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Aspiefemmepress

ABOUT  US

Finding Inspiration in Every Turn

Neurodiverse (Aspiefemmepress) is an online platform designed to spread awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in women and girls. With more than 20 years of experience in disability advocacy and education, I am passionate about providing vital information to service providers and individuals.

My goal is to encourage early diagnosis, so girls can get the support they need to succeed in a Neurotypical world. Through my platform I provide resources, tips, and inspiration to help women and girls reach their full potential.

JOIN ME ON MY MISSION TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF ALL FEMALES WITH ASD. 

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ABOVE: Flags of Israel and Palestine
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-state_solution

Services

Aspiefemmepress was created to help women and girls on the Autism Spectrum find information they need to understand themselves and to advocate for the rights guaranteed to them under the Laws of Canada and the United States.  

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When you understand how your brain works, and  your unique self is validated, you can make better, informed health care decisions.

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Aspiefemmepress gives people on the Spectrum a platform to tell their stories.

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Aspiefemmepress reaches out to healthcare and service providers, offering information to help identify undiagnosed women and girls on the Spectrum so they may be referred to appropriate services and supports.

Anjolie

Who is Anjolie?

Hi there, my name is Anjolie. It's not my legal name, but rather a "pen name". One day, sitting in my physician's waiting room, I heard my name called. When people speak quickly, my married name sounds like "Angela Moore". I like the actress, Angelina Jolie, and so in that waiting room, Anjolie Moore was born.

I am very particular about getting other people's names right. But lacking a solid self identity has long been one of my Autistic traits. I didn't realize I failed to introduce myself until I attended an event where I must have spoken up. A reporter approached to ask me a question. I answered, ready for her to move on, when she said, "and what's your name? You didn't introduce yourself."

 

Who Am I? became a question I've been trying to figure out ever since. It's difficult to answer, given that I don't have an internalized identity or body image unless I'm looking into a mirror. I experience perceptual phenomena when looking someone else in the eyes that defies explanation--even verbalization.

I am a knowledge-seeker and information-collector. In fact, I love collecting, and my collections reflect my special interests--though some might call them Obsessions.

I see the world through childlike eyes. I can even view familiar settings as if I'd never seen them before. 

I'm admittedly childlike, even though my vocabulary tends to sound like a professorial lecture. I struggle with tasks like tying shoelaces and styling my hair in any style fancier than a ponytail. And, apparently, I look decades younger than my chronological age.

 That, in a nutshell, is who I am. I hope we can get to know a little bit about each other through questions and comments on this site. I will never claim to be an expert who knows it all, so I look forward to what I may learn from you.

Follow me through my exploration of this media. Please share your own stories and experiences, and if you find this site useful, share it with others.

 

This Thunder Bay woman with autism, ADHD says she was misdiagnosed for decades and is now calling for change

Professionals say adult autism assessments are costly and hard to come by

 

Sarah Law · CBC News · Posted: Feb 12, 2024 4:00 AM EST | Last Updated: February 12

 

Annie ("Anjolie") of Thunder Bay, Ont., was diagnosed with ADHD and autism two years ago. She says the diagnoses were validating but wants to see more done to make it easier for neurodivergent women and girls to get answers sooner. (Marc Doucette/CBC)

Anjolie says she felt like an alien when she was a child, and after decades of what she's calling misdiagnoses, the Thunder Bay, Ont., woman finally found out why.

Just over two years ago, she was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism.

"I always knew that there was something different — but as a very small child, of course, I lacked any words to try to explain how I felt internally," said Anjolie, who is celebrating her 40th wedding anniversary later this year.

Diagnosed with learning disabilities in her youth, she still always did well in school. She was admitted to university to study psychology at 16 and received her master's degree five years later.

"I had a few jobs that didn't last too long because it seemed that while I had a lot of theoretical knowledge, I didn't seem to have the ability to apply it in a real-life practical situation," she said.

"That kind of began my slide down into needing the mental health system for support — and along the way there, of course, I accumulated a lot of misdiagnoses because people at that time really didn't even consider the possibility that girls could have autism."

WATCH | Thunder Bay woman shares story of diagnosis of ADHD, autism later in life:  

She waited decades to be diagnosed with autism and ADHD – and she’s not alone

15 days ago

Duration5:11  

Anjolie spent decades of her life wondering why she was different from her peers, until she finally received a diagnosis of autism and ADHD. Here's what the Thunder Bay, Ont., woman wants people to know about how hard it is for neurodiverse women and girls to get answers.

While researchers are making strides in bridging the gap in autism diagnoses for women, experts say it is still harder for professionals to detect neurodivergence — meaning the person's brain functions differently from the typical brain —among females.

"There's enough research out there showing that the later you're diagnosed, the more mental health issues you have as an adult," said Dr. Beth Kelley of Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. "It definitely is harder for women to get that diagnosis in childhood."

Barriers to diagnosing women and girls

Kelley, an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry and neuroscience studies at Queen's, is involved with the Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Network.

She said these are the main reasons girls struggle to get an autism diagnosis:

  • Diagnostic instruments that many professionals use are based on historical research of autism in males, not females.

  • Clinicians associate autism as being a male condition due to implicit biases.

  • Females tend to be better at camouflaging, or masking, their symptoms at a young age because of how they are socialized.

This has resulted in more women receiving a diagnosis later in life, which can yield mixed feelings. While some people accept the diagnosis and feel validated by it, others experience resentment after going so long without answers, Kelley said.

 

Dr. Beth Kelley of Queen's University says a historical lack of research on autism among girls continues to affect professional perceptions of neurodivergence in females. (Submitted by Dr. Beth Kelley)

Anjolie suspected she had autism after reading stories online from other women with autism, especially those diagnosed later in life, and called the experience "validating."

More needs to be done to educate mental health clinicians about autism and give them the tools to confidently diagnose adults, Kelley said.

"We need to do more research and perhaps develop [diagnostic] instruments...that are specifically for girls so that they can get diagnosed earlier," she said. "Also making people aware that your child may be camouflaging."

