Where are all the females with Autism or Aspergers hiding? Life As a Chameleon Part I


In my two Gold medal award-winning books, I Am AspienGirl and I am AspienWoman, I discuss the female phenotype and how it presents differently from males. One of the areas I have been able to research and ask of my clients is, “how have you managed to hide your Autism all this time?” Other questions I ask them include:

I have worked with clients for over 20 years who have told me how they hide or not hide their Autism. Some autistic individuals can and some cannot or do not choose too. These behaviors are referred to as masking, camouflaging, assimilation, compensation, coping strategies, passing for normal, pretending to be normal or being a chameleon. In order to assist with females and males obtaining an assessment or diagnosis, I am pre-releasing a part of my book to assist professionals in recognizing Autistic females and males by asking the right questions.

The Compensatory mechanisms used by some Autistic people I have met and listened to are complex, even going so far as to use one behavior to cover up another. These questions and behaviors come directly from my professional experience as a psychologist working with individuals with Autism, Giftedness and Social Anxiety. Thank you to all my clients for sharing your stories with me.

The Compensatory Measures Checklist©, Marshall 2017, excerpt from my from my upcoming book. 

Do you feel different than your peers? When was the first time you ever felt different?

What exactly makes you feel different from your peers?

What is your experience of social interactions with your peers like?

Do you copy or mimic your peers (copy their voice or accent, words, and language or slang, hand and/or body gestures). Do you laugh when they laugh even when you don’t understand why you are laughing?

Do you take on a persona of always smiling and pleasing everybody?

Do you make better versions of yourself that based on peers in school, over time? How do you do that?

Have you ever read books on etiquette, social skills, facial expressions, microexpressions? Have you practiced them in front of a mirror? Have you practiced making more or less of a facial expression? In particular, have you purposefully changed you smile or facial expression to look “more normal”? Have you studied anatomy books, in particular, the facial muscle that matches with each facial expression (for example, knowing that a certain muscle is used in smiling and practicing using that muscle?

Have you ever used Botox or a similar cosmetic ingredient to make your face appear more natural, less angry or furrowed/worried?

Do you watch YouTube videos on social skills, self-improvement, and human etiquette in order to fit in?

Has a peer ever make a comment about your gait or other forms of behavior? If so, did you actively practice a behavior until you were able to make it look like your peers do when they behave that way? (for example, being told he/she had a ‘funny’ run and then purposefully practicing the running over and over again until it was perfect).

Have you watched movies to learn how to act with your peers? (for e.g, learn that you need to have a big smile and say hello to everyone because that is how people will like you).

Do you force yourself to make eye contact, look somewhere else on a persons face, look at their mouth or look at them for too long? Do you find yourself staring at people?

Do you hide some body language or facial expressions to fit in? (for e.g., sitting on your hands, twirling your hair instead of stimming or cracking your knuckles)

Do you spend the majority of your time thinking about what to say, how to act or behave, and/or analyzing social situations? Do you analyze what you could or should have said in a prior or past social situation?

Do you pretend to be shy and quiet and therefore avoid the “social drama” of having to navigate the social world of your peers?

Do you have a permanent smile on your face even though you are miserable inside?

Do others say you look angry when you feel happy or another emotion inside?

Have you or do you taken.take on the persona of a book, television, movie character or a celebrity?

Do you attend social situations, but don’t really want to (saying you will go to a party to get in with the “cool kids”). Do you do their homework for them to fit in? Do you do the groups work for the group to gaon social equity?

Do you write in your journal what you think you should say or do or not say or not do and practice them over and over, so you can use them in school? Do you have a list of sayings, slang, words from songs, movies or social media that you use to be “cool” or try to fit in?

Have you developed a special interest that is not yours but simply to “fit in” but you actually found that interest boring (for e.g, pretending to be in love with a certain pop star but you couldn’t care less about them)?

Do you participate in social events, parties, clubs that you do not want to in order to gain social currency? Do you use the skills you have learned from YouTube, social media, books, movies when you are at these social events? Do you find that you have to begrudgingly attend these events?

Do you use alcohol or drugs as a social lubricant? Does the use of drugs or alcohol allow you to be more social and/or have less anxiety?


Do you utilize social media (Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Reddit) to learn social nuances, how to interact socially, or how to hide your social awkwardness?

Do you act in varying ways depending on the social situation that you are in? Do others comment on or notice that you act differently depending on who you are with, the social context or environment?

Do you pretend to like the interests of whomever you are with at the time, however you know inwardly that you don’t like them? Do you make yourself look like you are interested in what your peers are saying, doing, how they are behaving, interested in their interests?

Have you ever had a girlfriend/boyfriend that you inwardly said to yourself, “Why am I with this person? I don’t even like them”.

