The forgotten part of the autism spectrum

By Laura TomassiniLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

They are the quiet ones in class, the ones who panic in crowds and avoid social interaction: People diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome often have a hard time in everyday life because they are different from others. The fact that affected females in particular suffer from the consequences of not knowing is mainly due to the lack of knowledge surrounding this autism variant.

"Aspergirls" is how American author Rudy Simone refers to girls and women with Asperger's. The syndrome is one of many variants of autism and officially occurs in one female for every four males affected, but the number of unreported cases is probably much higher. People who suffer from it live in the so-called spectrum of their idiosyncrasy. Whereby "suffering from it" is actually the wrong statement. Rather, those affected suffer from the lack of information from their environment and the resulting reactions to their supposedly "bizarre" person. Sensory problems, difficulties in everyday school and work life as well as in maintaining interpersonal relationships, depression: These are all hurdles that people with Asperger's have to deal with every day.

The challenges in a world in which chaos instead of order prevails and overstimulation outweighs silence are usually not visible to others, especially for female sufferers, but are more than real for them, Simone writes in the introduction to her Aspergirls book. The fact that there is a difference between the manifestation of Asperger's syndrome in men and women has been rather unknown in society at large until now. "Many people think that only men have Asperger's because they can't hide it as well as we can, " Marielle explains. The 41-year-old was only diagnosed with the syndrome in 2014, until then her life was characterised by hide-and-seek and stressful situations.

A constant game of hide and seek

"I already felt different from my peers when I was a child, but I never knew the reason for it, " says Marielle. It was only in adulthood and through a colleague at work that she learned of the possibility that her "special" behaviour might be due to autism. A first test turned out rather vague, only on the second attempt was Marielle told: "You have an Asperger's disorder". The fact that the 41-year-old wants to talk about herself and her syndrome in the Lëtzebuerger Journal today is not a matter of course, because despite her diagnosis, Marielle is extremely cautious about revealing what she knows. "I've kept the whole thing a secret until now and only two handfuls of people even know that I have Asperger's, " she reveals.

The result: numerous additional illnesses triggered by psychological pressure and stress, as well as a life in seclusion. Marielle has only a few friendships and the understanding for her person is also limited in the family circle. "Friends come and go, because most people don't understand you at all or understand you wrongly, " says the woman with autism. Over the years, she has developed camouflage strategies and learned to copy the behaviour of others so as not to stand out as different herself – something that almost all female sufferers have in common. "We are not really who we are, but who others expect us to be."

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The forgotten part of the autism spectrum


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