herself is beginning to wonder.

  9. Crimson Wife says:

    Not all quirky girls/women with poor executive functioning and social skills are "on the spectrum". Some have AD(H)D. I have relatives with ADHD and others who are "on the spectrum". Both types struggle with executive functioning and social skills, but there is a noticeable difference. Those on the spectrum are very self-centered and have difficulty feeling empathy towards others. The ones with ADHD may struggle socially because they don't pay enough attention to others' social cues but they don't have the self-centeredness & lack of empathy.

    • MBL says:

      A couple of things, first, of course, it could be several things other than Asperger's such at sensory processing disorder, non-verbal learning disorder, etc. But what I would really like to address is the notion of self-centeredness and the assumed lack of empathy.

      Recently, I have come to question the presumption that "self-centeredness" is a character flaw. If one isn't centered within one's self, then one isn't actually centered, no? If "other-centric," then how does the self fit anywhere? I have spent my whole life worrying about how what I do will affect others and it is paralyzing. Given that things affect more than just one other and people having differing wants and needs, whom do you choose to make the "best," least selfish choice? It's like the oxygen mask thing, if you aren't comfortably centered within your true self, you can't really optimize your ability to help others. And if you are always gauging what others need, then you lose your true self and no longer know what you want.

      Regarding "lack of empathy," if ASD inherently implies a impairment of reading social, facial, corporal, gestural, and tonal cues, then might not that impair ones ability to understand what the other person is feeling, or how they are reacting? I know that this can get into the whole sympathy/empathy dissection, but once I explain to my daughter how someone else has interpreted something, she immediately tries to make them feel better. And by pointing these things out, she has gotten adept at reading them for herself. She, at age 6, is the one who consoles others who are teased or get their feelings hurt. The thing that I find so ironic in the whole thing is that NeuroTypicals seem to be quite lacking in empathy for those with atypical wiring. Might it just be that NT's are better at guessing how someone else feels since the other person is likely to have similar wiring and responses? I am teaching my daughter how her reactions and assumptions may differ from the norm. Who is teaching the NT 6 and 7 year olds how my daughter may be interpreting things? No one. Do we assume that age 4 or 5 or 8 or 9 is too young for children to be cognitively aware of radically different ways of being? Couldn't what we view as empathy expressed by NT children simply be favorable odds that others would feel as they themselves would?

      I'm an INFP up one side and down the other and ooze empathy from every pore to a nauseating degree, and I was stunned to realize that I had been downright callous towards my recently diagnosed Aspie husband by assuming he was aware of how certain phrasing could be interpreted. Once I took the time to translate what he said from NTspeak into Aspiespeak, our relationship was transformed since my extremely sensitive self could hear what he meant rather than just what he said. I still have a knee-jerk reaction to many things, but try to keep that in check.

      And, oh yeah, there is also a theory out there that autism is a defense mechanism against being overly empathetic and taking in so much information that their systems may "shut down" to some degree to protect themselves.

      sigh . . .

      PSA part two regarding my previous comment: it might be worth carrying post-it notes for covering the sensors to auto-flush toilets. Oh dear god I have flashbacks to backaches I would get covering those blasted things to avoid the meltdowns an unexpected flush echoing through a public bathroom could incite in my daughter.

      • Bec Oakley says:

        Ha, I was just about to comment with this link to the Empathy Imbalance Hypothesis :)

        http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1031&context=tpr

      • Penelope Trunk says:

        There is a huge difference between self-centered (narcissism) and lack of empathy (aspergers). The fundamental difference is that someone who is self-centered wants attention. People with asperger's generally don't like attention. We like being wallflowers.

        I know, it sounds crazy coming from me. But if you look at other people who have the size blog I have, they are all over the place –at conferences, at events, etc. I get invited to those, and I never go, because I can't stand being with people. If I wanted lots of attention, I'd go.

        This is really important to me. A person with Asperger's, if you tell them they are being inconsiderate, will be genuinely horrified and will genuinely want to fix it, even if they can't. Someone who is self-centered only pretends to care.