Adult assessments costly, hard to find

Autism assessments for adults cost thousands of dollars and usually aren't covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), unless someone is enrolled in post-secondary school.

After Anjolie was quoted around $5,000 for an assessment locally, she sought an online assessment through Embrace Autism that she said cost her about $2,000.

Sullivan and Associates is the only psychology clinic in Thunder Bay that provides in-person autism assessments for adults.

Jasmine Peterson, a registered psychological associate with the clinic, said assessments can cost upwards of $3,000. She encourages clients to have an initial consultation with a clinician to help them decide whether it's worth it.

 

Jasmine Peterson, a registered psychological associate with Sullivan and Associates in Thunder Bay, encourages adults to have an initial consultation about whether an autism assessment is right for them, given the high cost and time commitment. (Submitted by Jasmine Peterson)

"The benefits for an adult would be things like if you're struggling in the workplace or if you're struggling because you're trying to obtain a higher education — sometimes having that diagnosis will give you access to certain resources," Peterson said. 

She has noticed more adults referring themselves for autism assessments after seeing others share their experiences on social media, and sees that as positive in reducing the stigma around neurodiversity.

Lack of support for autistic adults 

Alina Cameron of Thunder Bay is president of the Ontario Autism Coalition. Her daughter has autism, and although her symptoms were easier to detect, Cameron has heard from hundreds of families who struggle to get their female children diagnosed.

While there are more resources targeted at children, "after the age of 18, people tend to fall off a cliff," Cameron said.

Cameron...says there's been a bigger push to provide more support for adults with autism. (Submitted by Alina Cameron)

The coalition has set up a new adult services working group to advocate for more resources for autistic adults. This involves working with Community Living Ontario, pushing for a higher Ontario Disability Support Program rate, and improving living and working conditions for autistic adults, she said.

"We know that hitting younger children with really important supports and services and coping strategies and therapies can lessen their reliance on social systems in the future.

"But there are some people who … will [always] need a certain level of support in adulthood — and those people still deserve to be part of our community and part of Ontario," Cameron said.

 

Push for neurodivergent solutions

After receiving her diagnosis, Anjolie said, she has been doing more research on autism in women and girls. It inspired her to create a website to share her findings with others.

Alina Kislenko is an asstant adjunct clinical professor with McMaster Medical School in the Psychiatry and Neuroscience and Behavioural Neuroscience department in Hamilton. She also runs a counselling centre specializing in ADHD and autism, where all the practitioners are neurodivergent.

Kislenko also said she faced many misdiagnoses before she was diagnosed with ADHD and autism in her mid-twenties.

She now runs a counselling centre where all the practitioners are neurodivergent themselves. (Submitted by Alina Kislenko)

"This is such a common story, and it's a sad story of just how much time and money, and gaslighting and professional incompetence we encounter during that process," Kislenko said.

She wants to see more done to support solutions made by and for neurodivergent people, including education programs that better support their professional development.

"Often, the clients come to us and they're just finally relieved that we're using the language right, that we understand their problems on a fundamental level and not just giving them new problems with our solutions."

Policy changes underway

The federal government is currently developing a National Autism Strategy, informed by a report from the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences in spring 2022.

Last July, Ottawa also announced it would spend up to $500,000 for the Autism Alliance of Canada to work with the Pacific Autism Family Network and Autism Speaks Canada to develop a National Autism Network.

Anna Maddison, senior media relations adviser for Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), provided an emailed statement to CBC News on Thursday.

"The purpose of the network would be to bring together the skills and resources of those with lived experience, autism-focused organizations, and other groups that support autistic people in Canada. It would also support implementation of Canada's national autism strategy," the statement said.

PHAC is working on publicly releasing the strategy, but Maddison didn't give a timeline for its rollout.

However, an online survey was made available last summer where people could give feedback. The Ontario Autism Coalition also provided input.

Kislenko said it's critical for the strategy and network to be informed by people from diverse backgrounds who have autism.

FIRST PERSON

Being diagnosed with autism as an adult was a gift that unlocked my mind to who I really am

 

While Anjolie said she feels hopeful about the federal government's strategy and upcoming changes to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act,* "Legislation alone is not going to change anything."

"People need to understand that [autism] is not a mental illness. It is a difference in the way that our brains develop," she said. "I'm a human being and I have so many skills and assets that I can offer … and so do a lot of other [autistic] women."

 

CORRECTION: Anjolie is not optimistic about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. "Two...recent reviews [of the AODA], released in 2014 and 2019...concluded the status quo isn't working. Both said that while organizations by and large support the legislation and its goals, the province has failed not only to prioritize [it] but [failed to] provide meaningful guidance on its implementation and enforcement." https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/aoda-ontario-accessibility-2025-1.7053136 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Law

Sarah Law is a CBC News reporter based in Thunder Bay, Ont., and has also worked for newspapers and online publications elsewhere in the province. Have a story tip? You can reach her at sarah.law@cbc.ca

Physical and Neurological Differences s

Thoughts, Views and Opinions:  Neurodivergent Advocates

     The struggle for equal rights and social justice for people who are “different” seems continuous. The voices and actions of disability rights advocates/activists are instrumental in driving positive change. Advocates work diligently to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and champion the rights of people with all types of disabilities, and their efforts spark critical conversations, inspiring social change. Many of these conversations focus on promoting workplace fairness.

      By providing employees with disabilities workplace accommodations, adjustments, and the support needed to succeed, you can avoid miscommunication, and empower them to live with autonomy and dignity. 
     A Neuro-inclusive workplace is a psychologically safe environment, which enables all employees to reach their full potential by feeling valued, seen, heard, and validated. When your employees flourish, your organization prospers.  Will you provide your employees with the support they need to enable your company to grow?

 

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Ben VanHook

Ben describes himself as a neurodivergent (autistic/ADHD) blogger, writer, and public speaker. His AuDHD Advocacy posts may be found on LinkedIn, and Medium.com.

