Female Autism

I’ve had a glass of wine…and this is a long one…

I need more time to focus on a very important subject matter…female autism!!!

But after a discussion online today, I wanted to share a few things before I get the time I need to really do the subject justice.

There is so much literature out there and of course much of it conflicts. Read as much as you can!

We are living in an exciting time where more information is becoming available. Sadly, people, including professionals, are still working on out of date criteria and myths about autism!

Obviously autism is a spectrum and I am not claiming that there are not overlaps between individuals and genders. But, there is enough evidence to show clear differences between male and female autism/Asperger’s.

Today I came across a mother on a parents of SEN children support group who was describing her daughter’s behaviours. These included hand flapping, excited noises, being overly social, singing all the time, talking a lot, getting on better with boys than girls, not really fitting in, playing alone despite trying to interact, having only one or two friends…

I recognised immediately that this girl was autistic. The reason I recognised this is because this was me as a child. These are just a few of the behaviours…barely the tip of the iceberg.

The mother said that the paediatrician had dismissed any concerns that this child was autistic because she could socialise and make eye contact.

As the day has progressed, this has made me feel so many emotions. Sad, angry, infuriated, hurt, incentivised…

I wish there was some way I could focus on helping people understand autism and more specifically, female autism.

I am not diagnosed yet but I know who I am. People have told me for years that I can’t be autistic because I can socialise and make eye contact. They invalidate the struggles I have faced. I spent a lifetime feeling left out and isolated despite playing by all the rules. So I could fit in, I spent hours trying to teach myself how to be interested in some of the things other children around me talked about. I trained myself to make eye contact. I tried to be everything that wasn’t natural to me. I spent many hours crying when people didn’t understand me.

I feel so grateful to have had my mum who talked me through why other people said and did the things they did. And helped me understand what things made me stand out for all the wrong reasons.

I used to hyperfocus on whatever I was interested in and spent time, up until my late teens, recording songs, playing on my keyboard, making videos etc while all of my friends were out drinking. When my auntie taught me how to knit, I didn’t think twice about taking it into school to complete during play time the next day. The other kids were mean! I couldn’t see why! There are so many incidents I could share right now as I go through spells/loops where all of these failed interactions and facial expressions haunt me. What these interactions taught me at the time was that something I did was wrong. So even if I didn’t quite understand what I had done…I knew I had to use a trial and error approach until I was accepted.

The other problem with being autistic is that even when you learn lots of strategies, the awkwardness and uncertainty doesn’t stay behind in childhood…it follows you into adulthood. As a young woman I was extremely rule driven, very black and white, and used to offend people with my opinions without even trying. I have always conducted a lot of research and find comfort in facts! Since the General Election I have realised, in my 30s, that this is not something society can handle.

Another issue is bullying. I was bullied at school, by family members, by different workplaces…and I could not work out why. For some reason, there was just something about me that people targeted. At one workplace I was told that they believed I was trying to make my colleagues look bad by performing so well. Another colleague from another workplace actually told me (when we first realised I was most likely on the spectrum) that she found this to be a relief as she thought I was trying to stand out to the Headteacher and apparently the staff had discussed me in the staffroom. She said that me being autistic made so much sense and made her feel better.

What they didn’t realise is that as an autistic person, I am a perfectionist and I hyperfocus on tasks until I have achieved what I want to achieve. I have always lived in my own little world, competing only with myself and my own expectations…yet I was perceived as having ulterior motives that were less than pure. I was accused of saying or meaning things that I would never say or mean. All I can put it down to is that many women have underlying meanings when they say or do things. With me, what you see really is what you get, but it seems that people find this hard to believe. I have always been quite naïve and I think this was part of the problem. Very often people would manipulate me into saying or doing things and on more than one occasion, words were definitely put into my mouth. These days, I keep my circle small and trust very few. It’s a shame, but it’s an easier way to live.

My mum always said that I wore my heart on my sleeve and gave too much away about myself. She used to say that it hurt her to see how pure I was and how people took advantage of that. Another autistic trait. She also used to say that I only ever saw the best in people, and I was so proud of that.

I think this is why I connect with children so well. There are no hidden agendas and codes to deconstruct. I find them so easy to work out and to work with.

Autism is not a mental health condition but it causes mental health issues for sure. When I was a teenager I considered ending my life…and that wasn’t a cry for attention. If it wasn’t for my mum having her wits about her and intervening, I would have absolutely been another statistic.

As I have said before, trust your instincts. If you suspect a female in your circle is autistic, research, research and research. They will need you to be their friend, support and teacher, with or without a diagnosis.