        Penelope

        • Lisa S. says:

          After reading your blog, I am convinced that my precious 12 year old daughter is "borderline" (is there such a thing?) Aspergers. I don't know what to do. I want to discuss my suspicion with her but I don't know how to do it without making her feel like I think something is wrong with her. Your posts about autism are really informative.

          • MBL says:

            Lisa,
            (Well crud, I typed all of this up in a word.doc without referencing the thread and wound up seriously repeating myself. But gosh darnit, this is some important stuff, so I’m going to post the whole shebang anyway!)

            In a word, yes. Autism is a spectrum and there simply can’t be some little dot on a line that is definitive. Even if one is just shy of the dot, the strategies for coping with the challenges are still valid and helpful. Also, the new DMS 5 is doing away with the Asperger’s diagnosis. So labeling mild Aspies will be even harder. Many people feel that the label doesn’t matter, only whatever it takes to get access to services.

            I wish I could pm you, but here goes . . . My “qualifications” are having “diagnosed” my daughter when she was 5 and my husband when he was 40. (I may also have “diagnosed” a friend’s husband—without having met him—and possibly her daughter. Maybe.)

            Rather than discuss it with her, I would talk to an Aspie specialist. And immediately get on a waitlist for formal diagnosis. Where I live the waitlist is 7-9 months.

            One thing that usually goes along with ASD is sensory processing disorder. They may be particularly over or under sensitive to noise, lights, touch (especially with bathing, hair washing, hair and teeth brushing, hugs, etc.), food texture/smell/temperature, etc.
            There can also be major coordination issues via lack of reflex integration. Often you can get a referral or assessment for Occupational Therapy much more quickly than ASD assessment. We started that immediately while we were on the waitlist for the other.

            Also, pragmatic speech can be an issue. My daughter had an astonishing vocabulary, and used the words correctly, but missed some things like intonation and could be very literal. This can lead people to think that the Aspie is intentionally mis-interpreting what they say or hear because “they couldn’t possibly be that dense.” This is just part of the inability to read to social cues, body language, tonal nuance, facial expressions, that is inherent in ASD presentation.

            Please know that while age 12 may seem “late” to pick up on the cause of the “quirks,” the truth is many females are never diagnosed and go their entire lives wondering what is “wrong” with them and thinking that if only they tried harder, they could fit in. Understanding that it merely a difference in wiring and that a great deal of the difficulty that they encounter is strictly due to being in the minority. It is striking how Aspies tend to be drawn to one another. They can often just relax and not have to expend prodigious amounts of effort to try to blend in.

            I think anytime someone starts to delve into any sort of diagnosis, as scary as it can be, it is important to remember that nothing changes who the person is. It simply allows one to try different strategies that other people have already come up with in order help lessen the challenges. It is also important to remember that there are significant strengths that often go along with typical Aspie traits. But they are unlikely to be realized if the societal hindrances aren’t acknowledged.

            A full evaluation for ASD should include IQ testing. Quite often they are extremely bright and able to compensate for many of their challenges. This can be a great asset when it comes to learning coping strategies, but it also can make it much harder for people to realize there are issues—thus delaying diagnosis. It can also make things much harder for the child/person since people may have very high expectations of them. Conversely, the ASD may mask the level of giftedness, since the ASD challenges may hold them back.

            Regardless of what is in store for you and your daughter, but the fact that you are looking into this is really, really, really huge. I think finding a support group would be highly beneficial for you, even before seeking an evaluation.

            Another reason for looking into it further, before discussing it with your daughter is that there can be some overlap with things such as Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration associated with high giftedness.

            So sorry to flood you with my take on things, but again, I am so happy for you and your daughter that you know and care to know how she perceives the world.

            Very best of luck to you both!

      • gradalis says:

        Thanks MBL for your nice INFP way of putting it, i was going to be quite harsh (having Aspergers' and therefore no manners…) with Crimson Wife for the bold no-empathy claim. Your daughter is lucky to have you.
        People with Aspergers' do feel empathy, they just don't know how to express it the way other people would get it.