 

Why do I advocate for disability rights?

Because…

- I KNOW… what it is like to suffer in silence, alone.

- I KNOW… what it is like to be told, “you are being overdramatic” without any comprehension as to what one is going through.

- I KNOW… the trauma of being denied reasonable accommodations.

- I KNOW… what it is like to be bullied, physically and verbally, for the crime of being, looking, or acting different.

- I KNOW… what it is like to suffer torment and abuse whilst others merely stood by and watched it happen.

- I KNOW… the frustration, anxiety, trauma, distrust, and pain that comes from not having a single fellow classmate, peer, teacher, or parent stand up for me through the bullying, with some even, joining in the bullying.

- I KNOW… what it is like to be blamed for my abuse. To be told I “maybe provoked” someone. To be told I was “misperceiving of the situation”. To be told “they were only joking, lighten up”.

- I KNOW… what it feels like to be gaslit.

I am an advocate as I want to play my part in eliminating the systemic and systematic barriers that have plagued me, and many others, throughout life as disabled people.

I advocate to ensure everyone is heard, validated, and respected, and to ensure nobody feels alone.

 

 

 

 

Appreciate us for us.

ONLY IF we stop trying to turn people into who they are not, nor will ever be, can we begin to make the neuro-affirming changes we want to see.

ONLY THROUGH seeing and appreciating neurodivergent individuals for who they truly are, that is, neurodivergent individuals (with no strings attached), can we begin to build the foundations necessary to create these changes and eliminate barriers.

ONLY WHEN we begin to realise that it is okay to think differently, and act, perhaps, unconventionally (so long as it doesn’t endanger one’s safety), can we truly embrace the beauty of diversity and create a neuro-inclusive society.

May we stop trying to change people and begin to appreciate them for who they are.

Without diversity, we are nothing.

Neurodivergent people are neurodivergent people.

We will never become neurotypical.

Please stop trying to change us and turn us into someone we’re not, nor will ever be.

It will not work.


Instead, embrace and accept us for who we are.

Work alongside us with where we're at.


We are neurodivergent. We will always be neurodivergent. Nothing will ever change that.

hashtag#disability hashtag#neurodiversity hashtag#dei hashtag#autism hashtag#adhd hashtag#employment hashtag#education

 


 

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What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
And why do you need to know about it?

Chart describing what people think autism is, and what autism really is.
Hands raised together.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a poorly understood neurodevelopmental difference that impairs individuals’ Social Interactions, communication style and is often characterized by repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests. The  range of symptoms, behaviors, and challenges are extensive. ASD is referred to as a "spectrum" because it encompasses a diverse group of individuals who may have very different abilities and needs.

 

Key features of ASD include:

  1. Impaired Social Interaction: People with ASD may have difficulty understanding and responding to social cues and nonverbal communication (such as facial expressions and body language). They may struggle to initiate or maintain conversations and may have trouble developing friendships or forming close relationships.

  2. Communication Challenges: Communication difficulties can vary widely, ranging from nonverbal individuals who may use alternative communication methods (such as sign language or augmentative and alternative communication devices) to those with limited speech and language skills. Some individuals with ASD may have an extensive vocabulary but struggle with conversational skills or understanding figurative language.

  3. Repetitive Behaviors: Many individuals with ASD engage in repetitive behaviors, such as hand-flapping, rocking, or repeating phrases. These behaviors usually serve to self-soothe and help manage sensory sensitivities.

  4. Restricted Interests: Individuals with ASD exhibit intense interests in specific topics or activities and may become highly knowledgeable in these areas. If these interests become all-consuming, they may interfere with other aspects of life.

  5. Sensory Sensitivities: People with ASD have heightened and/or diminished sensitivity to sensory stimuli, including sensitivities to light, sound, touch, taste, or smell. These sensitivities can lead to discomfort or overstimulation.

  6. Rigidity and Routine: Some people with ASD thrive on routine and may become distressed when routines are disrupted. They may insist on sameness and have difficulty adapting to change.

 

ASD is a life-long Developmental "Disorder", most often diagnosed in early childhood, although the severity and symptom presentation varies widely from person to person. The cause of ASD is not fully understood, but it’s believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

ASD is not a mental illness. However, Autism has only been recognized and diagnosed since the late-1930s, and many adults with autism were misdiagnosed, neglected and forgotten for decades, left to languish in psychiatric institutions or drugged for disorders they never had.

The author is one of these individuals. I lived knowing there was something different about me, but no one could correctly identify what.  

Those of us with ASD have unique strengths and abilities. With appropriate supports and accommodations, we can lead fulfilling lives despite the enduring stigma and lack of awareness among medical professionals, and related personnel. But we all need some level of understanding and support.

Which is why Aspiefemmepress came to be.

                            Why is Autism awareness important

Autism awareness is important for several significant reasons:

  1. Understanding and Acceptance: Raising awareness about autism helps the general public gain a better understanding of the condition. Understanding promotes acceptance and inclusivity, reducing the stigma and discrimination individuals with autism and their families may face.

  2. Early Diagnosis and Intervention: Increased awareness can lead to earlier diagnosis of autism in children. Early intervention and support can make a substantial difference in a child's development and overall quality of life. The earlier autism is recognized, the earlier interventions like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral interventions can begin.

  3. Support and Resources: Awareness efforts help inform Autistic individuals and their families about available support services and resources, such as educational programs, therapy options, and community organizations. This knowledge can empower them to seek appropriate help and assistance.

  4. Promotion of Inclusive Communities: An informed society is more likely to create inclusive communities where individuals with autism can participate fully. This includes access to education, employment, recreation, and social activities.

  5. Research and Funding: Increased awareness hopefully leads to greater interest and funding for autism research. A better understanding of the condition's underlying causes, treatments, and therapies can lead to improved outcomes and a better quality of life for autistic people.

  6. Advocacy: Awareness campaigns serve as a platform for advocacy efforts. Advocacy organizations and individuals use the momentum generated by awareness campaigns to push for policies and changes that benefit those with autism, such as better healthcare coverage or educational accommodations.

