Are There Really More Boys than Girls with Asperger’s?

As pediatricians and psychologists are flooded with children, and now adults, wanting to be assessed for the condition following relatively recent awareness, they are able to recognize more girls and women presenting with symptoms similar to, but not quite the same as, their male counterparts. This has lead some to call for a separate DSM, taking into account the differing effect an Aspergers neurology has on the two sexes.

Girls, with brains which have long been said to be wired for social interaction, appear to have the ability to mask the social deficiencies characteristic of Aspergers – mask, but not entirely compensate for. It is as if girls are born with a social “framework” which is available for them to “drag and drop” the missing pieces through intellectual observation and imitation. Boys with Aspergers seem to lack even the framework, and can therefore be unaware of what it is they are lacking, leaving them less able to drop the pieces into their correct places.

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Aspergers Symptoms and Prognosis

As well, girls tend to act out less than boys, internalizing stress, which naturally draws less attention than the destructive or aggressive behaviors which tend to lead to referral for assessment. As a result, girls in the recent past have mostly reached maturity without any knowledge of the reasons for their acutely felt, but invisible, differences, and beneath a surface which may appear calm, crippling anxieties can lurk.

This lack of acknowledgement of girls on the spectrum is ironic, considering that the popularizer of Hans Asperger’s research, Lorna Wing, initiated her own research into Autistic Spectrum Disorders as a result of having an autistic daughter.

However, as Tony Attwood, international leader in autism studies, says, girls are likely to make good progress with an early diagnosis, and the good news is that more diagnosticians are recognizing the hidden nature of Aspergers in girls, allowing the next generation to receive both the recognition and assistance that will hopefully enable them to gain maturity with a minimum of trauma.

Recognizing Aspergers in Girls

Coming to grips with the true statistics may take time as more women come forward, and as those referring children for assessment begin to recognize the profile of Aspergers in young girls. After all, Aspergers is neither a disease nor a curse, but a different way of being, one which brings along with it a fresh perspective on the world. It is often the anxiety associated with knowing they don’t fit, but not having strategies to cope with the often foreign world they find themselves faced with, that has the most debilitating effects on girls.