This is one of very few times I have openly talked about identifying as autistic because to be honest, most people dismiss it as soon as I mention it. Without a piece of paper from a professional (probably a neurotypical) who is attempting to diagnose from out of date criteria, people don’t take you seriously. Sadly, people are ignorant and don’t attempt to educate themselves before expressing their opinions. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s true.

I recently told some family members that I was going for my diagnosis and they looked baffled.

“Why?”

Well, I didn’t answer because to ask that question, they clearly don’t get it.

This is who I am. This is my identity. And now my children are going through the process, I feel it is the right time.

I also think it is really important to stand up and show the world that there are more female autistics than we have been led to believe. Here we are blending into the background, pretending to fit in, when in fact we don’t.

People talk about autism in such a negative light. I want to show that we are intelligent, loving, kind, sensitive, empathetical and successful! Some autistics struggle more than others…but it’s not like that for all of us.

I am proud to think the way I do and although it has brought me pain, it has made me who I am today.

Empathy

For those people who think that autistic people can’t be empathetic…

Yesterday we bumped into one of my mum’s friends. She gave the children £1 each. We went to the shop to spend the money but upon learning that the man outside selling The Big Issue was homeless, he handed over his pound with a huge smile on his face.

I explained his pound was now gone and he couldn’t buy anything with it, then asked him why he gave his pound to the gentleman. He replied, “So he can buy a new house!”

He was so happy. And I felt so proud.

He has obviously been taught compassion, empathy and kindness, as any child should, but so many people have the misconception that ASD children lack these qualities.

All people are different, and this is all he has known. He is so loving, sensitive and affectionate! And just beautiful inside and out! 😍🥰

Precious Moments

Well, we continued snuggling and he fell asleep on me. Nothing will make me move…too precious!

He was so cute after the tantrum. Very loving and polite. Why can’t he see he gets so much more from behaving that way?

Mum Guilt

I am suffering from huge mum guilt this morning.

I put milk in my youngest’s Shreddies, as always, and he frowned and shouted at me saying no milk! He was very rude so I removed the bowl and sent him to the other room. When I felt he was ready, I gave him another chance. He continued to be rude so no more chances.

This triggered a tantrum which escalated into throwing and screaming for almost an hour. Every item he threw was confiscated.

My husband had to take my eldest to school as despite battling my youngest to get dressed, it was just impossible. Once I’d managed to forcibly get his clothes on, he just started taking them off.

You can’t help but wonder if you are hurting him in some way, both physically and emotionally.

I am so patient with my children. I label emotions and do everything I instinctively feel they need, as well as things I’ve learned through reading and advice from experts. But some days it feels like nothing works.

Today I am feeling a bit exhausted and frustrated, and just like I need a break. And just like I want to cry. I’m sure that will pass.

As I posted before, I was really looking forward to some 1:1 time with my youngest now my eldest is at school, but it hasn’t been all that enjoyable this week.

I know it’s a mega change and that could be affecting him, but selfishly I am feeling a little sorry for myself.

Of course the good outweighs the bad but I can’t help but question why every day has to be so hard; such a battle.

I feel guilty because although I am so grateful for my children, I am struggling a little with the challenges they pose.

People say I’m the best mum for them and most of the time I feel that’s true. But sometimes you just wonder why it can’t be easier. Just because I can deal with them doesn’t mean I always want to. That sounds awful I know, but it’s such a huge responsibility.

I am actually looking into preschool for one day a week for my youngest before his three year old funding comes into play. I have huge guilt over this for a few reasons. First of all, we are a one income family so I know it’s going to be hard financially. Secondly, although he likes to do his own thing and behaves well most of the time, once he is triggered he is so difficult, I don’t know if it’s fair to expect preschool to cope with him. Thirdly, although I know he really wants to go, I feel it is so mean of me to send him before he ‘needs’ to. I didn’t send my eldest until he was three and a half…and I was happy to keep him at home. Saying that, he was a different child and was totally not ready. But it makes me feel bad!

As I’m writing this, he is sat next to me and we are having the best snuggles. I will end the post here so I can enjoy the moment.

Ying & Yang

I am so happy with the school my son is at. It’s only early days, I know, but so far they really seem to get him.

He looks forward to going in and although he is obviously having a few challenges, they have already set up a safe space for him to go to etc.

I was about to explain something to his teacher this morning and before I’d completed my sentence, she finished it with the same thoughts!

You can see they really do treat the children as individuals and try to get to know them as people.

In other news, my youngest is not coping well with his big brother going to big school. Today is the first day he didn’t get upset when we left him.

