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An Aspie in the City

posted 2 Jul 2012, 00:26 by Jan Szafranski   [ updated 2 Jul 2012, 00:26 ]
Kiriana Cowansage can run complex neuroscience experiments and sketch beautiful portraits. She melts at the sight of an animal, but she balks at the concept of love. Such paradoxes define women with Asperger's syndrome. Kiriana fits the AS profile quite neatly, what makes her exceptional is her gender. While the overall prevalence of Asperger's is 20 to 25 per 10,000 children, it's much more common in boys than girls. We don't understand what causes autism and Asperger's, or why more boys have these syndromes than girls, but some scientists conceive of them as expressions of extreme "maleness"—a talent for systemizing as opposed to empathizing.

Other experts attribute some of the gender gap to the widespread misdiagnosis of girls. "Girls are pretty neglected," says Shana Nichols, who specializes in treating girls with AS. Most of what we know about the condition is based on research on boys; theories about how it manifests itself differently in girls stem mainly from anecdotal evidence. Researchers agree that girls with AS tend to be more anxious and less aggressive than the boys. And during their teenage years, they are at an increased risk for awkward sexual situations and even date rape because of their inability to interpret social cues and their tendency to take statements literally.