Women and Autism Over the Life Span

This is a theme I’ll be getting into now and then, but very carefully. The lives of older women on the spectrum have hardly been touched on, so it’s something that’s going to be difficult to do right. I’m skimming over a research study that is a rather sad commentary, since it was conducted recently, with a group of only 14 woman, and limits the age range from 22 to 30. That’s what they consider late diagnosis. And, “To our knowledge, this is the first study to specifically investigate the experiences of late-diagnosed females with ASC…”

One reason I’m not rushing into writing about older women on the spectrum, particularly those who have never been officially diagnosed, is that I want to avoid using my own experiences as the template. If this blog’s readership grows large enough that I can construct some sort of questionnaire, or just ask for personal experiences, I might have enough data to draw useful conclusions. The alternative, not an entirely bad one, would be to theorize broadly.

Ideally, I’d like to work just with women who grew into adulthood and even into old age before the possibility of diagnosis even existed. Most of the women in the study said that their lives would have been easier if they’d been diagnosed earlier. In contrast, I’m mostly glad that I never even heard of autism until I was well into seniorhood. One of the themes I’d like to explore is the pros and cons of diagnosis, at whatever age.

So this is just a little introduction to what will be coming up eventually, I don’t want that single issue to dominate the blog, though. The blog’s central theme is creativity, intellect, and Asperger’s, not gender.

The Experience of Late-diagnosed Women with Autism Spectrum Conditions: An Investigation of the Female Autism Phenotype

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6 thoughts on “Women and Autism Over the Life Span

  1. privatepersonblog

    Thanks for posting the link… so much in this paper not least of all is the notion of camouflaging.
    Is it possible that in this ” image conscious’ world that younger autistic females have consciously tried to model their behaviour on promoted stereotypes in an attempt to fit in via camouflaging.

    It is possibly due to my older years and extremely late dx that I cannot see myself consciously camouflaging. Lets put it this way I read literary novels and poetry as a means to connect with humanity and in the latter … my inner self. I had no access to TV in my formative years, non-existent in OZ, didn’t have access magazines except National geographic and a few embarrassing mags , Pix and Post ( all three subscribed to by my single and autistic undiagnosed intelligent and employed autistic uncle, who passed them on to my father) and on reflection I was very disconnected to the fashions of the world of that time.

    Part of this was due to family life style, quite unconventional, and also we were part of a discriminated minority …. I recently shared that I was stoned on the way to school….soon had to add that it wasn’t due to marijuana but to having stones thrown at me accompanied by the singing of offensive songs regarding our religion.

    There were so many ways i didn’t fit in… white skin…Yes, but the much maligned red hair and freckles, and I didn’t live near other kids who went to the same school. All these factors i saw as being reasons why I didn’t have friends and i really believed that for ages… I’d been trying to figure it out since early childhood.

    Later in adolescence a rare ‘ friend ‘ would try to ‘ fix’ me … it was strange… these girls went out of their way to select fabric for me and actually sew me stylish clothes. Whenever I consciously tried to copy stereotypical female behaviour I was so ” unpolished” that I can recall being called grotesque… or causing laughter without knowing why… camouflaging was so far from my ability to even hope of succeeding. I was sent to attend a ” modelling course” ( accompanied by the girl next door) with the intent of learning how to apply makeup, dress tastefully etc. this was not uncommon in the late1960’s.I found this course very beneficial regarding attending social and formal occasions… dress wise I was ok but I was still completely lost communicating etc.

    Where was I accepted.?..It was on the athletics track, judo mat, or dance floor, or in company of others who wrote and orally shared their poetry at poetry readings. Activities … my interests physical, creative and later on intellectual pursuits… studying at University etc and initiating various support groups. I expressed myself via these avenues and painting… the joy of passions a means of self expression, primarily as means of self communication and occasionally someone else could relate to where I was/am coming from.

    Not a typical girl and felt uncomfortable in my body, related better to males , via common interests, and found it difficult to relate to girls/women… in fact I felt unsafe in their company ( there is a nastiness a bitchiness in most groups of females) except for a few individuals and an occasional group over my life. Relate better one to one…uncomfortable in a group of NT women.

    Camouflaging! I wonder how many older autistic women, especially those really late dx, like post 50 yrs, have consciously camouflaged? What other factors could be pertinent … family… the more I reflect I know that my mother was definitely on the autism spectrum as was my father’s youngest brother… markedly so being considered very intelligent but also extremely eccentric. There are also question marks over my father, some grandparents, cousins (having other related diagnoses) and siblings… who also state that our family was extremely dysfunctional.

    Did these family influences add to the unlikley-hood of my being able to even conceive of camouflaging? It would be very interesting and possibly instructive to investigate the concept and attempts to employ camouflaging as a means to be accepted by female autistics over the life span within their historical cultural context.

    Still much more, other aspects to consider in the paper.

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    1. Catana Post author

      You’re talking about the generation gap and the influence of culture, neither of which have been addressed anywhere that I’m aware of. Very important points. I’m even older, so TV wasn’t an influence until I was in my teens. Another point to take into account is the difference between introverts and extraverts. How strongly do those two temperaments influence the desire to fit in, to camouflage aspie traits?

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      1. privatepersonblog

        Good point!
        Another is the strength of ” modelling’ in the home regarding influencing sociability. A fortnightly visit from a grand mother and an occasional visit to my mother’s cousin was the only social modelling we had… family relationships are very different to societal.

        One extravert sibling managed quite well socially until adulthood.

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  2. Catana Post author

    Modelling, definitely. I’m not sure I would have thought of that. What kind of modelling, or even the lack of it. I’ll have to put all this together when I’m feeling better. Currently battling bronchitis.

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    1. Catana Post author

      Solo, for the most part. But I hope to make contact with more people like you, maybe get enough of a readership so it will be worthwhile to develop a questionnaire. If would be just one part of what I’m trying to do in this blog — go deeper into certain aspects of Asperger’s and maybe challenge some of the assumptions. Ultimately, if my health holds out, maybe a book.

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