        And there's something else about empathy. Not all neurotypical people feel empathy the way empathy is usually defined – as feeling what the other person is feeling. Due to normal function of the mirror neurons, neurotypical people automatically "feel" what the other NEUROTYPICAL person feels when they express certain non-verbal signals, but they usually completely misinterpret the non-neurotypical non-verbal behaviours. Many people on the spectrum are very tired of the supposedly empathic others saying "I know exactly how you're feeling" and then proceeding to describe something that has absolutely no relation to how we actually feel. Most of them don't even accept the explanation that they are wrong, they either feel unfairly rejected or they give you something like "oh don't worry, i won't judge you, you don't have to hide from me, i understand, you can be yourself…" and persist with their initial (wrong) interpretation, which unfortunately is bs and very frustrating. Another experience is that many non-spectrum people value more how others express "empathy" than what they actually feel for them, which is another reason why Aspergian empathy doesn't seem to count.
        To everyone neurotypical, please do not assume what people on the spectrum feel or not feel. Ask them. And bear in mind, since the spectrum mirror neurons are defect, we don't all feel and behave in the same way like many NTs tend to. There are more individual differences between autistic people that between neurotypical ones. So ask the Aspergian individually, and please, accept that we really mean what we answer.

        • Daniel Baskin says:

          I always found it confusing that the abbreviation for neurotypical (NT) is also the abbreviation for the MBTI type classification for the "rational" temperament (iNuitive + Thinking)–the temperament that most often correlates with being on the autistic spectrum!

          Gradalis, I believe I understand what you mean about empathy being defined subjectively by the majority (neurotypicals), then holding that against AS's. As an INTP teacher, I found it interesting how much more easily I related to AS students than non-iNtuitive Thinking type teachers. I exhibit too many neurotypical traits to really be on the spectrum, but I sometimes feel like I "get" my aspie students, as well as my aspie friends, more than I do my typical co-worker. (The fact that I even have Aspie friends that are more than just acquaintances is kind of telling, actually, compared to the standard deviation).

          Anyway, but yeah–about the definition of empathy. Certain personalities (especially INTP's and INTJ's–with INTJ's being the most likely type to be on the spectrum) just express, understand, and mirror empathy differently than non-iNtuitive Thinking neurotypicals.

      • Crimson Wife says:

        "Recently, I have come to question the presumption that "self-centeredness" is a character flaw."

        As a Christian, I *DO* see it as a major character flaw. Jesus called us to put others' needs first and ourselves last (and He "walked the walk" in the most dramatic way by offering up His own life for all of us). Selfishness is a sin, and one that needs to be struggled against as such.

        As for the claim that those "on the spectrum" are actually empathetic once they have it pointed out to them how their behavior is affecting others, sorry, I'm not buying it.

        It has been my experience based on my Aspie relatives that they simply don't care- it's all about THEM and THEIR desires and God forbid they should have to do something they don't want to do (or forgo something they want to do) in order to make someone else happy. And when it is pointed out to them the sacrifices that others make for their benefit, the response is, "why on Earth would you do ___ if you didn't actually want to?" Totally self-centered.

        • MBL says:

          Sigh, I just haven't had the energy to reply to this in the last 1.5 years!

          I understand that you are referring to your personal experiences, but I think it is important to remember that some people are Aspies and jerks, some are non-jerk Aspies, some are jerk NTs, and some are non-jerk NTs. Don't conflate the two.

          Perhaps you could re-frame how you are approaching dealing with your relatives. If you are doing your religious duty, then let that be enough. You have done your part and you have served Jesus and do so with a joyous heart. If you are looking for gratitude, find someone who will be grateful for your sacrifices and do that with a joyous heart.

  10. Miranda says:

    Penelope – Have you heard of the GAPS diet? Stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

    In short, an imbalance of gut bacteria effects the brain, and the GAPS diet is designed to correct the balance.

    http://gapsdiet.com/Home_Page.html

    Asperger and ADHD are on the "autism spectrum", which is what the GAPS diet is designed for.

