Top 11 Diagnostic myths for Adult Females with Asperger Syndrome: A Brief Look

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Top 11 Diagnostic myths for Adult Females with Asperger Syndrome:  A Brief Look

Updated 25/09/216

Over the years, I have listened to the stories and narratives females across the lifespan. In working with and supporting females on the Autism Spectrum, I have personally learned alot. With their permission, I am and will be sharing their stories, thoughts and quotes, at times in blogs and mostly in my book series. Amongst the stories and narratives of adult women, research and personal clinical anecdotal experience, I have come across some common diagnostic myths. What follows is a brief summary of my Top 11 Diagnostic myths I have most commonly heard. This is being updated on an ongoing basis.

MYTH:  You can’t have Asperger Syndrome because you are female.

FACT:  Females of all ages can and do have Asperger Syndrome (AS). Females with AS are in every country and they usually have a distinctive profile. The gender statistics are approximately 2:1 for male:female, and well may be 1:1 in the future, as we find out more through research, anecdotal and clinical evidence. One of the most common diagnostic pathways I see is a mother whose has children and/or grand-children on the Autism Spectrum.

MYTH:  You can’t have Asperger Syndrome because your symptoms don’t fit the diagnostic criteria.

FACT:  The criteria is male-based and the classification diagnostic system’s examples of symptoms and behaviours (for e.g., DSM5) are “male-oriented”. There is a distinct female profile of which currently there is no formal adult female assessment tool or criteria for adult females.

MYTH:  You can’t have Asperger Syndrome because you can make eye contact.

FACT:  Adult females can and do make eye contact. Many females have had years of developing a wide variety of coping mechanisms and strategies, even enabling some women to “pass as normal” most of the time.  Their use of Social Echolalia (copying, mimicking and acting) can make it a challenge for professionals not familiar with the unique female characteristics and traits.

MYTH:  You can’t have Asperger Syndrome because you are able to have a conversation.

FACT: Females on the Spectrum can and do make conversation. As children, generally speaking, they have better linguistic and verbal skills than boys do.

MYTH: You can’t have Aspergers because you can socialize with other people

FACT:  Many females can socialize quite well for short periods of time. However, they are emotionally drained and then need solitude to restore and recharge. The period of time for solitude varies, depending on the female’s social needs or social cup and where they are on the “social spectrum”.

MYTH: You can’t have Aspergers because you have friends and.or a best friend
FACT:  Many females I have spoken to have a best friend or one or two close friends. Interestingly, some females have reported that they are very popular and struggle with the amount of social invitations they receive, often saying “yes” and then later making up a reason for why they then cannot attend .

MYTH:  You cant have Aspergers because you don’t have traditional special interests                                                                                                                                                                                                FACT:  As children, girls with Aspergers generally have similar special interests as their female peers. However, it is the quality and intensity of the interest that is different. Just some of the child and/or adult female special interests include: psychology, philosophy, self-help, animals, fantasy and sci-fi, reading, books and text-books, life-long learning, computers, writing, art, acting and music.

MYTH:  You cant have Aspergers because you have empathy and compassion

FACT:  There are different types of empathy. Many (not all) of the adult females I have worked with can be found in the caring or teaching professions. I have worked with women on the Spectrum who are nurses, special education teachers, professors, psychologists, social workers, doctors and child care workers, amongst others.

MYTH: You cant have Aspergers because you are a cheerleader, supermodel, famous professional singer, famous actress.

FACT: Many females in the listed the above careers have Aspergers. They may have lots of friends (acquaintances), run in the same circle (i.e. of supermodels, actresses)

MYTH: You can’t have Aspergers if you’re not a “Tomboy”. Many females on the Spectrum love make-up hair, clothes, dressing up, modelling, and fashion.

FACT: Many females on the Spectrum love make-up hair, clothes, dressing up, modelling, and fashion. Autism in women is heterogeneous and their are many sub-types and/or presentations

MYTH: You can’have Autism because you are an academic superstar, are an award winning professional actress/athlete/author/model/dancer

FACT: Many females won the Spectrum are experts in their field of interested and often have multiple talents and abilities.


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Tania Marshall, 2014 – 2016. All rights reserved.

28 thoughts on “Top 11 Diagnostic myths for Adult Females with Asperger Syndrome: A Brief Look

  1. A very clear and useful collection of reasons why diagnostic manuals should be widened on the female side of that page! Hope this compassion thing will be debunked soon. It is not the Aspie who lacks compassion — the NT lacks an ability to see the signs of Aspie emotion, because they come in an unusual way.
    When my mother lost her second child, she had no tears anymore. The shock was too deep. And she got blamed for not crying.

  2. Another wonderfully insightful article. I am completely over people not accepting my daughter’s diagnosis because she can show empathy sometimes and other points you have mentioned. With each post you put up I feel a little stronger. I feel it is harder to explain my daughter’s condition to “the concerned” than to actually raise her.

  3. Hi, Tania. I’m glad to see that there are so many women with Aspergers represented in the helping professions. I would like to see more of them contributing to research, advocacy, and interventions for all adults on the autism spectrum. Your thoughts?

  4. Thank you.
    Being an Aspie female (or male I suppose of course) is hard enough. Living for decades alongside loving family and family friends who simply refuse to believe the diagnosis or stop expecting one to just “make an effort” to be “like all the other girls” — feeling like another specie and yet wanting so much not to be for their sake. Then reading that I am not supposed to be able to have those feelings (I have them aplenty, I just can’t act on them or know how to do so timely, but wait for a “hint” from my mom… the only person who ever understood.)
    So thank you. It seems I an not another specie after all.

  5. It is a myth about anyone with AS that we do not have empathy or compassion. While there are times when we may seem cold and obtuse, inside us is a great wealth of compassion for the world that is hard to express in typical ways.

    1. In fact, I feel like I empathize to much, that everything is too intense. I want to “repair” people’s problems, and when I can’t, I feel too bad and feel sad. I like animals because making they better is simple. You heal them, teach them to trust, and they will be forever OK, unlike people.

  6. I read your blog occasionally. Never been diagnosed, have an advanced degree (MBA), a great job, friends, good life, but always felt socially awkward and a bit different and very much a nerd. My twin is the same way, and maybe more so than me (she has embraced the sciences). I don’t know if I’ll ever pursue a diagnosis. Not sure it matters in my 40s now, but I’ve wondered for a while. Thanks.

  7. I feel so much better knowing just what it is that causes people to back away from or be patronising towards me !! Still waiting for a diagnosis but very hopeful in the near future !!

  8. All those points describe me. I have lots of friends, a wide range of interests, can socialize quite well, and tend to be empathic, mostly when it comes to animals. Yet, I need to be alone and in silence at least a day in the week, I need to read or do something about my interests every day or I become agitated, and have anxiety about socialization. I can mimic well enough to pass as a “normal girl”, to the point I got my diagnosis when I was 25.

  9. My daughter is going through her assessment (at our insistance). If I hear “she has eye contact” one more time, I may explode. Great post.

  10. Read your pointers for female aspergers and nearly cried 🙂 I finally understand myself !!! Thank you, and I hope you continue your research for a long time to come xx

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