Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) are a broad class of neurodevelopmental differences that are expressed in varying degrees by difficulties in social reasoning, communication, emotional regulation and coping with change. Other aspects include sensory sensitivity, fine and gross motor problems, deficits in organization and mood biases typically expressed as anxiety, depression and anger.
The challenges that come with ASC co-exist with their advantages, including exceptional attention to detail, a strong inclination towards social justice, intuitive empathy for the natural world and intense special interests that can pave the way to long and rewarding careers.
Asperger's syndrome denotes a high functioning position within the broad spectrum of Autism Spectrum Conditions. The term ‘Asperger's syndrome’ is helpful in that for many adults diagnosed under this title, it is a familiar term and a distinction that is beneficial in expressing where they stand on the spectrum.
Today an emerging body of research is bringing the female expression of Asperger's syndrome into clear focus. Women and girls on the spectrum share the diagnostic traits of their male counterparts and yet diverge by their capacity to mask their social confusion, observing and mimicking their more socially able peers, drawing on their developed language skills to ‘get by’ and finding solace and pleasure in special interests that are less unusual than males, but no less intense.
The ‘coping mechanisms’ that women and girls on the spectrum employ come at a high price. The mental energy needed for social interaction, organizing oneself, and constant fear of making a social mistake, can leave them emotionally exhausted and contribute to elevated levels of anxiety, a fragmented self-identity and low self-esteem.
Crucial to treating those on the autism spectrum, is applying therapies designed to build emotional resilience, imparting a basic sense of stability from a developing sense of self.