    Many folks have found dramatic improvements in their children's behavior after adopting this way of eating.

    It's also good for adult digestive and immune problems.

  11. d-day says:

    Okay . . . so what if you think it's likely that your daughter has Aspergers? Or yourself, for that matter? Is there any utility to having a formal diagnosis from a medical professional?

    If you're already parenting from a "let kids be who they are" perspective and planning to homeschool, what else is there really to do?

    • MBL says:

      That is an excellent question that many people grapple with. A lot of people conclude that a particular label doesn't matter as long as you get the services that you need. Personally, I love labels (not pigeonholing, though) because you don't have to reinvent the wheel. However, when I dragged my husband to a psychologist who specializes in autism and giftedness, she diagnosed him via an informal ten question evaluation and said that we could certainly pursue the expensive, pita, examine his childhood, formal diagnosis, but didn't recommend it unless there were a particular need for it. Since he wasn't inclined to do anything that would require it, he didn't.
      For my daughter, we needed a formal diagnosis for services like pragmatic speech therapy and social groups. We were able to start occupational therapy while on the 7 month asd list due to her suspected sensory processing issues and abysmal coordination.

      The younger the child, the more likely the state is to offer services and even home visits. I think most places use 3 years old as the cut off. As this blog entry addresses, early diagnosis in girls is rather rare (in fact I feel lucky to have figured out when she was 5) so they seldom qualify for free help. (This is just what I have read and noticed, but I may be off base.) Basically, read up on different issues that aspies have, and see if therapies for those issues might make your lives easier and implement them as best you can and go from there. It is very hard to find info on aspie females, a search for that is how I found PT. But the diagnostic criteria that doctors tend to use is the male presentation and that sucks for girls. My daughter is off the charts imaginative, very affectionate, able to discern and use tone and inflection, and is very interested in unicorns/fairies, etc. and the standard diagnostic example is transportation related things.

      I'd recommend getting The out of sync child and try to incorporate a sensory diet.
      http://www.rdos.net/eng/Aspie-quiz.php is an excellent are you an aspie quiz. You can skip the registration stuff and go straight to the quiz. it is 150 questions, but a number of them are repeated for confirmation. I think the questions are excellent in their scope.

      So, if you and or your daughter do have asperger's, or any sensory processing issues, it is very important, particularly in your daughter's case, to try to integrate those (also reflex integration and wilbarger brushing protocol can help) and improve coordination and body awareness. But, again, a label doesn't really matter in and of itself unless insurance requires it.

      Sorry this is so jumbled. I wish you all the best!

  12. Paper Tiger says:

    Aspergers is NOT a mental illness. It's a developmental disorder.

  13. nicole says:

    this blog does an excellent job of convincing me that i have asperger's…a mild case, at the very least. i have often lamented my lack of social skills (see here: http://thesamerainbowsend.com/2012/04/30/social-skills/ ) and the more i read about symptoms of asperger's, especially reading about your experiences, penelope, the more i become convinced.

    when i was in first grade…my teacher got special permission for me to do second grade math because i was ahead of all my peers, but my desk was also the messiest in the class, jammed absolutely full of random papers and bits of broken crayons and pencils and half-chewed erasers, and one day while the rest of the kids were working on their worksheets and i had already finished my different math worksheet, she dragged my desk to the front of the class and made me clean it out at the front of the room while everyone else worked. i'm just a mess in general, i guess.

  14. Daniel Baskin says:

    I just re-read this blog post you linked to:(http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2009/12/01/aspergers-at-work-why-i-need-a-sick-day-to-register-my-car/)

    I just thought it was funny (in light of the whole "sometimes unintentionally oblivious to what society deems important" spectrum trait) that I got pulled over a month ago for having 4 months expired tabs. When I tried to explain to the cop about how much of an absent minded professor type I was, he just didn't get how I could in all honesty unintentionally forget for that long–with I assume the reasoning that "a normal person" could never do this unless they were trying to get away with something. How do you explain that you are not mentally normal to the kind of person that would need something like this explained to?

