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laevateinn
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15 May 2022, 6:34 pm

Does anyone else feel alienated by the whole "women experience autism differently than men" thing?

It's just kind of frustrating to try to find information and resources relating to autism and basically being told that all women present a certain way, a way that I can't relate to at all:

"Autistic women are diagnosed late because autistic women don't act autistic enough to get diagnosed. They can mask their symptoms, they have intact if not superior empathy, better social skills than autistic men, and they have 'normal' special interests."

I was diagnosed early; my symptoms are kind of obvious. I have no clue how to mask my symptoms. I don't know how to "study" others to "copy them". Me having the ability to blend in and analyze others' behaviors like that feels like the notion of a giraffe being able to fly: fundamentally impossible. I have low empathy. My special interests tend to be strange. It feels impossible to make or maintain friendships. Even laypeople have clocked me as autistic.

I've always felt lonely because of my autism. It just makes me feel even more alone to know that I'm an outlier in terms of how my symptoms present. Does anyone else feel the same?



HeroOfHyrule
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15 May 2022, 6:39 pm

I also hate the stereotype because it not-so-lowkey demonizes autistic men. There's plenty of autistic men that fit the "female version of autism", but they get invalidated because all autistic men are apparently supposed to suck at masking, have horrible empathy, only be interested in trains and computers, and not animals or reading, etc.

As an AFAB trans person I have traits of both "types" of autism, and have the same symptoms as my brother, and still wasn't diagnosed when I was assessed as a child and adolescent just because I'm AFAB. I honestly think the whole concept of a "female version" of autism is just an excuse so professionals and researchers can feel better about ignoring autistic AFAB people for so long.


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IsabellaLinton
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15 May 2022, 7:22 pm

I feel exactly the same.

I hate the idea that there are two kinds of autism, and the idea that I was socialised to mask?

Um, sorry ... I was autistic. I couldn't be socialised to do anything that didn't come naturally.

I didn't fall for gender role propaganda.

I'm just me.



Edna3362
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16 May 2022, 8:43 am

I don't fit in with that either.
The only part that fits a bit is the conventional special interests.

Looking back, it's not like I got enough exposure or verbal comprehension to have special interests that are obscured to begin with.


But the masking and mimicking -- whether it's willful or not -- I can never relate to that.

Not that I even ever have to nor would I. :P I just don't naturally look clumsy or impulsive enough.
I even idolize no one, let alone worship and emulate.


And the socializing part??
I'm too lucky actually -- of I weren't so asocial. Yet also too apathetic deep down.
If I wasn't, I would've been happier, very grateful or something.
Except that's just not me, nor what I would prioritize in life.


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IsabellaLinton
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16 May 2022, 8:59 am

I don't understand why people think autistic girls magically copy other girls to act "female".

If we're so good at copying people, wouldn't we copy how to be neuro-typical rather than ... female?

It's all really sexist rhetoric, in my opinion.



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16 May 2022, 11:22 am

I think some of the literature about females with Aspergers or autism is targeted to parents of girls, who are struggling to understand their wonderful, unique, but challenging woman-child. I kept looking for my daughter's owners manual for years. It's early times for acknowledging women on the spectrum--researchers focused so much on males for so long, the info you read/hear about females on the spectrum is based on small study groups. Parents, and anyone, struggling to understand their kid or themselves will latch onto one or two characteristics that may fit some of the time, in sources of info. You've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism. Females are too complicated to make broad generalizations about. Try not to worry about how others define you--just stay strong, raise hell, and VOTE.



IsabellaLinton
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16 May 2022, 11:31 am

Timeflyer wrote:
It's early times for acknowledging women on the spectrum--researchers focused so much on males for so long, the info you read/hear about females on the spectrum is based on small study groups.