  7. Reducing Isolation: For those with autism and their families, awareness can go a long way to reducing their almost inevitable social isolation. Knowing that there is a supportive community and that others face similar challenges can provide comfort and a sense of belonging.

  8. Education and Training: Autism awareness can lead to training and education for professionals in various fields, including educators, healthcare providers, and first responders. This training can help these professionals better understand and accommodate the needs of Autistic individuals.

  9. Promoting Neurodiversity: Autism awareness promotes the idea of Neurodiversity, which emphasizes the value and contributions of people with diverse neurological characteristics. It encourages society to appreciate and celebrate differences rather than pathologizing them.

Autism diagnosis.png

Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder

FROM The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

"Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. People with ASD often have problems with social communication and interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. People with ASD may also have different ways of learning, moving, or paying attention. It is important to note that some people without ASD might also have some of these symptoms. But for people with ASD, these characteristics can make life very challenging."

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html 

Signs of Autism In Adult Women 

Extract from: Burch, Kelly,  Nov 9, 2022.  8 often overlooked signs of autism that are most common in women, according to specialists. msn.com,  Autism in Adult Women: How to Identify the Signs (insider.com) 

The diagnostic criteria for autism is the same for all genders and ages. But those criteria can present differently in adult women, Myszak says. 

People may be familiar with symptoms of autism in children, like stimming — self-soothing with repetitive motions like hand flapping or rocking. Symptoms of autism in adults, however, are more subtle and include things like anxiety and or spending more time alone. 

Women with autism often also mask their autism symptoms in order to conform to social expectations, says Lister Brook. However, this can be mentally taxing and can lead to burnout, says Sharon Kaye-O'Connor, an autistic psychotherapist and autism educator with Idlewild Intuitive.

Important: Signs of autism — like social withdrawal — can mimic mood disorders or mental illness. People with autism are also at increased risk for certain conditions like anxiety and depression. So, it's important to work with a provider experienced in evaluating multiple mental health conditions. If you're diagnosed with depression but think you also have ASD, get a second opinion. 

Masking can make symptoms less apparent to others, but women with autism and people close to them may notice the following symptoms:

Friendships feel tough 

Challenges with social interactions are one of the flagship symptoms of autism

Women with ASD are often able to overcome that to make meaningful friendships, Lister Brook says. 

Yet, these friendships "can often feel like hard work and therefore women with autism often need a lot of social downtime," she says.

Social exhaustion

Women with autism often feel like they have to work harder than others to achieve the same results, Myszak says. 

That's in part due to masking their symptoms. School, work, and social interactions can leave them feeling exhausted. 

Feeling different

Oftentimes, women with autism feel different, or like they have to hide who they really are. 

To fit in, women with autism might adopt the mannerisms of other people, or characters on television, Kaye-O'Connor says. 

Oftentimes, they can't put their finger on what makes them feel unlike their peers. 

Focused interests

Like other people with autism, women with ASD often have hyper focused interests. 

"Their special interests may, on the surface, seem pretty typical — horses, reading, particular television shows, doing nails — but their depth of knowledge and time spent on these topics is much more than you see in neurotypical females," Myszak says. 

On the flip side, women with ASD might feel uninterested in areas that their peers are interested in, like dating. 

Sensory overload

Women with ASD can often become overwhelmed by sounds, sights, smells, and other sensory inputs. Sensory overload can make you feel distracted or irritated. Yet, many women push through due to masking. 

At other times, they may not be able to identify that they feel overwhelmed, Lister Brook says. Instead, they focus on solutions that make them feel better, like opting for loose-fitting clothes, only eating certain foods, and avoiding loud spaces. 

Emotional dysregulation

Sometimes women with ASD can feel emotionally dysregulated, which means they have trouble controlling their emotions, while other times they have great control of their emotions, Lister Brook says. 

They may have trouble identifying what emotions they're feeling, or connecting physical symptoms — like a stomach ache or headache — to their emotional state. 

Desire for certainty

Many people with ASD, including women, thrive when they have predictable routines

It can be difficult for women with ASD to tolerate uncertainty, and they can become anxious when they can't control the outcome of a situation, Lister Brook says. 

Mood disorders

Many women with autism are misdiagnosed with mood disorders like depression or anxiety

Over time, the burnout from masking symptoms can also lead to depression, says Kaye-O'Connor.

How to diagnose Autism in adult women 

Getting an autism diagnosis as an adult can be difficult. It's best to reach out to a psychologist or psychiatrist who has specific experience in diagnosing ASD in adults. It can even be helpful to ask about their experience working with adult women specifically, Myszak says. 

Many adults with autism self-diagnose after recognizing their symptoms. This can be validating, but in order to get insurance coverage or other support, formal diagnosis can still be important. 

Formal diagnosis is made by a mental health professional. The process may or may not involve neuropsychological testing

While getting a diagnosis can be scary, it's often validating for women with autism, Myszak says.

"Many people who do not have a diagnosis earlier in life worry that they are dumb, not trying hard enough, or going crazy — and peers can be just as cruel," she says. "For many adults who have not known whether they were autistic, learning the reason why they experience the world differently can be an incredible relief."

Females And Autism / Aspergers: A Checklist

By Samantha Craft, This list was created in 2012 and updated in May, 2016.