    • gradalis says:

      You don't, unfortunately. Unless they already have some experience with neurodiversity, every time you try to explain, they assume you are making stuff up in order to get away with something you shouldn't. And penalise you the harsher for it. I don't drive, but you get the same in all sorts of other situations (school, work, government officials…)
      It will take a lot of awareness-raising. And that is why it is great to find articles on ASD like this one on the blog that people read for all sorts of other reasons. People on the spectrum should not hide from the real world, but at the same time we all need to learn that the world would not be "real" enough without them.

  15. Laura says:

    Do any of the asperger women here find it difficult to bring up conflict without it escalating? I have seriously given up bringing up things that upset me because what I say is taken wrong and ends up being a much bigger deal then I originally planned. And then somehow it never gets to the 'forgive and forget phase'. I hope that makes sense. I have just realized this recently.

    I also had really messy hair as a kid and a horribly messy desk. I can't figure out how to maintain a spotless home. It eludes me.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    Reading this led me to take two online screening tests for Asperger's. Both said it's highly probable that I have Asperger's. Now I'm debating whether to pursue an actual diagnosis. I'm curious, but I'm not sure if I'm curious enough to spend a couple hundred dollars and a psychologist visit or two. My husband is opposed – a diagnosis will change nothing, so what's the point? (I'm 30 years old and a stay-at-home mom.) I'm an INTJ and he's an INTP, and sometimes I wonder if we're both on the spectrum.

    • Daniel Baskin says:

      I agree with your husband. A professional's diagnosis will not give you any more useful information. Just figure out which of the spectrum traits you have the most of and live in such a way that acknowledges these strengths and weaknesses.

  17. SB says:

    How do you remember to brush your teeth every day? I still haven't figured it out.

  18. V says:

    First of all, please stop referring to Asperger's as a "mental illness". IT is *nothing* of the sort. It is a Neurological *difference*. However, mental illness can often accompany it. I should know. I have Asperger's, and I'm a grown woman, who does not suffer any mental illness alongside of my Neurological difference. It's a lifelong condition, not some curable "illness". There is a book called 'Aspergirls'. I highly recommend it.

  19. Ann says:

    My boyfriend and I both have asperger's, and we're both constantly entertained by the difference in how it manifests in the two of us.
    1. I talk all the time to everyone. He barely ever talks to anyone but me.
    2. I'm almost always a mess. (Huge knots in my hair, smudged makeup, sweatpants, etc.) He is always very well-groomed.
    3. I never remember anything. He always remembers everything. For instance: I told him ONCE that I love the chocolate covered pomegranate seeds from Trader Joe's, so he had his grandma in Nevada send me some MONTHS LATER. It took me 2 months to remember his middle name.

    • Ann says:

      Also, we both get lost constantly and we get very stressed out if we have to deal with small talk. Interestingly enough, I work in sales because I've figured out how to "fake" being normal. He works in the physics department at the local university. He doesn't understand how I can tolerate talking to people all day. I think of social interaction like a game – it took me a long time to learn the rules, but now that I know them, I'm a pretty good player. At the end of the day, though, I just want to curl up on the sofa with my boyfriend and watch Dexter or play video games.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      This is SO interesting because once you lay out those differences in a list, I think to myself: oh, those are common differences of men and women. I see it all the time. So helpful! Thanks for the comment.

      Penelope

  20. Derek says:

    Mental illness? warrented there is a lot of shitthat goes with it buti would be hesitaint to call it mental illness.

  21. Larry says:

    "because girls with terrible social skills are still better than most men"

    Such a sexist hateful comment. To hell with you you asshole bitch.

