Girls and women on the spectrum: the emotional rollercoaster
Dr Lori Ernsperger, a US expert on Autism Spectrum Disorder in girls and women, says many parents of girls on the spectrum experience an “emotional rollercoaster”.
While they’re excited and celebrate their daughter’s developmental milestones, they become increasingly concerned and anxious over puzzling behaviours.
“Obtaining an ASD diagnosis for a female can be very challenging, with scant research and available answers from professionals,” Dr Emsperger (PhD, BCBA-D) says.
“Females with ASD should not be expected to ‘fit’ within the narrow guidelines of a male dominated diagnosis. Over the last decade, professionals are beginning to identify general characteristics of females with ASD”.
In an address to the Annual Women’s Health Update, Professor Tony Attwood, international author and clinical psychologist, spoke of the diagnostic issues facing girls and women
Professor Attwood also says girls and women are creative in how they cope with being different.
“The girls are better at camouflaging their confusion, and we are getting better at seeing how they do it,” he says.
“The girls are wonderful imitators.”
A strategy girls may use to work out what somebody is thinking and how they are feeling, Professor Attwood adds, is the reading of fiction.
“So as you are reading Harry Potter, and especially Hermione, in words very clear to understand, is what someone is thinking and feeling. Hermione is the quintessential ‘aspie’ girl,” Professor Attwood says.
“At Hogwarts, she has no female friends, she’s a total tomboy.”