Section A: Deep Thinkers

  1. A deep thinker

  2. A prolific writer drawn to poetry

  3. *Highly intelligent

  4. Sees things at multiple levels, including her own thinking processes

  5. Analyzes existence, the meaning of life, and everything, continually

  6. Serious and matter-of-fact in nature

  7. Doesn’t take things for granted

  8. Doesn’t simplify

  9. Everything is complex

  10. Often gets lost in own thoughts and “checks out” (blank stare)

Section B: Innocent

  1. Naïve

  2. Honest

  3. Experiences trouble with lying

  4. Finds it difficult to understand manipulation and disloyalty

  5. Finds it difficult to understand vindictive behavior and retaliation

  6. Easily fooled and conned

  7. Feelings of confusion and being overwhelmed

  8. Feelings of being misplaced and/or from another planet

  9. Feelings of isolation

  10. Abused or taken advantage of as a child but didn’t think to tell anyone

Section C: Escape and Friendship

  1. Survives overwhelming emotions and senses by escaping in thought or action

  2. Escapes regularly through fixations, obsessions, and over-interest in subjects

  3. Escapes routinely through imagination, fantasy, and daydreaming

  4. Escapes through mental processing

  5. Escapes through the rhythm of words

  6. Philosophizes, continually

  7. Had imaginary friends in youth

  8. Imitates people on television or in movies

  9. Treated friends as “pawns” in youth; e.g., friends were “students” “consumers” “members”

  10. Makes friends with older or younger females more so than friends her age (often in young adulthood)

  11. Imitates friends or peers in style, dress, attitude, interests, and manner (sometimes speech)

  12. Obsessively collects and organizes objects

  13. Mastered imitation

  14. Escapes by playing the same music over and over

  15. Escapes through a relationship (imagined or real)

  16. Numbers bring ease (could be numbers associated with patterns, calculations, lists, time and/or personification)

  17. Escapes through counting, categorizing, organizing, rearranging

  18. Escapes into other rooms at parties

  19. Cannot relax or rest without many thoughts

  20. Everything has a purpose

Section D: Comorbid Attributes

  1. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

  2. Sensory Issues (sight, sound, texture, smells, taste) (might have Synthesia)

  3. Generalized Anxiety

  4. Sense of pending danger or doom

  5. Feelings of polar extremes (depressed/over-joyed; inconsiderate/over-sensitive)

  6. Poor muscle tone, double-jointed, and/or lack in coordination (may have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and/or Hypotonia and/or POTS syndrome)

  7. Eating disorders, food obsessions, and/or worry about what is eaten

  8. Irritable bowel and/or intestinal issues

  9. Chronic fatigue and/or immune challenges

  10. Misdiagnosed or diagnosed with a mental illness

  11. Experiences multiple physical symptoms, perhaps labeled “hypochondriac”

  12. Questions place in the world

  13. Often drops small objects

  14. Wonders who she is and what is expected of her

  15. Searches for right and wrong

  16. Since puberty has had bouts of depression (may have PMDD)

  17. Flicks/rubs fingernails, picks scalp/skin, flaps hands, rubs hands together, tucks hands under or between legs, keeps closed fists, paces in circles, and/or clears throat often

Section E: Social Interaction

  1. Friends have ended friendship suddenly (without female with AS understanding why) and/or difficult time making friends

  2. Tendency to overshare

  3. Spills intimate details to strangers

  4. Raised hand too much in class or didn’t participate in class

  5. Little impulse control with speaking when younger

  6. Monopolizes conversation at times

  7. Brings subject back to self

  8. Comes across at times as narcissistic and controlling (is not narcissistic)

  9. Shares in order to reach out

  10. Often sounds eager and over-zealous or apathetic and disinterested

  11. Holds a lot of thoughts, ideas, and feelings inside

  12. Feels as if she is attempting to communicate “correctly”

  13. Obsesses about the potentiality of a relationship with someone, particularly a love interest or feasible new friendship

  14. Confused by the rules of accurate eye contact, tone of voice, proximity of body, body stance, and posture in conversation

  15. Conversation are often exhausting

  16. Questions the actions and behaviors of self and others, continually

  17. Feels as if missing a conversation “gene” or thought-filter

  18. Trained self in social interactions through readings and studying of other people

  19. Visualizes and practices how she will act around others

  20. Practices/rehearses in mind what she will say to another before entering the room

  21. Difficulty filtering out background noise when talking to others

  22. Has a continuous dialogue in mind that tells her what to say and how to act when in a social situation

  23. Sense of humor sometimes seems quirky, odd, inappropriate, or different from others

  24. As a child it was hard to know when it was her turn to talk

  25. Finds norms of conversation confusing

  26. Finds unwritten and unspoken rules difficult to grasp, remember, and apply

Section F: Finds Refuge when Alone

  1. Feels extreme relief when she doesn’t have to go anywhere, talk to anyone, answer calls, or leave the house but at the same time will often harbor guilt for “hibernating” and not doing “what everyone else is doing”

  2. One visitor at the home may be perceived as a threat (this can even be a familiar family member)

  3. Knowing logically a house visitor is not a threat, but that doesn’t relieve the anxiety

  4. Feelings of dread about upcoming events and appointments on the calendar

  5. Knowing she has to leave the house causes anxiety from the moment she wakes up

  6. All the steps involved in leaving the house are overwhelming and exhausting to think about

  7. She prepares herself mentally for outings, excursions, meetings, and appointments, often days before a scheduled event

  8. OCD tendencies when it comes to concepts of time, being on time, tracking time, recording time, and managing time (could be carried over to money, as well)

  9. Questions next steps and movements, continually

  10. Sometimes feels as if she is on stage being watched and/or a sense of always having to act out the “right” steps, even when she is home alone

  11. Telling self the “right” words and/or positive self-talk (CBT) doesn’t typically alleviate anxiety. CBT may cause increased feelings of inadequacy.