  22. Karen says:

    Hi, have been reading your post and all the comments that followed mainly because I found your blog when i googled symptoms of aspergers in younger girls. My partner and myself are worried for our oldest daughter. She is 12 and has never been a very social person. At primary school she played by herself alot I would watch her in the playground spinning around or just playing by herself on the adventure trail. When I asked her did she not want to play with others or had they argued she told me she didn't like the games they played as they weren't what she wanted to play and they wouldn't play them the way she liked. She has always done very well academically at school. She has always been a fantastic reader and her primary one teacher with 30 years said she had never came across a child who could read so well so young. She was only just over 4 and a half when she started school so this was an even bigger acheivement for her. She is in the top group for maths at secondary school but doesn't really like it. She does well in all her subjects but seems to have only 2 friends she hangs about with. Every day we have to remind her breakfasts done get dressed, brush your teeth, get washed, put deoderant on, brush your har ( which is always a mess even when she brushes it but she doesn't really care), sort your clothes. When we go out regardless of the weather she will fasten her jacket up until the zip is fully pulled up to her chin and all the buttons are in. She sleeps with a blanket covering her head. We had never thought about the literal thinking before but the more we thought about it with things like telling her we would pick her up at the bus stop outside school for her music band and there being a long line of cars from the bus stop and we were last in line. We could not understand why she just stood and the bus stop looking for our car instead of walking down the line of cars til she found ours. I could go on and on and feel like I already have. She constantly procarstinates, is very passive aggressive, annoys her younger siblings all the time, loves reading constantly does not care about what she wears or how she looks, or smells is very messy, very forgetful, scatterbrained, never flushes the toilet which infuriates us because we feel for goodness sake you are 12, your 4 year old brother does it. We are just so worried for her, we want her to get the best out of life and I feel like she is missing out on so much without friendships at this age it is breaking my heart. Do you think she may have Aspergers or are we just being overly worried about how she is?

    • Karen says:

      Karen,

      Are you writing about my future daughter? My DD is 9.5 and you described her to a T. Not sure if she is an Aspie but believe she is definitely on the spectrum, she's been like this since birth. I don't believe she has an illness, this is the way she is. All I've ever wanted is for her to be happy and do well in school. She has 2 friends (she thinks she has more but they never talk to her). She is creative, SMART, and very clever. She teaches me new things every day. In order to help her remember to brush her teeth we have created a "Let's Get Ready" chart. She has to make a check mark in every box before she leaves for school. It used to be extremely stressful in the morning and now it is much easier. Organization seems to be key in helping her. Thankfully I'm a little OCD so that's right up my alley!

    • cat says:

      Get your daughter tested as soon as possible . My daughter was not diagnosed until 15 after I suggested it . You have to be your own childs advocate . If people around you ( teachers,peers) do not understand what is going on it only gets worst . imagine being 18 and never having a boyfriend or even talking to other kids on the phone . That is what my daughter goes through. And after being in isolation for so long depression is bound to set in . That is the worst part of aspergers, sitting and watching your child so lonely . Mom and Dad can be your best friend for only so long . My daughter is graduating this year and has an understanding of her condition . She realizes it makes her do "wierd " things. The standing and waiting for the car incident is something that she would and has done. As well as the zipping up the jacket . Just please be patient and tap into al your resources .

  23. Mindy says:

    Aspergers is NOT a mental illness. It is a neurological disorder. This is a common and extremely damaging misconception regarding AS.

    • cat says:

      Thank you for your comment . Someone identified my daughter as slow the other day .
      excuse me , she is graduating from HS with a 3.74 GPA compared to the persons who said this who's daughter is barely making it . i explain it but their is no getting through to some people .

  24. Anono says:

    I'm sorry, but its not that black and white. Use your imagination to realize that messy hair can be a sign of other disorders, especially, ADHD. This type of loose association of everyone and everything with aspergers is the reason it's getting dropped off the dsm. We like to call everyone and everything aspergers, without clear warrant, missing the fact that aspergers core social problems are social cognition, and not just social problems arriving from social phobia. Guess what? Somebody can have ADHD, anxiety, stiff movements with obsessive compulsive disorder, and STILL not have autism. How's that grab you?

  25. Dc says:

    I have a question with some private details about my daughter and I'd like to get your thoughts. Could you e-mail me?

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