Is Aspergers in females seriously undetectable?

Since I have Asperger’s and I am a female, I know firsthand how easy it was for me to be in the dark about it for most of my life.  Even if I were growing up in the 2010’s when Asperger’s and Autism aren’t as foreign words as they were back in the 1960s, I still think I would fall under the radar.

Asperger’s in females is not undetectable, but it can be easily undetected. My opinion from being a female with Asperger’s and working in elementary school Autism units, females who have Asperger’s are more likely not to be detected as their male counterparts.

When I started working as a substitute teacher’s aide, it didn’t take me long to realize that the overwhelming majority of students in these classes are male. Their behaviors are usually more visible than the few female students there are.

As to the question of why are men more likely than women to have autistic traits, or receive a diagnosis of autism, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre who, along with PhD student Emily Ruzich, led the Cambridge/Channel 4 study. They found there’s a lot of research showing that testosterone changes brain development.

Males on average produce more testosterone than females, even when in the womb, and the data shows that children with autism on average have higher levels of the hormone than typically developing kids.

This backs up a 2009 study that looked into the prenatal testosterone levels of typical four-year-olds. “The higher the child’s prenatal testosterone, the more autistic traits they had,” says Professor Baron-Cohen.

These findings suggest the critical factor may be hormone levels rather than gender and could be pivotal to further understand the higher rates of autism diagnosis in men. But, as Professor Baron-Cohen points out, “It’s only one piece of the puzzle.” He adds: “The nature of science means one new finding opens up a hundred new questions.”

Wendy Lawson, author of “Build Your Own Life: A Self-Help Guide For Individuals With Asperger Syndrome” and a self-described autistic woman, believes girls on the spectrum may be underdiagnosed because if they have obsessive interests (often a feature of spectrum disorders), these are more likely to be socially acceptable than the obsessions of boys with autism. Girls, she says, might get into reading or animals, which seem normal, “so people don’t pick up on our social difficulties.”

Jennifer McIlwee Myers, who has Asperger’s and is the author of “How to Teach Life Skills to Kids with Autism or Asperger’s,” concurs. She says boys on the spectrum are more likely to respond to their difficulties with anger and aggression, while girls are more likely to “deal with issues quietly,” cultivating extreme “niceness” and imitating other girls’ behavior. Boys who have the vision problems that sometimes go with Autism Spectrum Disorders may hit other boys, she explains, while girls might instead cling to other girls. And a boy who attacks other kids is going to get intervention a lot faster than a girl who cries quietly every day. Myers says there are “a lot of invisible girls” who are Autistic but never get help because nobody notices.

I personally didn’t realize how I try to act like other people until I learned I was on the Spectrum. I act “normal” to avoid making people mad and not being singled out as different. When I have been caught in my quirky behavior, the odd stares peeled at me are immensely painful.  Females on the Autism Spectrum may just be better at imitating neurotypicals than our male counterparts. And that imitation makes us invisible.

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My Ideal Vacation with my Constant Companion

I guess dog-sitting for family members does not sound like an ideal vacation, but that’s how I spent mine during the summer of ’18.  I enjoyed sweet solitude on a farm in the hills of Oklahoma with just me, two dogs, three donkeys, a herd of cows, and other assorted country critters.  Being alone out in the country was the ideal vacation for me whose constant companion is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The vacation covered two separate trips.  One was a preview of about a week before the two-full week trip a few weeks later.   I had a BLAST on both trips after I got over the initial ANXIETY of being in different surroundings and a change in routine.  It took about 24 hours after my arrival for the arrival of calm.  A change in routine, no matter how much preparation beforehand, even if the destination is a vacation spot, raises my anxiety level.  There’s not much I can do about that other than telling myself it will pass.  It always does.

As for the dogs, Blu and Bailey, they were jumping up and down, wiggling their tales; that is when their adult parents came home … or, maybe more so when I drove off.  Just kidding.

I was asked more than once by inquiring and concerned folks before I left, “Aren’t you going to get LONELY in the country all by YOURSELF?”  If you ask me, that’s one of those common neurotypicals (NT) questions.  You see, for me, someone with ASD, being by myself on a vacation is equivalent to someone else’s ideal vacation of being on a cruise ship surrounded by others engaging in social activities.  No, I have never been on a cruise, but the thought of being on the ocean with a host of strangers gives me the chills in a frightening sort of way.  Perish the thought!