Do you find yourself involved in friendships and/or relationships and wonder in your head why you are with them because you don’t really like them?

Do you feel there are times when you can be yourself? Do you feel you always have to be “someone else” to be in this world?

Is your headspace mostly filled with continual thoughts about what you should do next, do better, who to pretend to be like?

Do you have a habit of giving gifts to make and keep friends?

Has your family or another person supported you with social skills (enrolled you in drama, etiquette or social skills classes or a modeling school to learn deportment)?

How long can you socialize for before feeling tired?

Are there times where you actively find excuses not to attend events, parties, assembly at school, group activities? Do you often say “yes” to a social event and then make up a last-minute excuse as to why you cannot attend?

Do you purposefully go to the library, become a prefect, girl scout leader, homecoming queen, cheerleader, debate team leader (so you can give the directions or debate rather than socialize)?. Do you try to become the teacher’s helper at lunchtimes, hide in the bathroom, walk the hallways alone, join lunchtime clubs, wag school, so that you do not have to socialize with your peers?

Do you or are you reading or studying psychology, sociology, taking microexpressions and facial recognition training to learn to better yourself in terms of understanding people and socializing. Do you read social skills books, watch social skills training on YouTube or another social media platform?

Have you learned from your studies and them practiced how to ask people questions, listening skills and/or other social skills?

Are you overly aware of other people looking at you or pacing attention on you? Do you dislike attention? Do you feel like you spend the majority of your mental and physical energy on how you interact with others?

Do you feel like an ‘imposter’ in social situations?

To be continued in Part 2 and many more examples coming 

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I Am AspienGirl
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I Am AspienWoman

AspienWoman April Elit Award1Behind the Mask 3DCoverJune2015

The Compensatory Measures Checklist©, Marshall 2017, excerpt from my from my upcoming book. Thank you.

Copyright© Tania A. Marshall, www,aspiengirl.com, http://www.taniamarshall.com


7 thoughts on “Where are all the females with Autism or Aspergers hiding? Life As a Chameleon Part I

  1. Thank you Tania for sharing this. I found myself nodding yes in so many places. Would it be okay to print this, with your information and copyright and share it with my therapist? I am also working with. Graduate student as a case study and I’d love to share it with her too, with your copyright information and contact information. I think it would be so helpful for her as a student to enrich her knowledge. Thank you! Looking forward to part two, and your new book.

  2. Your work should be mandatory reading for ALL Doctors & therapists. The ignorance is dangerous. Great work Tania. Thank you.

  3. Hi Tania
    I am so happy to have found your blog and website. My mother was diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of 72. I have written a memoir about it which will be published in the UK this summer by HarperCollins. Professor Tony Attwood has reviewed it as “a seminal work in this area” of late diagnosis. Would you be interested in reading the book? I am passionate about spreading the word as regards the differences in the way women and men present with autism. Mum attempted suicide many times and was given so many different types of medication throughout her life. No one ever thought she could be on the autistic spectrum because she was so adept at social masking – the mum out of the house was pretty different to the mum inside the house. She was eventually sectioned under the Mental Health Act and out of that we had the luck to come across a psychologist who saw Mum for who she really was. But it was too late for Mum and she died two years later, lost and confused and over-medicated. I would love the chance to talk to you about this if you were at all interested.
    Anna Wilson

    1. Your mother was so fortunate to have your love, understanding, and willingness to be there with her when you came across this surprising revelation. It is so amazing how far the UK is ahead of the States on Women and Autism. Not surprising though they talk about us being so far ahead so intelligent, so everything more than everyone else…. bigger ego is more like it. I know the stork dropped me off in the wrong country.
      I am almost 62 and just finding out about me… it explains the many addictions and suicide attempts starting about 14 but my family wants to believe they are loving and supportive yet they are disrespectful, unkind (many times downright mean) have big egos, extremely judgmental and don’t give a damn about being informed it was all my problem. They demanded I change so I literally changed every single thing about my life. They didn’t like me that way either… I realized it wasn’t me it was them that needed to change. Then I had cancer and they thought I was joking or something because I didn’t play “poor me” (I worked with people who had cancer for over 35 years) how I lived was a conscious choice. Instead of another attempt, I got in the car and drove until I found a good town with an Apt I could afford…. I’m in the middle of the US
      I am going to go find the memoir you published. Maybe I will also find out more about you also along the way.
      Thank you so much for writing this little piece above

      1. Hi Juli
        Wow. I am so sorry to hear how terrible things have been for you. It breaks my heart how many women write to me with similar experiences. I still, three years on, feel very sad about my mum’s missed diagnosis and the effect this had on her and us as a family. I hope that life is better for you now.
        With best wishes

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