I still don't understand.
Females on the spectrum aren't a different species than males on the spectrum.
It's a spectrum to begin with, so we all have slightly different presentations regardless of our sex / gender.
It's not like "Female" is at one end of the spectrum and "Male" is at the other.
Boys and men can be just as "female" in their ASD presentation as girls and women.
Girls and women can be just as "male" as boys and men.
I'm not talking about our gender identities, but the ways our autism presents itself.



hurtloam
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16 May 2022, 12:57 pm

Heart attacks tend to present differently in women. If you experienced a heart attack in a stereotypically male way would you be angry that medical staff are given advice to look out for certain symptoms in women that they might otherwise overlook.

It's the same with autism. A lot of girls slipped through the net in the past because certain traits weren't noticed. The advice to look for certain traits in girls isn't meant to make some feel excluded it's meant to broaden the definition of autism to help people make diagnosis, for teachers to catch it in their classroom.

You're taking it too personally. It doesn't mean all autistic girls will be obsessed with pop stars and shoes. I wasn't.



IsabellaLinton
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16 May 2022, 1:00 pm

If they broaden the definition I hope it's with an aim of diagnosing more people overall, including boys and men.
Lots of boys and men fly under the radar just like girls and women.

It seems the definition itself doesn't really need to change, but public perception and stereotype does.



lostonearth35
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16 May 2022, 1:24 pm

Reason's why I, a woman, got diagnosed with Asperger's in 2001:

Obsessions i.e. intense interests such as cartoons and troll dolls

Role playing with dolls and stuffed animals, even as an adult

Lack of eye contact

One-sided conversations about special interests

Preferring practical, comfortable clothing

Prone to meltdowns

Poor relations with other people

Saying rude or inappropriate things and not realizing it (a lot of these traits make it sound like we're just plain horrible to be around)

Poor gross motor skills

Dislikes last-minute changes, being interrupted, doing anything spontaneous

Likes routine

Pays attention to small details and patterns


But in spite of all this, people still think we shouldn't have any problems living in an NT world at all because we're "high functioning", and how I hate that.



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16 May 2022, 1:27 pm

I hate the Female Autism Phenotype because it takes away the bit of hope I have of being misdiagnosed in childhood. So whenever I say that I have good empathy skills, better social skills than Aspie men, don't have specific interests and my symptoms aren't obvious whether I mask or not, people just say "oh that's because you're female".

I'm a rare case because I was diagnosed in childhood. But I don't think I would have been diagnosed so early if my anxiety hadn't brought out my symptoms - symptoms that I never even displayed until I started school. I was diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood, even though I had obvious symptoms in childhood but I think in the '90s ADHD was only diagnosed to naughty little boys, not little girls who are quiet and shy in the classroom. If I was born a few years ago I probably would have got diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety disorder and not ASD.


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16 May 2022, 1:49 pm

Reason's why I don't even know how I got diagnosed with Asperger's in childhood:-

Quote:
Obsessions i.e. intense interests such as cartoons and troll dolls

I didn't even have any intense interests until I was 11, and even then onwards I only got obsessions with people, which I call obsessions, not specified interests.

Quote:
Role playing with dolls and stuffed animals...
,
I probably did that but isn't that normal for little girls?

Quote:
...even as an adult

I did when I was a teenager but that was with my younger cousins. I didn't do it on my own.

Quote:
Lack of eye contact

I never lacked eye contact.
Quote:
One-sided conversations about special interests

I had no special interests to talk about. I seemed fascinated with teddy bears but I didn't talk excessively about them.
Quote:
Preferring practical, comfortable clothing

I was a tomboy and wouldn't wear skirts or dresses, even for school. But it was quite fashionable in the '90s for girls to actually be tomboys, as there was a craze of girls wearing boys clothes.

Quote:
Prone to meltdowns

Define meltdown.
I had tantrums as a kid, like I hadn't grown out of the terrible twos. As I got older the tantrums became outbursts (which is an adult version of a tantrum).

Quote:
Poor relations with other people

I do remember bickering with children I was closest to (like one or two of my cousins or my best friend) or if one child was a trouble-maker who wouldn't co-operate in the group when playing imaginative games. That's another thing I didn't have trouble with - I could actually play imaginative games with other children as long as they were playing fairly. If the game started being ruined by one annoying kid then I'd get all fiery.
Friendships seemed harder though when puberty hit, as other girls started getting into girly clothes and make-up and boys, while I didn't quite feel ready for all that yet.

