Tag Archives: women

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

Not Properly Female

So now everyone (almost everyone) knows that female autistics don’t usually present the same way that males do. A little step to the side here to tackle that word: present. We don’t present. We behave. Everyone else in the world behaves; they don’t present, so let’s drop that piece of medical or psychiatric jargon where it belongs — in the trash.

Instead of expecting female autistics to behave the way males do, the experts on how autistics function have now weighed females down with a different set of standards. We are more adaptable, and we work harder to adapt. We socialize more easily and try to fit into the social groups around us. We’re more concerned with how we look. Overall, we’re less likely to have the strange traits and behaviors that make autistics so weird.

I’m sure there aren’t any statistics to back me up, but I suspect that those standards are just so much BS. Another set of stereotypes to hang on to for people who have trouble understanding a concept like individuality. I suspect there is a point in almost every autistic girl’s or woman’s life when they say the hell with it, and set off on a path that’s comfortable for them, rather than keeping on with the struggle to fit in. That may happen early, in which case the girl avoids a great deal of the grief that occurs when you spend all your energy trying to emulate people with whom you have nothing in common.

Finding your own way of being female may very well mean that you will never be a “proper” female. And this can be a good thing. An excellent thing. Every time you let go of an expectation that others have for you, you gain a measure of freedom. Every time you give up one of those expectations, the next one becomes easier to let go of. And once you realize that you are now living a life designed by your own needs and preferences, you are free to accomplish whatever is important to you. Even if that means the rest of the world will never consider you a “proper” woman.