  12. Knowing she is staying home all day brings great peace of mind

  13. Requires a large amount of down time or alone time

  14. Feels guilty after spending a lot of time on a special interest

  15. Uncomfortable in public locker rooms, bathrooms, and/or dressing rooms

  16. Dislikes being in a crowded mall, crowded gym, and/or crowded theater

Section G: Sensitive

  1. Sensitive to sounds, textures, temperature, and/or smells when trying to sleep

  2. Adjusts bedclothes, bedding, and/or environment in an attempt to find comfort

  3. Dreams are anxiety-ridden, vivid, complex, and/or precognitive in nature

  4. Highly intuitive to others’ feelings

  5. Highly empathetic, sometimes to the point of confusion

  6. Takes criticism to heart

  7. Longs to be seen, heard, and understood

  8. Questions if she is a “normal” person

  9. Highly susceptible to outsiders’ viewpoints and opinions

  10. At times adapts her view of life or actions based on others’ opinions or words

  11. Recognizes own limitations in many areas daily, if not hourly

  12. Becomes hurt when others question or doubt her work

  13. Views many things as an extension of self

  14. Fears others opinions, criticism, and judgment

  15. Dislikes words and events that hurt animals and people

  16. Collects or rescues animals (often in childhood)

  17. Huge compassion for suffering (sometimes for inanimate objects/personification)

  18. Sensitive to substances (environmental toxins, foods, alcohol, medication, hormones, etc.)

  19. Tries to help, offers unsolicited advice, or formalizes plans of action

  20. Questions life purpose and how to be a “better” person

  21. Seeks to understand abilities, skills, and/or gifts

Section H: Sense of Self

  1. Feels trapped between wanting to be herself and wanting to fit in

  2. Imitates others without realizing it

  3. Suppresses true wishes (often in young adulthood)

  4. Exhibits codependent behaviors (often in young adulthood)

  5. Adapts self in order to avoid ridicule

  6. Rejects social norms and/or questions social norms

  7. Feelings of extreme isolation

  8. Feeling good about self takes a lot of effort and work

  9. Switches preferences based on environment and other people

  10. Switches behavior based on environment and other people

  11. Didn’t care about her hygiene, clothes, and appearance before teenage years and/or before someone else pointed these out to her

  12. “Freaks out” but doesn’t know why until later

  13. Young sounding voice

  14. Trouble recognizing what she looks like and/or has occurrences of slight prosopagnosia (difficulty recognizing or remembering faces)

  15. Feels significantly younger on the inside than on the outside (perpetually twelve)

Section I: Confusion

  1. Had a hard time learning that others are not always honest

  2. Feelings seem confusing, illogical, and unpredictable (self’s and others’)

  3. Confuses appointment times, numbers, and/or dates

  4. Expects that by acting a certain way certain results can be achieved, but realizes in dealing with emotions, those results don’t always manifest

  5. Spoke frankly and literally in youth

  6. Jokes go over the head

  7. Confused when others ostracize, shun, belittle, trick, and betray

  8. Trouble identifying feelings unless they are extreme

  9. Trouble with emotions of hate and dislike

  10. Feels sorry for someone who has persecuted or hurt her

  11. Personal feelings of anger, outrage, deep love, fear, giddiness, and anticipation seem to be easier to identify than emotions of joy, satisfaction, calmness, and serenity

  12. Difficulty recognizing how extreme emotions (outrage, deep love) will affect her and challenges transferring what has been learned about emotions from one situation to the next

  13. Situations and conversations sometimes perceived as black or white

  14. The middle spectrum of outcomes, events, and emotions is sometimes overlooked or misunderstood (all or nothing mentality)

  15. A small fight might signal the end of a relationship or collapse of world

  16. A small compliment might boost her into a state of bliss

Section J: Words, Numbers, and Patterns

  1. Likes to know word origins and/or origin of historical facts/root cause and foundation

  2. Confused when there is more than one meaning (or spelling) to a word

  3. High interest in songs and song lyrics

  4. Notices patterns frequently

  5. Remembers things in visual pictures

  6. Remembers exact details about someone’s life

  7. Has a remarkable memory for certain details

  8. Writes or creates to relieve anxiety

  9. Has certain “feelings” or emotions towards words and/or numbers

  10. Words and/or numbers bring a sense of comfort and peace, akin to a friendship

(Optional) Executive Functioning & Motor Skills  This area isn’t always as evident as other areas

  1. Simple tasks can cause extreme hardship

  2. Learning to drive a car or rounding the corner in a hallway can be troublesome

  3. New places offer their own set of challenges

  4. Anything that requires a reasonable amount of steps, dexterity, or know-how can rouse a sense of panic

  5. The thought of repairing, fixing, or locating something can cause anxiety

  6. Mundane tasks are avoided

  7. Cleaning self and home may seem insurmountable

  8. Many questions come to mind when setting about to do a task

  9. Might leave the house with mismatched socks, shirt buttoned incorrectly, and/or have dyslexia and/or dysgraphia

  10. A trip to the grocery store can be overwhelming

  11. Trouble copying dance steps, aerobic moves, or direction in a sports gym class

  12. Has a hard time finding certain objects in the house but remembers with exact clarity where other objects are; not being able to locate something or thinking about locating something can cause feelings of intense anxiety (object permanence challenges), even with something as simple as opening an envelope.

https://the-art-of-autism.com/females-and-aspergers-a-checklist/

DSM-5-TR criteria for autism spectrum disorder diagnosis

[Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-5-TR®)] 

https://raisingchildren.net.au/autism/learning-about-autism/assessment-diagnosis/dsm-5-autism-diagnosis#:~:text=Professionals%20diagnose%20autism%20spectrum%20disorder%20on%20the%20basis,and%2For%20differences%20from%20what%E2%80%99s%20typical%20in%20both%20areas  

 

Professionals diagnose autism spectrum disorder on the basis of difficulties in 2 areas – ‘social communication’, and ‘restricted, repetitive and/or sensory behaviours or interests’.

To be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, children must:

  • have difficulties and/or differences from what’s typical in both areas

  • have had characteristics from early childhood, even if these aren’t picked up until later in childhood.

Difficulties in social communication
To be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, children must have difficulties and/or differences from what’s typical in the area of social communication.

Signs in this area include:

  • rarely using language to communicate with other people

  • not speaking at all

  • rarely responding when spoken to

  • not sharing interests or achievements with parents

  • rarely using or understanding gestures like pointing or waving

  • using only limited facial expressions to communicate

  • not showing an interest in friends or having difficulties making friends

  • rarely engaging in imaginative play.

