Women With Asperger’s Share Experiences

Iris Gray, left, and Rose Guedes say being diagnosed with Asperger's has helped them cope with the syndrome.  Photograph by: ADRIAN LAM, Times Colonist

Iris Gray, left, and Rose Guedes say being diagnosed with Asperger’s has helped them cope with the syndrome. Photograph by: ADRIAN LAM, Times Colonist

Statistics show that males are four times more likely to receive an autism diagnosis than females. While there is strong evidence to suggest that males are more likely to develop autism, many females with ASD go diagnosed. Yesterday we reported on one British woman, Olley Edwards, who wrote a book to help other young women growing up with ASD.

Autism classrooms are generally full of boys, with a lone girl or two thrown into the mix now and then. What does is feel like to be one of the few females, in a community of males, with a diagnosis that is already socially isolating in and of itself?

Two women from British Columbia, Canada have found another way to share their experiences. Iris Gray is a provincial civil servant in Esquimalt, B.C. She knew she was different from an early age. She had difficulty making friends, and was clumsy at motor tasks that seemed easy to her peers. She also suffered from hyper-sensitive hearing, so sounds like those made by a jet flying overhead would send her running into the house with her hands over her ears. Gray says:

“I just didn’t know why I had so much trouble making friends, or why I always said the wrong things, or why things that bothered me didn’t bother other people,”

She describes getting her Asperger’s diagnosis as “a relief,” finally helping her to understand where her differences came from.

Gray is an organizer with the Asperger Meetup Group, a support group for anyone, with or without a diagnosis. Family members are also welcome. The group provides Gray with a safe haven, where others won’t judge her difference or be turned off by social missteps.

Rose Guedes is a writer from Vancouver, B.C, who is also a member of the group. She is the mother of two boys who writes prose, poetry, blogs, and maintains a website. She is the author of A Girl Outside the Box, (due out in a few months) and is in the running for a literary prize at the Naturally Autistic People Awards*.

Guedes did not realize that she was on the autism spectrum until her oldest son was diagnosed with the disorder. Her personality is more outgoing than that of many people with the disorder, but she still struggles with social rules and setting appropriate boundaries. Her inability to read subtle social cues led her into situations where others misunderstood her intentions, including men. Safety can be an issue for all individuals on the autism spectrum, but those “blurred lines” of misunderstanding can be especially dangerous for females in certain situations.

She has held a job at McDonalds, where she found the routines and scripts comfortable and easy to follow. A later job in retail was more challenging, as she had difficulty establishing rapport with the customers.

Since her diagnosis, she has learned to set boundaries and work within her limits. She limits herself to three tasks per day, and takes quiet time to herself when her emotions are running too fast. Guedes says:

“My writing these days is very therapeutic for me.”

For more information about Guedes’s writing, see her website at www.agirloutsidethebox.com.

The Asperger Meetup group can be found at meetup.com/aspergers-209.

For more information about the Naturally Autistic Awards, go to their website at www.naturallyautisic.com.

* The International Naturally Autistic People Awards Convention and festival is being held Oct 1-6, 2013