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Asperger’s affects males and females in different ways, and girls generally find it easier to adapt to the world around them. Even so, they often run into a number of problems in their teenage years. These typically include the following:
- Communication skills including facial expression, speech, body language and conversation are generally weak.
- Adolescent girls with Aspergers are less emotional than neurotypical girls, and find it hard to understand their peer’s mood swings and ups and downs. Just watching the excess emotion may cause them to feel tired.
- Friendships may be elusive and even if the Asperger’s girl makes a friend, she may become confused by the way the girl changes her mind and acts impulsively.
- Fashion does not feature strongly in the life of a teen girl with Asperger’s. She likes to wear comfortable clothes and may wear the same outfit several days in a row if allowed to. This can cause her to be ostracized by her classmates.
- Personal hygiene may be neglected and result in her being mocked and called names by other teens. Greasy hair and body odor are not acceptable among adolescent girls.
- Toys have a different meaning to Asperger’s girls and they may enter their teens still playing with dolls. If their peers find out, they may tease them mercilessly about this.
- Naivety about sex is common and is compounded by the fact that Asperger’s girls are normally more immature than their peers. Unscrupulous males may take advantage of their innocence and the consequences can be an unplanned pregnancy.
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Girls are generally more nurturing than boys and this can be put to use when an Asperger’s teen is looking for friendship. If she meets a girl or group of girls that she likes, they may help her with improving her social skills and appearance and protect her when she is vulnerable. Here are some more ideas of how girls with Aspergers can cope with the challenges of daily life:
- Speech and drama lessons can help with communication. They teach expression, inflection and exaggerate body language making it easier to understand.
- While Asperger’s girls may enjoy companionship, they generally have a lower threshold for social activity than their peers. If their friends become too loud or emotional, it may help to go for a quiet walk or retreat to a quiet place for a while.
- Fashion is an important part of a teen girl’s life and an Asperger’s girl needs to pay attention to this if she wants to fit in. Asking a friend for a fashion makeover can be a good idea or a store assistant can give advice on fashion and suitable clothing.
- Personal hygiene is important as teenagers grow and develop. Body odor needs to be controlled by bathing and deodorant, and hair should be washed daily if necessary. Skin care, cosmetics and hair style are all part of grooming and an Asperger’s girl will usually need help with all of these.
- Adolescent girls with Asperger’s often have a special interest in animals and classical literature. Parents could encourage this and suggest it replace the dolls and other toys that she may still be attached to.
- Sex education is important and because Asperger’s girls are not adept at reading body language, it is important that they have extra input to teach them how to recognize sexual predators. Parents may need to organize this out of school or if they are not embarrassed, they could explain the implications themselves.
Teenage years can be extremely difficult for girls with Asperger’s but with adequate, focused support, they can be helped to make a friend or two. This can make all the difference to their levels of happiness.
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Asperger's and Girls, Tony Attwood and other authors, Future Horizons, 2006
The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007