Updated: Apr 25, 2020
AUTHOR: Lee Reicheneder
In this post I am going to try to explain what it looks like to be a woman or girl on the autism spectrum along with how this at times can affect me as a woman and a Doula.
So here we go in point form shall we – bear with me this could take a while 😊
Sometimes we just like to do things alone so that we can get the task done our way. I do this with cleaning all the time – though that’s normal I think– sometimes I do this with other parts of my life. Strangely enough, I don’t do this as a Doula because to me the only way during a pregnancy, birth or parenting journey is YOUR WAY as it is your body, your baby, and your family. To me, that is what should be followed with complete respect and adoration of the amazing roles you play, or jobs you do as the divine being you are.
There can be an aversion to feminine fashions (not always) and like for practical, comfortable, and sometimes outrageous clothing styles. See this one has me written all over it haha - although sometimes I do shock myself and others when I choose to wear a dress or something that society might deem as ‘feminine’ – this is rare though. I barely touch makeup, and just give me something comfy with pockets to wear.
**SIDE NOTE: Why do we have to have such ridiculously tiny or fake pockets on our clothes while the men’s clothes get real pockets erg! **
At times we can have encyclopedic knowledge on certain topics, particularly if it is an area of interest (again this is me with pregnancy and birth). Although, I can’t always rattle this knowledge of quickly as if I am having a bad day it can take me a bit to figure out how to express this knowledge effectively. Sometimes I think that it would be handy to have an eidetic memory – imagine how useful that could be combined with this ‘encyclopedic knowledge’ I can acquire about my topic of interest *pregnancy, birth, parenting*
Some of those on the autism spectrum can fixate on facts and figures. This is believed by some to be more of a ‘male’ trait, but for me, I fit in this category as a woman on the autism spectrum (aspie woman). I do often find myself fixating on facts and figures; likewise, I rarely give information the time of day if it is not backed up by references, facts, and figures – I move to the next source of information. Turns out I am very good at remembering and rattling off lots of numbers and figures but terrible with my short term and working memory; I am not exactly sure how on earth that works together but apparently it does. Obviously, this skill or ‘autistic superpower’ can be incredibly beneficial for my Doula clients on their journeys and me during the information and educational support process.
Many women on the autism spectrum are very creative despite the popular belief that autistic people have no creativity or imagination. When you are assessed for autism your creativity and imagination is assessed along with everything else in these ridiculous screening tests designed based on observations on autistic male and it is one of the reasons why many women get missed because they may not ‘pass’ that portion of the ridiculous test because they are too ‘creative’ or they ‘have an imagination and like fiction’. Many autistic people are creative geniuses especially when it comes to their areas of interest and females on the autism spectrum are often lovers of fiction books or writing fiction themselves. In fact, they can at times get caught up in their fictional worlds such as fiction they are writing, characters they have built for their fiction or fan fiction writings, or even characters in books they are reading. It provides a sense of escapism from the world around them while nurturing the creative brain. I myself am not actually a fan of most fiction I do think it is a bit ridiculous for the most part and see no point to it – including seeing no point to ridiculous flying frogs picture books I was made explain during my autism assessment. While I am rarely one for fiction books I can occasionally get into fan fiction; but, only if the events of the story align with episodes and storylines of the show or movie the fiction is based off. If the fan fiction veers too far off the storyline of the tv show/movie, or changes characters, adds characters, does tv show/movie cross overs, is some alternate universe thing then it doesn’t catch my interest. For me, it needs to follow the set ‘correct’ (for want of a better term) path and it needs to be logical. Again this is just how it is for ‘me’ not how it is for others on the autism spectrum. I am still incredibly creative I used to write books of my own as a child and always draw. Granted my writing isn’t usually fictional, I tend to read and write non-fiction, but I still have that creative spark there. In terms of drawing, I used to draw birds as I loved birds growing up, now I do drawings of pregnancy, childbirth, and inspirational pictures surround my interest of pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Years ago I wrote poetry and I still love spoken word poetry – I used to win awards for my poems.
