Welcome back to the Audacious Aspie! This week, we’ll continue looking at the article SPECTRUM!, and how Autistic/Asperger masking affects women on the spectrum. Last time we left off, we were going through the introduction section of the article, taking note of all the interesting bits after the little story at the beginning. This week, we’ll, continue...to...go through the, uh...alright look, we’re still going through the introduction. I’m a slow reader. And typer.
Last we left off, the article pondered on whether masking might be partially responsible for less women and girls being diagnosed than men and boys. What is new, though, is that an interviewee on SPECTRUM! Makes the following comment: “ For many women, it’s not until they get properly diagnosed, recognized and accepted that they can fully map out who they are.” (SPECTRUM!, paragraph 8, introduction section).
Sounds all good and swell right? If everyone got diagnosed at a young age, or at least at all, everyone would be much happier. Right? Will, some don’t think so, including the researchers themselves (probably a bad sign if not even the people doing the research can’t decide on what their findings mean either). Why don’t they think so? While getting a diagnosis can help women better understand themselves and find, plus receive (hopefully) more and better support (or any at all), the other side says that that a diagnosis has its own parrels.
Such parrales include, but not limited to: “a stigmatizing label and lower expectations for achievement” (SPECTRUM!, last paragraph of introduction section). So why bother at all? Will, perhaps the next section of the article, aptly called “Girls blend in” (which, depending on how your feeling, can either mean “girls with autism blend into the background, their symptoms often miss read or disregarded”, or “girls blend in well with strawberry and chocolate when mixed together in the blender”. Either or).
WHile your at it, I heard that sugar and spice mix will with little children girls as will. So long as Chemical X, found in any household cleaners and hair dye, is not added.
But we’ll find that out at next week's post (or if you actually decide to put little girls in blenders and try it out for yourself, just don’t tell the police. And if you are caught, you never heard it from me). Until next time, this continues to be, the Audacious Aspie.
Welcome back to the Audacious Aspie! This week, we continue looking at Autistic/Asperger masking, this time, a new interviewee will be joining us today, to talk about the side of Autistic/Aspie masking that was only lightly touched on by Healthwatch Bristol: the effects of masking on women on the spectrum. What effects are there besides being belatedly (three words in a row starting with a B, and they said it could never be done) diagnosed with Autism/Aspergers? Will, let's find out together.
Everyone please welcome our next guest, SPECTRUM! (cue cheers and claps from audience. Yes, that means you). The article starts off on a rather...interesting note, giving us a short back story of a woman on the spectrum (this is sort of like the prologue of some movies out nowadays, this one being more informative though, and interesting). All of which is listed under the heading “Introduction”. But rather than give a description of all that, we’re going to skip all that and go right into the main story.
Like the story between these 2 chess knights! “Forgive me, my dear, but I must move horizontally towards you and smack you aside like a naughty person, as my lord demands it”.
However, that does not mean that we will skip the introduction entirely, as the paragraphs after the little story do contain some useful information, but if you want to read the story, you can find it here (just go directly to the top of the story, where the big green E lives). As mentioned in the previous article, scientists: those bright lads and lasses that live in the labs and such, found out that many Autistic/Aspergers women mask, or “camouflage”, theirs condition. Maybe possibly kinda explaining why, as SPECTRUM says “three to four times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with the condition” (Paragraph 6, Introduction Section).
It also might explain, so the article says, why girls who are diagnosed young often show “severe traits, and highly intelligent girls are often diagnosed late.” (Paragraph 6, Introduction Section). That could lead to some interesting conversations: “Hey! How's the baby?” “Ohh, shes good. We think she might have Autism though.” “Okay, so when are you going to have her tested?” “Ohhh, maybe when she’s 13 or so, my spouse and I read somewhere that if we wait a couple of years to get her diagnosed, she will become highly intelligent!” “Umm, I don’t think that's-” “I want her to be special!” “(inwardly to self) Trust me, if you're her parents, she’ll be special alright”.
Will, that does it for the this week's post, next week we will continue to look at the same topic and article. And keep an eye out for extra content coming soon to, content not yet scene on this site! But until then, this continues to be, the Audacious Aspie.
Special much like this train! Ever scene a train with graffiti all over it? Does YOUR train have graffiti all over it? No? That's why this train is special.
But before we end here, here’s a little video talking about spectrum masking as will. Some of you might already recognize where it’s from.
“This is Emily's teacher, Joan Bush. You will need to come to the school immediately to pick up your daughter. She's not doing well. It's important that you come right away.” I pressed 7 on my cell phone to delete the message and promptly called the school back.
“Hello may please speak with Mrs. Bush? Ok, I will be there as soon as I can. Is she safe? Yes, I'm on my way.” I hung up the phone and walked next door to my colleague’s office. I could barely find my words but managed to string together a sentence or two explaining that I had to leave and update her on the work I was dropping to pick up my daughter from school.