Restricted, repetitive and sensory behaviour or interests


To be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, children must have difficulties and/or differences from what’s typical in the area of restricted, repetitive and/or sensory behaviours or interests.

Signs in this area include:

  • lining up toys in a particular way over and over again

  • frequently flicking switches or spinning objects

  • speaking in a repetitive way

  • having very narrow or intense interests

  • needing things to always happen in the same way

  • having trouble with changes to their schedule, or changing from one activity to another

  • showing signs of sensory sensitivities like becoming distressed by everyday sounds like hand dryers, not liking the feel of clothes labels, or licking or sniffing objects.

 

Levels of support 
An autism spectrum disorder diagnosis includes support levels. These are used to show how much support children need:

  • Level 1 – children need support.

  • Level 2 – children need substantial support.

  • Level 3 – children need very substantial support.

 

These levels reflect the fact that autism characteristics affect people’s everyday lives in various ways. Some people need a lot of support, and some need only a little support.

The diagnosis indicates support levels for each area. This means that children might have different support levels for their social communication skills compared to their restricted, repetitive and/or sensory behaviours. Or they might have the same support level for both.

Levels of support can change across time. This happens as children grow and go through transitions. These transitions include moving from child care to primary school to secondary school, or changes in family life like the birth of siblings.

The DSM-5-TR says that these levels should not be used to decide whether children are eligible for services.

Criteria for social communication disorder diagnosis

Social communication disorder is similar to autism spectrum disorder. The main difference is that children diagnosed with social communication disorder don’t have restricted, repetitive and/or sensory behaviour.

If children have at least 2 restricted, repetitive and/or sensory behaviours, it could point to a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. If not, it could point to a diagnosis of social communication disorder.

 

Diagnosis: conditions that occur with autism

There are some conditions that occur with autism.

Sometimes children have signs and characteristics of neurodevelopmental, mental or behavioural issues as well as autism. In this situation, children can be diagnosed as having 2 or more conditions – for example, autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or intellectual disability.

The professionals who are doing the assessment and diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder might also say that children have issues like a risk of self-injury, which isn’t a diagnosable condition.

Girl with autism.
Boy with autism.

                                                                                                      The faces of Autism

Above left: Autistic girl:  https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-YtXR3DMY-SU/T3ru_1hWSxI/AAAAAAAABZM/SEiOLzDtuYY/w1200-h630-p-k-no-nu/IMG_3778.JPG 
Above right: Autistic boy: https://icanhasautism.blogspot.com/2012/04/you-silly-goose-you-put-that-noodle-on.html

Photo of Naomi Watts
Photo of Maria Sharapova
Photo of Christina Aguilera
Photo of actor Tom Hanks
Photo of actor George Clooney
Photo of Justin Timberlake
Chart with names of Autistic celebrities.

Scientists Discover Heightened Toxicity Risk For Children With Autism, ADHD

HEALTH 28 March 2024

ByDAVID NIELD

In recent decades, the number of children and adults receiving official autism spectrum disorder ( ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ( ADHD) diagnoses has risen sharply, Research is continuing with the goal of figuring out what factors are involved in these conditions.

A study has revealed a difference in how children with autism or ADHD clear the common plastic additive bisphenol A (BPA), compared to neurotypical children.

BPA is used in many plastics and plastic production processes, and can also be found inside food and drink cans. However, previous research has also linked it to health issues involving hormone disruption, including breast cancer and infertility.

Researchers from Rowan University and Rutgers University in the US also looked at groups of children: 66 with autism, 46 with ADHD, and 37 neurotypical kids. They analyzed a chemical process used by the human body to clear out toxins in the blood through urine.

They found that kids with ASD and ADHD couldn't clear out BPA and another similar compound called Diethylhexyl Phthalate (DEHP) with as much efficiency as other kids, potentially leading to longer exposure to their toxic effects.

READ MORE: https://www.sciencealert.com/common-plastic-additive-linked-to-autism-and-adhd-scientists-find 

poison-684990_1280.jpg

RIGHT:
A group of white bottles with black labels.

TheDigitalArtist

Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/poison-bottle-skull-chemical-684990/

March 22, 2015

Autism Spectrum and Attention Deficit Disorder

     According to a 2021 study by (Kerns et al. 2021 https://www.) 48% of autistic children and adolescents [and, presumably adults] also have Attention Deficit Disorder, with or without Hyperactivity. While not every autistic individual meets the full diagnostic criteria for ADHD, they often exhibit some ADHD traits. Having both autism and ADHD is linked to lower cognitive performance and social/adaptive abilities compared to those with autism alone. The combination potentially shows a distinct pattern of skills and neurological characteristics compared to autism without ADHD. People with both conditions are also more likely to experience greater difficulties with executive and social processing, as well as to develop emotional/behavioral challenges. 

     These diagnoses are labels for combinations of behaviors at odds with the expectations of schools and workplaces.

     Affected children tend to show a lack of patience and perseverance and a tendency to interrupt others, demanding immediate gratification of their desires. They are impulsive, and find it difficult to stay focused, leaving tasks unfinished. Inattention, risk-taking, and an inability to be still may annoy others. Their responses to correction are often emotional and get them into more trouble!

     Alongside these general behaviors, there may be underlying problems with self-organization, restlessness, incessant talking and movement, difficulty staying on task, and lack of self-worth. These behaviors look like overstimulation but are actually reflections of a shortage of the neurotransmitter, dopamine.

     Recent research has shed light on the neurology of individuals with both autism and ADHD, revealing that the combination is not simply a merging of neurological structures but rather a unique frontoparietal brain dynamic. This finding is supported by evidence of widespread increases in cortical thickness and specific decreases in surface area among individuals with autism and ADHD.

     When autism and ADHD coexist, the characteristics of both conditions often lead to confusion and internal conflict regarding which neurotype is dominant in different situations. For example, individuals may struggle with punctuality due to ADHD but become upset when they are running late due to autism. They may also have difficulty following plans due to ADHD but feel an intense need for perfection in execution due to autism. Similarly, individuals may be drawn to new and exciting foods because of ADHD, but also have specific preferences and sensitivities to taste and texture due to autism. They may simultaneously crave novel experiences while also requiring predictability and sameness.