We attended a toddler group, but when we reached the end of the session (tidying up/transitions), he struggled to cope and had a huge tantrum. I took him outside and brought him back once he had calmed. We did this once more but the third time the tantrum escalated so I had to put him in his stroller.

I could not physically strap him in so thankfully a lovely mum from the group helped me. She was so calm and reassuring. I haven’t come across many people who offer help so I was a little overwhelmed. What a lovely person!

We had to walk past a coffee area full of older people. Most people smiled and gave understanding faces but some of the older people pulled a very different face, clearly thinking my child is a brat and I am a terrible mother.

I am learning to filter this out and focus on the positive as most people were friendly.

Today was most definitely a tantrum. He was hungry, tired and unhappy with the transition. Last week he coped just fine…but today was clearly a different day.

I gave him his comforter once we got outside and he calmed down immediately. He then spoke to me about what he had done when we got home and has been as good as gold.

I was reluctant to take him to the group today as his behaviour has been tricky this week. However, I thought I needed to give it a try! I’m sure some of the other parents would have preferred it if I had stayed at home!

We can always try again next week…

If they all run out of the door when we arrive, I will quite understand!

😂🤦‍♀️

Tantrum or Meltdown?

Oh my gosh, yes. Please read.

Meltdowns are not the same as tantrums!

What this doesn’t address is how tantrums can sometimes trigger or turn into a meltdown. You deal with the tantrum but it then escalates
beyond all control, so it’s likely that other factors such as sensory overload have come into play.

Tantrums need to be dealt with as with any child. Parents with autistic children certainly know the difference, but it’s not always easy for other people to identify, which is understandable.

https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fautismawarenesscentre.com%2Fwhat-is-the-difference-between-a-tantrum-and-an-autistic-meltdown%2F%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR1DusTF0UtFfFD4g7XDk5x8mM-VDUelVCvHz0jnPB_fqGh57R6QsedmTik&h=AT3ukCX3OuiM0SGqywnqmXhyhfhL9B2QaRENApjdhfGwE7-LzlAoZu6tbV84ivfFnoojtHOmhkS6E58U9GpBDGx0mPUcFVy_YaYutJt-7nKxx_1iKOPWNqKysbEaUC9Nrg2CFE5q9I8JRB3fGyUfgrPA1ulQVXs-50H16qZT-9yhmkpZLfGH_PRs2-diq-LNdGTiNmyoJYev2oUSNYWiQgCtm9lxIveSnnhihU03DnfZLFel1au0sbSEme4lT1Fgmb6eNXpAYD8KRrTPMzr2KHAKjnXA-TP9VuR8xiBckszo2mSmTjx3wnVEAYF8qLjhUH0LMNqmKJLgNP1HEiDKMbYL7R7DIs8ssppg_ZPVFIh1XAd3c-98Bxy3lmV_POzyyPDu8Gho7I_bh4kH0h0OTHvn8Bl9eHw7GybHc56CCxDzRZztjU9079z5-OXbu49zqUbZYpgc61v6rQnDSHuYFmCgvtJYfwZ83SXKUZF3DwFmcFsnubRDrzy9sNgfRIMeqbgLwZP5qCB3yQrArUD3G14v3N2m_NFxu_tu12X3FRf_UTw92GJBE6XhuKnX8J_E0NPdZJEsQrSy_Ar7WrK-B7ep4rKRWz3X3Sjf0AHcv_zvXiqA3p3z_0iS02Di

Terrible Twos

My youngest is two, coming up three. We went through a really tricky phase with him when he was smaller but that seemed to have passed…or at least we felt his behaviour had improved.

He is going through a very tricky phase at the moment.

Today he had a meltdown that lasted almost two hours. He hit, kicked, screamed, cried, threw things, self harmed…and just didn’t know what to do with himself.

There was a clear trigger but once he was in the grasp of the meltdown…there was nothing I could do to help him out of it.

I think I have mentioned it before, but he hates being touched at this time. Sadly, I could not give him the space he so craved as he was being very dangerous. I had to restrain him.

Sometimes I make sure he is placed somewhere safe and let him essentially crack on. Sometimes he requires touch and security. Sometimes he just needs to get it out of his system on his own. Sometimes he needs assistance and adult intervention. The trick is knowing when to use each approach. Today I just didn’t know what to do with him.

When I say almost two whole hours…I mean it! I am not exaggerating! This poor child was so beside himself. He was bright red, extremely hot and his heart was racing like crazy. He sobbed and couldn’t breathe properly at times, and the noise he was making was clearly hurting his throat and making him cough. He was angry, upset and confused, and his face was wet with tears.

It is so awful feeling so helpless.

