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Girls with Asperger’s: why is it more difficult to detect the syndrome in them?

Asperger’s or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) defines those people who present “a neurobiologically determined alteration in information processing. People who have a normal appearance and intelligence and, sometimes, above average, but with a particular cognitive style and frequently, special abilities in restricted areas”, this is how the Asperger Confederation Spain defines it.

A disorder that manifests itself differently in each person, although there are behavior and communication patterns which normally tend to be true in the vast majority of cases, but still, did you know that Asperger’s in girls is more difficult to detect than in boys? We explain why and in what ways it can manifest itself.

How does Asperger’s manifest?

Although Asperger’s can manifest differently in each person, from the Asperger Confederation Spain They emphasize that they all tend to have the following patterns in common:

  • Difficulties in social interaction, especially with people of the same age
  • Alterations in non-verbal communication patterns
  • Restricted interests

  • Cognitive and behavioral inflexibility

  • Difficulties in abstracting concepts

  • Weak central coherence for the benefit of detail processing

  • Literal interpretation of language

  • Difficulties in executive and planning functions

  • Difficulties in interpreting the feelings and emotions of others and their own

“When we reach adulthood, it is essential to pay specific attention to the most normalized social relationships, we can encounter problems to have friends or deepen relationships, little success in his attempts to make friends. You have to pay attention to teamwork, to understand the mental world of others and your own, it is essential to understand social keys that help you regulate behavior in favor of your objectives,” they highlight from this Confederation.

Precisely because there are girls and women who do not show difficulties or striking differences in certain areas of daily life, but rather these are observed only at home or with the family, Trelles Gem (psychologist from the Asperger Asturias Association) highlights that “that is when they can suffer emotional overflow reactions generated by this overexertion and rigidity in their thinking and behavior. Later, during adolescence, they may come to experience it as a particularly difficult process and this is where there is a increased risk of developing other disorders due to greater social complexity, greater academic demand, greater awareness of difference… Already in adulthood, the presence of anxiety and depression is common.”

Are there differences in treatment between boys and girls?

Regarding the differences in treatment between boys and girls, José Antonio Peral Parrado, technical director of the Confederation, assures that “until relatively recently, it was thought that the ratio between boys and girls based on cases referred for a diagnostic evaluation is approximately between four and ten boys for every girl. These data suggest a possible difference in diagnosis based on sex, which could be due to underdiagnosis in girls. We found abundant scientific literature on profile variability as expressed in men, however, our understanding of the profile of women has to date been unclear,” she points out.

Something for which since Asperger Confederation Spain, urge that attention be paid to “the reasons why fewer girls are identified and if there is a delay on the part of relatives in seeking a diagnosis, since it could indicate a difference in expression related to gender.” . These gender-specific variations may have a important impact on the practice of identification, diagnosis and treatmentfor boys and girls with ASD: “The consequences of losing a diagnosis or late diagnosis influence social isolation, rejection from peers and a greater risk for mental health, with the probability of developing anxiety and depression during adolescence and adulthood,” they explain.

Interventions to treat this syndrome have a psychoeducational nature and are always focused on “the needs and expectations of the particular person.” “These vary depending on the evolutionary stage and characteristics of the most proximal elements, the family and the social context. There are no two alike, because there are no two people alike,” they emphasize. “There are many Asperger/ASD women who do not know they are because lack of information and training of professionals who treat them. They do not know what is happening to them and many times they resort to medication that does not help to reveal the causes of the difficulties or improve their quality of life.”

Regarding the most necessary intervention, Trelles Gem of the Asturian association, is clear: “The most important thing is to promote knowledge about autism and neurodiversity in society. The acceptance and adaptation of the environment so that all types of people are part and participate in society actively. This social change is what can most promote the well-being of people with Asperger’s.”

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