Autism is on the rise (1 in 110, according to the CDC), especially Autism Spectrum Disorders such as Asperger’s Syndrome. It is reported that about three quarters of those diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome are male. A mere one out of ten are women.
Upon my diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 32, I found myself inundated with the typical male stereotypes of this disorder. “You can’t have Asperger’s because you function so well!” Really? I would challenge anyone that claims that I “function well” to talk about my life with me. Lets see, yes, I have been married for eleven years and I have two children. Not that I place my marriage in the news for public scrutiny, but I will admit that our marriage has been anything but easy. In fact, we have been in and out of marriage counseling for years now, and I am extremely vulnerable to relationship predators whom tried to tell me just why I wasn’t happy. Lets see, going down the line.
Career? Well, I owned my own business for ten years. Did I profit? Not really. I made a small living for myself, but in the end I amassed so much debt in order to keep our family in a comfortable “self employment role” that I couldn’t pay it back. Kids? I’m a good mom. Both my children are also diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and my kids think I’m fun. Anyone else that spends any large amount of time with me will find that I am adventurous, a joker, silly, and never able to live too serious of a life. My kids dig that, and they prefer to spend their time with me as much as possible. I can’t really say I am anything close to a neuro-typical “soccer mom.” In fact, my kids are oftentimes forced to quit events because of my lack of interest in getting them to their functions.
Socially I could pass as “normal”, in fact, for my entire 33 years I have passed as “typical.” Still, this comes from years of having to suppress my true feelings of fear, depression, anxiety, and obsession. Living a life undiagnosed oftentimes leads women with Aspergers to the point of professional intervention. Mine was during my marriage problems. While we were going to a very good psychologist here where we live, we learned that many of our issues were based on not knowing how to “be married”, but also, my psychologist started to pick up on many of the classic signs of autism. I have sensitivities to sounds and smells: to this day I can’t be around a smoker, I can’t stand to hear shopping carts clank together, and if I get into an argument with someone, I will hold a grudge for years.
My social life has been sprinkled with just a couple of good friends who could accommodate for my lack of social graces, and now I find that I have gained a couple of very valuable friendships whom seem to look at me as the “little sister type.” This is important to me because if I am unable to handle being “me” in this big bad world of social reasoning, I will be plagued by depression and anxiety.
People with Asperger’s are commonly referred to as “uncoordinated”. This is something that I love to correct people on since many women and girls with Aspergers are very athletic. I was a soccer and softball start, yet my life passions are snow skiing and mountain biking where I have succeeded at the competitive levels. Most days you will find me ski mountaineering or out on an isolated mountain bike trail, joined only by my Ipod and large selection of “gospel rap.”
Yes, I have found some social networks for women with Asperger’s. I participate in an online women’s Yahoo group geared towards women with Aspergers. I also frequent a site devoted to those who are married to Asperger’s spouses. I find some common factors in the women’s groups: An inability to function well in relationships, inability to be in crowded or loud places, and the fact that us “aspie” women oftentimes place ourselves in dangerous social situations. I have heard of women being robbed at knife-point, even raped because they were lost in their own world of “aspie” thinking while walking through an empty parking lot. My biggest issues? Knowing when someone is flirting with me. Knowing when to tell my husband that a guy made me uncomfortable because he sat and listened to one of my many “aspie”-common obsessions which include politics, sports, and religion.
Living our lives as “aspie” women brings complications and difficulties. For those of us who are able to seek social acceptance and ask for help when we need it; we find that our lives can be outrageously happy and rewarding.