Fortunately, over the years awareness and recognition of autism and its wide spectrum of disorders have grown tremendously. Interestingly, during many studies, a gender gap was noticed, one that was significant enough to present some questions about the reason behind the existence of such a gap in the first place. Young males are diagnosed in much greater numbers than their young female counterparts. Asperger’s syndrome, one of the autism spectrum disorders, is known for causing issues with creating social relationships, empathic communication, and other similar problems that can vary widely in their manifestation. For example, students who suffer from Asperger’s syndrome, regardless of sex, can suffer social skills deficits that make them vulnerable to poor academic performance. To shed more light on the subject, we’ll highlight the most visible differences between the gender from a social and symptomatic overview of Asperger’s syndrome.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Autism disorder was identified as a spectrum when it began showing in people with different degrees and symptoms. Asperger syndrome is a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder that usually shows its teeth in developmental stages. Young people who suffer from Asperger Syndrome usually have a hard time relating to neurotypicals’ thoughts and feelings. Thinking isn’t flowy as neurotypicals usually experience, thinking patterns appear to be more rigid and repetitive. On a professional and school level, children and teens with Asperger’s syndrome have no problem excelling in their schoolwork and work life. However, they normally struggle on a social level.
Understanding social situations and communication, especially subtle types, form a huge problem for people who lie on the autism spectrum. Processing the hidden meaning behind body language, sarcasm, and different humour types is extremely hard for a person who suffers from Asperger Syndrome. All of these symptoms present themselves at equal levels in both young girls and boys. However, girls are taught very early on that society isn’t very forgiving for people who are not neurotypical.
This pushes many young girls to start acting more like neurotypicals even when they don’t have a deeper understanding of what society deems normal. Another symptom that is usually more common in girls with Asperger’s more than their male counterparts is obsessive behaviour. While boys might feel normal obsessing over their interests and neglecting everyday life’s responsibilities, girls usually begin obsessing over their looks due to the social construct of girlhood. Even though young girls are quick to understand that they take interest in different activities compared to their peers, they usually feel the pressure to suffer in silence.
Masking and gender differences
One study has shown that diagnosis for young boys starts at the age of 2, while girls can go for the first 15 to 18 years undiagnosed. Another recent research conducted by Brown University indicated that girls are more likely to get an accurate diagnosis 2 years later than young boys. One of the main reasons behind this is the outdated societal gender roles that force women to start “masking” at a very young age. If we take a look at the facts, we’ll see that Aspergers in women is often hard to identify due to what is commonly called “masking”. Masking is a term that means learning to copy certain behaviour that is commonly regarded as acceptable to seem more “neurotypical”. It also refers to hiding classic symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome or autism, in general, to fit in with the crowd. Masking might be helpful for those who lie on the autism spectrum on a social and professional level, however, it’ endangers the mental health of patients as it increases the risk of a late, missed, or inaccurate diagnosis.
The effect of gender roles on identifying Asperger’s in girls
A lot of parents of little girls wait a significantly lengthier amount of time to receive a concrete diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. The logical conclusion that one can draw from such a gap has implications that show a clear lack of proper identification practices and non-resourceful educational services for children. One of the main components of our argument is gender roles. The difference between the socialization patterns of girls and boys at such a young age is often the culprit. Girls may have a better coping mechanism than boys when it comes to balancing the social setbacks of Asperger’s, which can make it harder for parents and teachers to notice it early. As you go up the spectrum, young girls have better social skills and communication skills. Hyperactivity and aggression, which are mostly noticed in boys, do not make much of an appearance with girls.
Reasons Why Women Resort to Masking
The dangers of misdiagnosis are still present, and they will always be until society starts paying more attention to women. Women are better at masking than their male counterparts, but this fact doesn’t cause for celebration as society draws it. The roots behind why women are better at masking go back to insufficiency in the knowledge of girls and negligence that many women with ASC suffer from its consequences. Women and even young girls can clearly feel the pressure of overcompensating to meet normal social standards. This pressure is rooted in sexism and misogyny. If society paid the same attention to young girls’ mental health and understanding their personalities, young girls wouldn’t have felt pressured to mask or change their nature to gain social acceptance. This doesn’t mean that men and young boys who suffer from ASC don’t struggle with the same pressure to seem “normal”, but the huge difference can’t be denied.
If you take a close look at the gender gap present in the diagnosis and treatment of various autism spectrum disorders(ASD), you will understand why we need to put up a fight so that girls and women with Asperger’s can stop suffering in silence. Society needs to raise more awareness about ASD and its symptoms in order to reduce the likelihood of a misdiagnosis. Understanding the needs of Asperger’s and ASD patients, in general, will help many young girls and boys who often don’t fit in the crowd live a happy and fulfilling life.