When they hear the term "Asperger's Syndrome", many people picture a male with eccentricities, sensory sensitivities, poor social skills, and areas of giftedness or hyperfocus. "Aspergirls" - the term made popular by Rudy Simone, an adult female with Aspergers - highlights the subculture of females with Asperger's Syndrome, as well as the unique characteristics displayed by female "Aspies". One of my favorite, original "Aspergirls" is Dr. Temple Grandin, who has done wonders for the subculture of Aspergirls by sharing her frank and honest personal experiences with the world. Young females with Asperger's Syndrome are often overlooked in the early years and do not receive a diagnosis until their teens or beyond. They are often shy, introverted, and bookish, characteristics which are more socially acceptable in females than in their male counterparts. Aspergirls usually have areas of strong interest, like males, but again these often manifest themselves in more socially acceptable ways, such as having an interest in fairytales, horses, or art.
The lack of a diagnosis, however, means these girls are often dealing on their own with sensory overload, social confusion, and feelings of insecurity and frustration. As Rudy writes in her book "Aspergirls": "If there is no diagnosis then there is a vacuum - a hole in which to pour speculation and fill with labels." With diagnosis comes support -whether from therapist and professionals, within an IEP program at school, or from support groups with like-minded girls and families.
I highly recommend reading "Aspergirls" by Rudy Simone if you would like more information about your child or children you work with. The book was frank and blunt, and Rudy gives practical advice to young girls, women, and their parents. If your daughter exhibits characteristics of an "Aspergirl", there are many things you can do at home.
1. Praise and encourage. Aspergirls are often very emotionally vulnerable, and they need heaps of positive reinforcement.
3. Find a support group in the area. Social skills groups run by speech-language pathologists work on pragmatic language skills and peer relationships. Two groups I know about in the Portland area include: www.artzcenter.org and www.campyakketyyak.org
4. Support your child's areas of strength. Those are the areas where they will shine. As Rudy wrote: "Life is about making a contribution, not about being popular and fitting in."
5. Create a soothing, quiet environment in your child's room at home. Soft music, comfortable pillows, and soft lighting help ease the sensory overload.
6. Help your child maintain a healthy diet and get exercise. These can help with intestinal issues and alleviate depression and anxiety. You want to help teach your child what they need to manage their Asperger's.
7. Love your child for who they are. You can support them and guide them, but you can't change them. Forcing them to be someone different will only result in hurt, loss, and alienation as they grow older. Help them fit the pieces of their life together.