I got the call at 10:30 am. It was just one of many emergency calls I had received at work over the past school year. This time would prove to be particularly terrifying as I would soon learn from the school counsellor that my 17-year-old daughter had unsuccessfully tried to end her life. She had been staying at her father’s home and had taken pills two nights prior to confessing her actions to the school counsellor.
This was the worst it had been. Emily was diagnosed 2 years ago with an eating disorder and it was abundantly clear that she had been battling anxiety and depression for several years prior. Further psychiatric investigation lead to the discovery of post traumatic stress symptoms and borderline personality traits. In short, she has an incredibly difficult time coping with the world around her, managing her emotions and navigating personal relationships due to trauma. Up until this point, she had not planned or attempted suicide although she was prone to depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts.
Following the call from the school, Emily was admitted to the pediatric mental health unit at the hospital. There, she spent a few days stabilizing on medication and reflecting on her actions. Since then, she has been relatively stable on medication and receives regular counselling.
What is a parent to do? For the last 2 years the gripping fear that she might harm herself or worse manifested itself in me like a physical illness. I wasn’t sleeping or eating well. I was battling my own anxiety and depression while trying to stay stable for my daughter. I felt like I was making all the wrong parenting decisions. I would allow Emily to validate this feeling when she would get angry and accuse me of being selfish. The constant worry was affecting my work and impacting my relationship with my partner and my younger daughter. Sometimes, I would forget to breathe.
When Emily was first diagnosed, my social work brain kicked in and I managed to connect her with all the community and clinical mental health resources I could think of. I tried to stay positive and supportive. I bought her the food she liked best and drove her anywhere she wanted to go. Yes, I got angry sometimes. Maybe more than I realized. We would fight about her teenage-mental-health-ridden behaviour. She would tell me to stop making it about me. And I would end up feeling guilty about the way I had handled things and apologize. The more at-risk she became the more desperate I was to find a solution. Nothing was working. I felt completely helpless.
If you’re a parent of a child who lives with mental health, you know that this is an on-going and unpredictable story. So, as a fellow parenting-work-in-progress, I thought I would share a few things that have resonated with me on the journey thus far.
First, Emily was right. It’s not about me. In all of this, I realized she can only be accountable for her own mental health and behaviour and can not be expected to shoulder my hurt feelings, fear and anger, no matter how justified. Next, however flawed I think her views are, she needs her truth to be heard and validated rather than challenged. I can still hear myself saying, “I understand how you feel BUT….” Finally, I needed to let go of what was and still is beyond my control and that is, I can’t save her. The choice to do the work necessary to stay alive is all hers. Truth be known, I’m still working on this one.
If you’re an imperfect parent like me, you’ve probably felt like a failure, blamed yourself for your child’s mental health and carried the guilt of it around like an overpacked suitcase. There may be times you’ve felt exhausted and wished you could hand in your parental resignation. Perhaps you’ve felt completely alone, unable to share your struggle for fear of being judged by other parents, colleagues, friends or neighbours. Well, I am here to tell you that you are not alone. So I’m just going to validate your truth right now by saying simply this: I understand how you feel. Period.
About the author:
Jennifer Mei is a Registered Social Worker whose current role is working with post-secondary students to develop a customized academic accommodation plan. Jennifer’s history working with individuals with disabilities began in the realm of vocational rehabilitation and job placement. It was in this role that the reality of barriers faced by equity seeking groups fueled her passion for social justice, equity and diversity. Over the last decade, her journey brought new understanding to the intersectionality of social locations and how ones location defines their position of power in a multitude of shifting contexts. It is with this lens that Jennifer seeks to help level the playing field for students whose power has been institutionally compromised due to disability. Her own experience with mental and physical health has also brought a personal element to her commitment to ensuring equal access to education, anti-oppressive practice and the protection of human rights.
The results of a recent study indicate that there are two types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
One is known as “developmental ADHD” and is related to genetic factors.
The other appears to be linked to a “mild traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion.”
Brain trauma such as a concussion is not out of the ordinary with 20 % of teens reporting a “mild traumatic brain injury.”
The study evaluated the “origins” of ADHD in 418 youth aged 8-22.
The results of the study indicate that understanding the source of the brain injury may determine different kinds of treatment.
Sonja Stojanovski, Daniel Felsky, Joseph D. Viviano, Saba Shahab, Rutwik Bangali, Christie L. Burton, Gabriel A. Devenyi, Lauren J. O’Donnell, Peter Szatmari, M. Mallar Chakravarty, Stephanie Ameis, Russell Schachar, Aristotle N. Voineskos, Anne L. Wheeler. Polygenic Risk and Neural Substrates of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms in Youths With a History of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Biological Psychiatry, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.06.024