I didn’t think of myself as alone the entire time.  I did venture into town and had interaction with store clerks.  That was sufficient social interaction.

I had the dogs but they weren’t much company.  I don’t want to give the impression I don’t like dogs.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have signed up for dog-sitting duty.  I have wonderful childhood memories of having a dog as I was growing up.  The pet was my playmate and comforter.  I would have a dog of my own but I live with my Mom who likes dogs but not enough to own one.  I got along just fine with the dogs, but I knew they missed my brother and sister-in-law.

I had for comfort in my change of environment and routine my electronic gadgets.  I consider them my “comfort” necessities:  my computer, my smartphone, my voice-activated gadget (Amazon Echo), my two Segway electronic scooters, and my hoverboard.

Scooter riding was one ingredient that added excitement during my dogsitting tour of duty.  I had plenty of acres to scoot over.  I could scoot to my utter delight without worry about pedestrians or traffic.  Scooter riding is part of my daily routine and unless it is pouring down rain, lightning striking, thunder rolling, snow falling, or temps in the teens, I will go for a scooter ride.

Back in my suburban home, I ride my scooters at the parks.  Along with the enjoyment I get from riding them, I get UNwanted attention.  Sometimes the stops and stares are too much for my nerves.  Well, even though I was out in the country, I got more stares than I ever had before while I was riding my Segway scooter on the gravel road to the mailbox.  There were so many pairs of eyes that I didn’t bother to count.  Maybe my being a stranger in the area was one reason, but I reckon, too, they had never seen a Seggie before.  It didn’t bother me though.  I just paid the cows no mind.

All in all, it was one of my BEST vacations.  The main ingredient was time to myself.  It recharged my batteries.  Even if I had been dog-sitting at a beach house, mountain cabin, or a house in suburbia, it would still have been the ideal vacation for me and my ASD.

Now it wasn’t totally perfect but then what vacations are?  In my case, there were a few things I didn’t care for during my time in the country.  Namely flies, grasshoppers, and spurs.  They were far more attached to me than I was to them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Should Not Say to Someone with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Someone asked this question on a question/answer website.  The following are ones that came to mind…

 

Autism? Really? Well, you should fix your brain.

Get Real! You don’t walk around in circles like my neighbor’s kid.

You look so normal to me.

 Could you just be a tad introverted?

Everybody’s got something on their plate.  (That’s true but telling me that is like giving me a lukewarm, instead of a cold rag for my raging fever.  It’s lame on comfort.)

BUT you can talk!  My brother’s wife’s cousin’s sister’s kid who has autism can’t say a word.

Quite frankly, I think you use autism as an excuse to get out of getting out.

Stop being so sensitive!  (that statement will triple my sensitivity)

Why don’t you just call instead of e-mail them?

Autism is so over-diagnosed these days, don’t you think?

How can you be so sure that you are on the Spectrum?  So you are a routine stickler, rock some, talk to yourself, like to be left alone, so what?  Everyone does stuff like that.

I hope it isn’t contagious.

What’s the difference between a pastor talking to God and a mentally ill person talking to oneself?

This was a question posted by someone on a website I frequently visit.  I felt compelled to answer it and below is my answer.

I am not a pastor but I do talk to myself and I talk to God too. There’s a difference. Just like there’s a difference between talking to my Mom vs. talking to my brother. I don’t address my brother as Mom when talking to him, for instance.  When I talk to God, I address Him as such.  When I talk to myself, I don’t feel it necessary to address myself.

In early December 2016, a 12-year-old girl caught my attention in an autism unit class where I was subbing for one of the aides. She was talking to herself in the middle of the classroom.  Observing her was the light bulb that led me to my own Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis. The difference between me and the child is I know there are places and times that I should not talk to myself. I try not to do it in public but it wouldn’t be unusual, for instance, to be caught talking to myself while taking a walk in the park. I pray, too, in the park. If there were a video camera in my bedroom or whenever I am by myself, one would see a lot of me doing the self-talk. If I saw myself on camera, I would be “weird” to me too.