Quote:
Saying rude or inappropriate things and not realizing it (a lot of these traits make it sound like we're just plain horrible to be around)

Sometimes I said inappropriate things but not often enough to make people think I was a horrible person. Sometimes words would just leave my mouth without me thinking first, like an impulse. Like when I was about 13 a girl in my class opened her lunch box to reveal a salad she had made in cookery class, and because I didn't like salads I just said "urgh!" without really thinking. It was only when she looked upset that I realised I shouldn't have just said that, but this was a girl who often said hurtful things to me in the past so I think I'd picked up some hurtful behaviour from her. So these NTs have only got themselves to blame.

Quote:
Poor gross motor skills

I wasn't really clumsier than normal children, and I learnt to ride a bike unaided by age 5. I was also good at climbing high in trees, and I managed to never break a bone.

Quote:
Dislikes last-minute changes, being interrupted, doing anything spontaneous

I loved surprises as a child. But I couldn't take disappointment very well. If a plan I was looking forward to got cancelled at the last minute I would throw a tantrum like a toddler.

Quote:
Likes routine

Apparently I liked sameness in routine at school, but it was only because of my fear of the bells (it's a long story. To find out more, check out my thread "The School Bells Ruined My School Life" in the school and college life section.
Yes, loud sudden noises did frighten me and I was very timid around dogs and fireworks.
Quote:
Pays attention to small details and patterns

I don't even know if this is even a symptom of autism any more.


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funeralxempire
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16 May 2022, 4:44 pm

IsabellaLinton wrote:
If they broaden the definition I hope it's with an aim of diagnosing more people overall, including boys and men.
Lots of boys and men fly under the radar just like girls and women.

It seems the definition itself doesn't really need to change, but public perception and stereotype does.


Personally I try to use high-masking and low-masking vs. female and male, but regardless of what the label is I believe it's likely that more females go undiagnosed than males and that this likely indicates women with ASD are more likely to be high-masking.

That said, neither presentation is limited to one or the other and some people probably present with a mixed type just due to how a 'spiky profile' works.

At least personally there's areas I mask well in and others I can't for the life of me. That said, there's enough I could mask adequately to make it well into adulthood before I was diagnosed.


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IsabellaLinton
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16 May 2022, 4:58 pm

I agree with you for the most part. ^

I couldn't mask though. People knew I was weird af but they didn't know what to call it. When I finally realised for myself it was probably autism, I had no problem getting a diagnosis (Level 2) from a doctor. I met all of the DSM-5 criteria and it was clear cut.

Lots of autistic girls and women can't mask (including many women on WP), and lots of boys and men do ... so gender isn't really the problem. I agree that doctors and teachers should be better trained to look for the signs overall, and to also be aware of masking / camouflage / mutism. In my case I didn't speak enough to tell people what was going on or how badly I wanted answers.



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16 May 2022, 5:19 pm

There are many autistic women who present as fully autistic in the "male" sense.

I truly believe autism is autism, no matter what gender one is.



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16 May 2022, 6:47 pm

hurtloam wrote:
Heart attacks tend to present differently in women. If you experienced a heart attack in a stereotypically male way would you be angry that medical staff are given advice to look out for certain symptoms in women that they might otherwise overlook...

If they missed the heart attack because they were too obsessed with looking for female-specific symptoms of a heart attack and completely ignored the typical signs (which has happened to women before), then yeah, I'd be pretty pissed off about it...

Part of the issue for me is that sometimes the "typical female presentation" of autism is now used as an excuse to still not diagnose females if they present the "typical male way", and that there's males that also still present the "female" way but are not being noticed since those specific traits are supposed to be for "females".

Like FXE said I think they should just be considered "high-masking" and "low-masking" presentations instead of being gendered, since the gendering still doesn't really fix the problem of people who don't fit specific stereotypes that they're "supposed" to fit not being diagnosed correctly.


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