It’s a harsh fact that women are valued for who they are, whereas men are valued for what they do. While we may make allowances for the eccentricities of men with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), such as the stereotypical absent-minded professor or geeky software engineer, there are no acceptable and endearing stereotypes for women with AS. This is because women – all women, whether they have careers or work in the home – are valued for how well they fit in. Most women sense they need to be pleasant, supportive and caring, or they’re labeled “bossy”, “pushy”, or worse.
In mapping out the “theory-of-mind network” of the brain, neuroscientists have found that women without Asperger’s score the highest in showing empathy – being able to read a person’s feeling by looking at them. Men without Asperger’s score the next highest. However, studies are showing that women with Asperger’s score a lot worse. In fact they are on the extreme male side of the spectrum. This is called the “extreme male brain” theory of autism. You can read more about this study led by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the ARC at Cambridge University here
For the woman with Asperger Syndrome this gender imperative can be a nightmare. Fitting in is almost the antithesis of Asperger’s Syndrome. How can you fit in when you don’t have “social radar”?
The most important first step for an AS woman is self-acceptance, which doesn’t come from trying to fit in. Once you and your family can accept that this is the way it is, you can finally move on to develop a structure that you can live with. Here are some ways to achieve self-acceptance:
- Stop expecting to fit in, but reach out to others who accept your uniqueness.
- Laugh at your foibles.
- Explore the little-known world of Asperger’s Syndrome and teach your daughters to navigate the world from the lessons you’ve learned.
- Believe you have gifts to offer.
- Develop housekeeping routines and mothering techniques that work for you.
- Hire as much help as you can afford.
What matters is preserving your self-esteem so that you have time to enjoy your loved ones and they you. Seek the support and guidance of a psychologist who is well versed in the double whammy of dealing with being a woman and having Asperger Syndrome. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.