I can’t prove that my prayers get beyond the ceiling. When I’ve prayed, I’ve yet to hear a voice answer back. I recall one time praying for something unusual and later thinking maybe I was silly asking for it. But I didn’t take back my prayer. I was high as a kite when before the day was over, the “silly” prayer was answered. Some would say it was just luck. Just a chance occurrence.  I have no visible proof that my prayer was heard and answered from Heaven. Or, that there is even such a place to begin with. It’s a matter of faith. I suppose that’s why the word “faith” isn’t a hard word to find in the Bible.

Scoot Like No One Is Watching

I took up scooter riding during the spring of 2018.  I can understand someone thinking it is an odd sport for someone approaching 60.  It is just an addition to my long-held obsession with most any gadget that is electric or battery-operated.  I call this obsession “gadgetitis”.  I am into “nicknames” too.  I gave the nickname “Billy” to my Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  An inventory of my bedroom is visible proof of my gadgetitis:  multiple computers, TVs, vacuum cleaners, etc.  Within a month or two after my scooter obsession began, I owned not one, not two, not three, not four, but five.
Scooters first came into my life on a school day subbing for a P.E. aide.  The coach put out some scooters which are, by the way, a highly popular piece of equipment with the students.  I don’t recall them being around when I was growing up back in the 1960’s.  There were roller skates back then that I fell for back in my younger days.  I mean “fell” as in landing on the floor in a painful sort of way.  A lack of gross motor skills, a common ASD trait, explained a lot of what activities I didn’t pursue as a kid.  Back to the present, since the kids were not in the gym yet, and thus no witnesses besides the coach who was really busy at the time, I plopped down on a scooter like the two pictured below.  I liked the feel of it!  And when I like something, I go way, way overboard.  There’s no middle ground for me living with my Billy.
I am having so much fun with these scooters.  The downside is in a city of 143,000 people, I haven’t seen any other folks in my age group riding a scooter.  Only a handful of young folks.  I’ve seen just a few my age riding a bicycle.  I suspect it has more to do with the sidewalk conditions of my neck of the woods.  I didn’t realize how “cracked up” my neighborhood was until I took up scooter riding.
One of my experiences worth mentioning was when I was approaching a bridge at a school park.  There was a young Mom with her two little girls.  The children were on the opposite side of the bridge from their Mom.  The youngest girl, probably two or three, heard me coming and she hurriedly scooted over to the other side of the bridge to literally hide behind her Mom’s skirt.  Her Mom smiled as I scooted by.  A wise little girl!  If her Mom had known my motor skill history, she would have skedaddled with girls in hand.
Another time when I was out with Seggie (the Segway Mini-Pro) at a park, a guy walking by saw me taking Seggie out of the back of my car.  He asked, “Are you going to ride that thing?”  Since I’m not quick on my feet with a good comeback answer, I just said with my Texas accent “Yeah.”  But thinking about it later, I could have come up with another answer such as “No, I’m going to take it for a walk.”
Scooting is a sport in itself.  There are do’s and don’t and one too many of them I have learned the hard way.  Just when I am overconfident, I take a fall and get a good dose of humility.
Once after a fall, I went out with my pink scooter I affectionately call “Pinkie”.  There weren’t any kids around but a few adults taking a walk.  They were so gracious to give me the right of way when I passed by.  Maybe they were nervous at seeing a gray-haired woman on a scooter with an arm brace.  If they had noticed the word in bold letters on my blue t-shirt, they would have had a hint as to why I was on a scooter that is made with “millennials” in mind.  The word:  AUTISM.  Below: “AWARENESS.”
When I got home, I told my Mom the story.  She said, “You’re something else.”  I’ll agree with her on that.  Not only me but all my fellow travelers on the Spectrum.  My main reason for writing this blog is to say that those of us with ASD are not exempt from having fun.
Finally, my best advice for my fellow scooters is when you feel an itch, like on your face, it is best to stop and take care of the itch instead of itching while on the scooter with the motor running.

