27/03/2011

Portraits of Autism: Asperger' s pink and blue.

I haven't been to the autism education centre for a while, but when I go, I mostly see boys there. Sure, there's the occasional girl with Asperger. But even that's rare. One thing I found out recently is that Asperger is under-diagnosed in girls. What this means is that many girls suffer in silence, trying to work out what the hell is going on around them and how they're supposed to react to people and situations. They're coping with autism by themselves. This situation comes about because one of the many prejudices about autism is that it's a boy thing, that it's to do with having an extreme male brain.

I don't want to suggest that there is no truth behind any of this: more boys than girls do seem to be affected overall. But with something like Asperger, or high functioning autism, it's much harder to tell. How the symptoms manifest themselves depends very much on how a child develops. And Asperger doesn't affect the development of a child in quite the same way as classical autism does. Children with Asperger are good talkers, so they're not excluded from society as children who don't speak can be. So they get to be put into society's little boxes, just like any other child. They learn - with difficulty - the kind of behaviour that is expected of them as boys or as girls. So it's not suprising that Asperger's symptoms should manisfest themselves differently in boys and in girls. Blue Asperger for boys, and pink for girls.

But of course, the medical profession only recognizes blue Asperger's symptoms. So girls remain undiagnosed. As far as current diagnoses are concerned, there are 16 boys with Asperger's to every girl who has the condition. Dr Judith Gould, who is quoted in this Guardian article says it should be 2.5 to 1. This means that for every 16 boys who receive a diagnosis of Asperger's there are 5 or 6 girls who don't but who have the condition. One way in which the condition might manifest itself in girls when undiagnosed is through eating disorders. In any case, as women who have been diagnosed late in life, like Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, will tell you, it's miserable, it's hard. It doesn't have to be.






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5 comments:

Casdok said...

Ive pondered about this as well.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

I have thought about looking up how you diagnose asperger's in girls to check both myself and no 1 daughter, but perhaps I don't want to go there....we both seem to be doing okay, so how would any kind of diagnosis help?

Sandrine said...

And why should you? If there is a spectrum, then presumably some of us are on the edge of that spectrum, in a place where there's probably as much benefit to be gained from some aspects of the conditions as there are disadvantages. I've wondered about my daughter too at times, but like yours, she's doing great, so, who cares?

Sandrine said...

@Casdok - I just found your blogs: love them.

Liz said...

V. interesting statistics. Two of my female fellow students at university have Asperger's, one diagnosed in her late teens and one in her late 20s. My friend who was diagnosed later had been through a whole range of diagnoses before the Asperger's one. Interestingly enough, both studied humanities disciplines rather than the more stereotypical science/maths - perhaps a natural intellectualisation of relationships and concepts that were difficult and confusing in practice?

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