This meltdown started while we were out so I strapped him into his stroller and walked home. Luckily most of the people I came across gave me a friendly smile.

Luckily, I can shrug this behaviour off as ‘terrible twos’ but I wonder what the heck I am going to do when that is no longer an excuse I can get away with.

People suggest all the time that his behaviour is due to his age. Some things are, of course. But these tempers and meltdowns are beyond what you would expect of a typical child. What concerns the professionals is the extremity and duration of his meltdowns.

It is such a shame, as in everyday life he is such a bright, helpful little boy. I feel this behaviour, which genuinely seems to take him over, gives the wrong impression. I know as he gets older, just like with my eldest child, we will be able to put strategies in place to help him self regulate. Or at least I hope so. But for now, I fear we have many more of these episodes to come.

Some people have suggested that he is merely copying his older brother. This is also incredibly insulting. This was obviously one of the first things I ever considered but the children are completely different. In fact, it isn’t insulting…it’s infuriating. I know people are probably trying to help but all it feels like is that they are patronising me. People like to give you very obvious suggestions and advice that of course you have already tried and considered. I wish it was as simple as they all seem to think it is.

Sorry

I just wanted to apologise for all of the posts having only two separate dates on them. Before I had the blog on WordPress, I was posting on Facebook. I wanted to sync up all of the posts so far before creating new content.

I was advised that I should upgrade WordPress rather than use a free site. I will keep you posted.

Attachment Disorder

I actually can’t believe this has come up this evening. My friend asked me to cover attachment disorder in one of my posts so I’ve been reading about it…then I came across this!

It’s made me realise I’ve definitely come across it before in my teaching career and have instinctively, through research and trial and error, addressed it!

https://www.tes.com/magazine/article/how-attachment-theory-helps-behaviour?fbclid=IwAR1kmDdQRIi0h14kI-nMk-tiUCbvv-UxMhdqavnNg-id4f05AA7R4X393pM

Can Autism be Cured?


I find this article so insulting. Autism cannot be, and does not need to be, cured!

Yes, being autistic can present in a million different ways, and some autistic people will struggle more than others. But generally I think there is huge ignorance surrounding it. The media have a lot to answer for here!

We were once asked if the life expectancy was good for somebody with autism!

I should hope so. Being a little more sensitive to the world and thinking differently isn’t an illness. Despite it so wrongfully being considered a mental health problem for so long.

I believe it was Tony Attwood that said, “I don’t suffer from autism. I suffer from other people!” I will need to double check this, but it’s so true.

The other expression I remember but need to check who said it is being autistic is like trying to shove a circle through a square hole…or something like that. It’s so true!

I haven’t mentioned it here before but I myself identify as autistic. In fact, I was once referred to be diagnosed but I did not pursue the diagnosis. This was wholly due to the ignorance surrounding it.

I always knew I was different, everybody did, but we could not put our finger on why.

I tried so hard to mimic everybody else and fit in, but I just couldn’t. There is much to say about my own experience, so I will be discussing this in future.

I am currently waiting for a new referral.

I posted an article a while ago about PTSD from having autistic children. I believe this also exists from growing up in the world as an autistic person.

The female experience is different to that of male autism, in some ways. Women are talented mimics and maskers. I have had more people than you know scoff at my claims that I am autistic. I have spent years training myself to make eye contact and perform well at social events.

What people don’t see is the social exhaustion afterwards. It zaps all of my energy. But all people see is me coming across as very outgoing and overly chatty.

I am excited to discuss female autism more as it is an area that is underdiagnosed and misunderstood.

I taught a clearly autistic girl who was just like me!!!!! An Ed Psych was watching her, and the more we talked, she said she felt I was on the spectrum too. I dismissed it to begin with but then the autistic trait of hyperfocus came into play and I read SO much. It was undeniable.

I finally understood. I finally had an answer. They call it the glass wall. I cried for a week as I grieved over all of the experiences I had been through, that I realised were not my fault. That I realised could have been different if only we’d known and put interventions in place.

Autistic people are your teachers, your nurses…we are empathetical…in fact I am an empath…but that’s for another day. It’s hard being an empath as you feel so extremely and it’s not something you can easily train yourself out of. I genuinely feel other people’s pain! If someone hurts themselves, my whole body almost feels it and I overreact or cry. I can’t help it!

So, my relationship with, and passion for, autism is a very personal one!!!

https://news.sky.com/story/amp/ad-watchdog-orders-150-autism-cure-therapists-to-stop-11672357?fbclid=IwAR1kt8-V_J8aYghOc38VSK3d2-peSZgk2_-FKvo82wA8zFUDCU0HWZlU0-E