Pros and Cons of ASD

My personal list of what’s good and not so good of having an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Disadvantages

  • Hearing someone say “But you seem so normal to me.”
  • Sitting in an audience with no graceful exit out
  • Can’t focus long enough to read a page without my mind drifting off thinking about anything and everything other than what is on the page
  • The frustration and panic of being given a string of verbal instructions — “draw me a picture, will ya?”
  • Desperately wanting time alone but not getting it soon enough to avert a meltdown.
  • Boredom
  • Social misfit

 

But don’t forget those awesome advantages:

  • Finding THE skill that I can master as if I was born to do it
  • Creative and open-minded
  • Detail-oriented
  • Dependable (a clear list of written instructions, rules, schedules are welcomed)
  • Organized to a tee

An engineer gave his pro and con of ASD in a nutshell:  High IQ and social ineptness.  It is a trade-off. Being an engineer is not too bad… 🙂

Well, being a substitute teacher’s aide where I get to hang out with many like myself is not too bad either.

Scooteritis

My obsession with electronics has recently broadened to electric scooters.  I used to have a thing for “vacuums” to the point that my apartment resembled a used vac store.  Well, now it is scooters.  Within a couple of months after coming down with this obsession, I have five scooters.  Just call me a scooter-bug. 

The first member of my scooter herd was a Segway mini-transporter that I nicknamed “Seggie”. 

My second was a different breed than my Seggie.  It belonged to the “glider” branch of electric scooters (a pink GoTrax scooter) that I appropriately nicknamed “Pinkie”.  I wanted to have two that were different breeds.

My Pinkie broke down shortly after I bought her and the company was kind to send me a replacement.  In the meantime, not knowing Pinkie would be replaced, I got a Razor scooter nicknamed “Raz”.  So I didn’t intend to have three, but I quickly got used to the idea. 

Then, Raz’s chain stopped me in my tracks.  While it lay in the garage going nowhere, not knowing if it could be repaired, I went ahead and got Seggie’s little brother, a mini-Seggie, that I nicknamed “Lil’ Seggie”. 

Image result for segway minilite

Then, Amazon Inc. had its annual BIG sale for its prime members.  The sale was almost a full two days worth.  I succumbed on the second day purchasing a hoverboard at a sale price I didn’t think I would see again until maybe next year.

Image result for hoverboard

The hoverboard (nicknamed Hovert) is the most challenging of them all to tame.   On my first ride, I fell off of it within 60 seconds.  Well, twice.  I wondered at times if it would be UNtameable.  My playmates, grandniece and nephew, avoided Hovert like the plague.  I saw on Amazon it had an accessory that could turn Hovert into a go-cart.  Although, I was slowly but surely taming Hovert, I purchased the accessory thinking I could get more use of Hovert by it being a go-cart instead of hoverboard only.

 

 

My riding around on a scooter grants me far more attention than I want.  Most especially with Seggie and Lil’ Seggie since in a town of 43,000 people, I may be the only owner of one.  If I traveled downtown, I’d probably run into a fellow Segway scooter at a tourist spot.  If I do cross paths with a fellow scooter, it is someone far younger than me.  Hey, I never acted my age anyway.  When I was 10, I was going on 40.  Now I’m near 60 and I’m heading back to 10.

Maybe it is wishful thinking but I think these scooters are helping to improve my balance skills.  A lack of fine or gross motor skills is one of those ASD traits.  I’m not absolutely sure about that.  It took weeks before my swollen big toe looked like it did before Pinkie fell on it.   One of my thumbs hasn’t been pain-free since Seggie fell for a curb and took me with him.

They have given my pride and joy, my four-set of wheels, “Toyota Prius”, some cosmetic changes (scratches in loading and unloading the scooters).  So why in tarnation do I keep at scooting?  There’s no middle ground with my ASD.  When I become obsessed with something, the intensity can be stronger than even my long-held fear of the sensation of feeling the earth move under my feet.

I think I’ve completed my scooter family and plan no more family additions until…well, they start playing Christmas songs on the radio.  But I wouldn’t place any bets on that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sight vs. Faith

Have you ever heard or said, “I’ll believe it when I see it and not one second before then”?  I wonder if someone has said or thought that about me.  I can’t recollect being accused of it but my memory may not be the same as my Mom’s.