     This internal conflict is exemplified by the experiences described by individuals like Noah, who acknowledges the non-linear workings of his brain, his ability to see patterns that others may miss, and his natural creative thinking skills. However, he also faces challenges with organization, executive functioning, and other aspects that hinder the implementation of his ideas.

     Determining the dominance of either autism or ADHD characteristics and finding a compromise or resolution can be difficult for individuals, families, and teachers, or requesting employment accommodation. Expertise in both neurotypes is crucial in navigating this complex combination.

     The co-occurrence of autism and ADHD also poses a higher risk for mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicide compared to individuals with only one neurotype. Recent research has found that depression rates among individuals who are both autistic and have ADHD are 23% at age 19 and 44% before the age of 30. A variety of factors contribute to this higher risk, including genetics, trauma, social-environmental factors, academic achievement, and the presence of related conditions such as anxiety and alexithymia.

Table based on graphic by Dr. Megan Anna Neff, Misdiagnosis Monday, Neurodivergent Insights

https://neurodivergentinsights.com/misdiagnosis-monday/adhd-vs-autism

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Supporting Adults Newly Diagnosed With Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Anjolie

I reached adulthood well before being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder-Level 1. I’d been given a multitude of psychiatric disorders over time, but none of them ever truly fit, and my doctors admitted it. I knew I was different; something definitely wasn’t right, and I struggled—except with things in which I was deeply interested. While that’s a very common trait among Autistics, no one picked up on it. Now, with an official diagnosis, I’m making sense of my life, and am looking for supports to work on my greatest challenges.

The Triad of Impairments

There are three key areas of impairment common to most people with Autism.

  • Interpreting spoken as well as nonverbal language,

  • Understanding the (unwritten) rules of social relationships, and

  • Understanding how other people think.

Autism doesn’t affect all people in the same way. We are not all savants, and many of us, outwardly, seem quite “normal”.  We can be very adept at masking our challenges—especially when interacting one-to-one as opposed to in a group.

What Supports Are Available to Adults With Autism?

In my opinion, all too few. If you’re a teen or young adult upon diagnosis, you may need help understanding what Autism means, and perhaps help accepting the diagnosis. Adults whose neurocognitive symptoms or traits were not recognized during their school years, may well have issues related to living much of their lives unsupported. Depression, anxiety, social awkwardness, and trauma are among the psychological problems they may be trying to cope with.

I experienced all of those issues, with the addition of anger. I didn’t understand how I could have achieved four University degrees—one of them at the post-graduate level—and yet have no practical employment skills. The supervisor of my final placement before earning a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology told me he would have given me an “A”, except he perceived that I “lacked clinical relatedness.”  I didn’t have a clue what he meant, but I think I do now. I frequently wonder how my life might be different if someone had recognized ASD in me then.

Not every person diagnosed with Autism wants help and support.

Autism has long been pathologized. “Those who pathologize autism argue that it is a mental disorder that causes significant social and communication impairments. They believe that autism needs to be treated so that people with the condition can lead normal, productive lives.” [i]

“Those who oppose pathologizing autism argue that it is a difference, not a disorder. They believe that autism should be respected and that people with the condition should be provided with the support they need to live happy and fulfilling lives.”[ii]

The right to dignity, and the need for help and support should never be mutually exclusive. 

What are some things I can do to support someone who is neurodivergent?

There are many things people can do to be supportive of neurodivergent individuals. Some of the most important things you should keep in mind include:

  1. ​Don’t assume that anyone is incapable or unintelligent. People who are neurodivergent often have conditions or preferences that make them stand out or appear different.

  2. Treat everyone with respect. You can “normalize” and provide others with accommodations in a way that honors their human dignity.[iii]

  3. Listen. People who are neurodivergent may feel misunderstood or left out. Be willing to listen to them. Let them know you hear them and respect them and their choices.

  4. Communicate in ways that help them. Sometimes, people who are neurodivergent prefer written communication such as instant messaging, texting or emails over a phone call or face-to-face conversation. Give them the time and tools they need to communicate.

  5. Avoid value-based labels. Experts recommend against using the terms “high-functioning” and “low-functioning” to describe conditions like autism. They often assume a person’s level of function based on how much they behave like someone who’s neurotypical.

References

[i] Autism: Identity & Dignity as a Right, Autism Advocacy Network. June 28, 2022. https://autismadvocacynetwork.org/category/autism-rights-movement/#:~:text=Autism%20Positivity%20is%20an%20amazing%20movement%20that%20is,lives%20of%20people%20with%20autism%20and%20their%20families.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Neurodivergent

Neurodivergent: What It Is, Symptoms & Types (clevelandclinic.org)

This article was originally published in  Autism Spectrum News under the title  I Was Finally Diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism, Now What?  and has been republished with permission.  You may view the original article at https://autismspectrumnews.org/i-was-finally-diagnosed-with-high-functioning-autism-now-what/

Decorative list of ways to support autistic people.
News & Views

Neurodivergent News & Views

Harvard Medical School launches Adult Autism Health Resources initiative

 

Harvard Medical School launches Adult Autism Health Resources initiative

When autistic children transition into early adulthood, they lose access to many of the services and benefits provided by pediatric practices. From the age of 18 onward, these individuals and their families must navigate a healthcare system that is not fully prepared to serve their unique needs — and even less equipped to address the challenges of aging autistic adults.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1 out of 45 adults in the U.S. — or about 5.4 million people aged 18 or older — has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This data was released in the first CDC study on adults living with ASD.

Harvard Medical School has launched the Adult Autism Health Resources initiative. Focused on improving autism care and the lives of autistic adults and their families, the project aims to educate clinicians, caregivers, and self-advocates in leading meaningful change across healthcare systems.

To learn more and explore online resources and clinical courses, go to:

Adult Autism Health Resources (harvard.edu)

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