Some autistic women love to escape into nature and have an immense connection or understanding of the workings of nature, and/or animals but still seem to struggle with their interactions with human beings. Although we aren’t always as bad as we’re made out to be. For me I really love nature and connect with it; I think this understanding of nature aligns quite well with supporting the journey from pregnancy to birth, and into parenthood.
Autistic women often struggle with the ‘gossiping’ and even at times ‘bitching or complaining’ that occurs in society. You see this often (not always) goes against their wiring, I guess you could say. Instead, they are often incredibly truthful, loyal, and helpful towards others. I fit this bracket and it is one of the biggest reasons why I am not a fan of many social situations because I am just not ‘wired’ to understand ‘fake’. I don’t understand why people must put on fake smiles, lie to make themselves look good, share everyone’s life stories, say nasty things about others behind their back and so on. It makes absolutely no sense to me why people act that way - I cannot understand it at all – why not just be real, you know? I don’t understand it and it grates me – it’s faker than me putting on my mask trying not to act autistic. I tell it how it is. Your story is yours and mine is mine. If I don’t like you or something you do, I will say so to YOU, not to somebody else or as a gossip piece.
Autistic girls are often more likely to make more male friends as the ‘tomboy’ because it can feel more fun and easier for them to do adventurous activities and constructive rather than communicational. This was totally true for me as a child and my early 20’s. But now in my 30’s I actually enjoy conversations and although I can fumble with my communication skills occasional needing to come back to the topic when I have found the right words to use. I still find conversations more satisfying than going and doing all of these other activities. Of course, my Doula training really helped with this part I feel – and the fact that it involves my interest area of communication with pregnant, birthing, or postpartum clients.
Autistic girls and women often try to be pleasers – we try hard to not make a social error. This is one of the reasons we burn out so quickly. We don’t want to have communication issues and we don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, or hurt, and we want to fit in. So, we are more likely to say sorry (sometimes a lot) and try to appease others. This can make us vulnerable to those who don’t have great intentions towards us – conversely, we are amazing advocates for others (go figure). In addition, we tend to step back and observe before interacting, often we like to make ourselves not noticed as being noticed means we have to start interacting and we like to decipher what we should do or say through observation before we start interacting when possible. This helps us create our ‘mask’ to avoid judgment from others or accidentally making someone uncomfortable.
Some autistic women will try to create a social script for themselves of sorts based on whom they deem to be successful and popular. They then create a new look in clothes, hair, and even behavior in the attempt to ‘fit’. Basically, turning themselves into a chameleon, many people knowing this woman but nobody knowing the real ‘her’ as she has become someone who will ‘fit’. This is something many years ago I used to do in my teen years and early 20s as I just wanted to ‘fit’ – now, however, I think I match more of the above trait description where if possible I simply like to observe and I try hard to not make a social error. But again, this still something that doesn’t always apply as over the years I have become more comfortable in my own skill, I think helping my kids to learn to be comfortable in their own skin (including my children with disabilities) has helped me to be so much more comfortable in mine. Because why be ordinary when I can be extraordinary.
Now that is a little on what it looks like to be a woman on the spectrum. Everyone on the spectrum though experiences things differently – including women. So, while these are some very common traits for women on the spectrum not every woman on the spectrum will have these traits or experience these issues, while others might experience a few or all these issues.
I hope you have found this insightful and I will try to create another post later explaining autistic burn out for those who are interested in what this is and why this occurs.
~ Blessings Lee
ARTICLE DISCLAIMER: Lee is a Canberra Doula who also spent over 5 years working in the childcare field as a childcare educator (including as a Room Leader); she holds relevant children's services qualifications alongside Doula qualifications. In addition, Lee holds a wide range of qualifications and training in fields that include but are not limited to trauma and natural therapies. Lee is a proud Aspie woman and mother of 5 children (2 with disabilities). If you have concerns about your child's development, family member's wellbeing or your own wellbeing speak to your Midwife or Doctor. Furthermore, a small commission is made on some of the links provided within these blog articles
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~ Blessings Lee your Canberra Doula