This sentence conjures up the memory of someone I knew growing up.  He is a terrific person in so many ways, but his record of doing what he says he’s going to do and doing it is not impressive.  I always gave him the benefit of the doubt of being sincere when speaking of his plans.  But the thought in the back of my mind when he spoke of his big plans was “I’ll believe it…”  Sometimes he surprised those around him with back up action with his words, but most times, his “gonna do…” was as far as he got.

It is smart to have this attitude when dealing with someone who has a history of more talk than action.  It tests my thin patience when I need the person to do what they say they’ll do when it is something I can’t go ahead and do myself.  Such as someone who claims he can revive my computer and will even have it performing better than it was before it took a bad turn.  If after the operation, my computer is still on life support or is responding but it is still its same slow self, the person will never lay hands on “my baby” again.

There is one in my life, however, for whom I should never think “I’ll believe it when I see it” and that one is my Lord and Savior.  I confess sometimes I act like I am thinking such by my fretting over something I supposedly left in the Lord’s hands.  It is those times I need to ask myself, “When has the Lord dropped me?”  I always have the same answer:  Never.

I can’t prove my prayers get beyond the ceiling or prove the Lord has answered any of them.  It was, is, and will be until I see the Lord face-to-face a matter of faith.

I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Psalm 16:8

 

Some Humor with my Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

It’s easy for me to write about ASD.  Just ask me a question about it and see how much I can talk about it without tending to a nature call.

Just because I don’t make a public display of my meltdown doesn’t mean I don’t have one. If I did show them, I’d fear a straight-jacket wouldn’t be just something I imagined wearing.

When do I feel like I’m the odd one, the spare tire, the round hole in a square peg?  A group setting is all it takes.

I have no problem listening to my own music at high volume, but I can’t stand to hear my own breathing with my headphone on.

Do great minds often think ALONE?  I’d like to think so.

If the only social interaction I’ve had in one day is a brief conversation with a cashier, it’s fine by me!

I can be spontaneous but not when it is someone else’s spontaneous notion.

My favorite spot in a room is any one of its four corners.

I am utterly grateful and indebted to the inventor of e-mail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Fear

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

God was speaking to Joshua who had been appointed as the leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses.  Joshua was at the threshold of a long journey.  Moses had the Red Sea to cross; Joshua had the Jordan River.  God intervened in both those crossings enabling His people to cross on dry ground.  If Joshua had gone by only what he could see with his own eyes, he might not have even led the Israelites across the Jordan.  He might have run back into the wilderness instead.

Joshua banked on God’s promise of his not walking alone across the Jordan and on to what would be one battle after another in the land beyond the Jordan.  It couldn’t have been easy for him at times.  Joshua was human and thus subject to Satan’s temptations to doubt God’s promise “with you wherever you go.”

The Jordan River was at flood stage.  The enemies beyond the River were strong in number  Their weapon arsenal impressive.  Based on sight alone, it was an uphill battle.  However, Joshua was going on faith instead of sight.  He sought God’s guidance and carried it out whether it made sense to him or not.  Such as the time Joshua had his people to march around an armed city surrounded by a wall for seven days.  This wasn’t your typical military strategy of conquering a city.  It worked though.  The walls of Jericho came tumbling down just as God promised.

We don’t have to be a military leader to relate to Joshua’s story.  One only has to be a member of the human race to know what battles are.  Life affords us many battles.  Sometimes it is a minor skirmish, sometimes a battle, and sometimes it feels like we are at war.

A battle can be sitting going nowhere in a hurry during rush hour traffic.  I used to have to deal with a 70-mile round trip of one and I confess I had plenty of days where I didn’t handle the battle well.  A battle can be profoundly more serious, though, such as the death of a loved one or coping on a daily basis with a lifelong illness for which there is no cure.

A daily battle of my own is living with my Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which I gave the nickname of Billy.  I am thankful to the Lord for Billy.  He can be a thorn but a blessing too.  It’s just some days I’m more thankful for Billy than others.

I don’t think the words spoken to Joshua long ago just apply to him.  Any of God’s children, including me, can bank on the promise Joshua was given.  I shouldn’t be afraid.  Why?  I couldn’t be in better hands than that of my Father in Heaven.