In my clinical practice, I have become familiar with some very subtle common and early first signs of Asperger Syndrome in young girls, from birth through to pre-school years. The following are some very common early characteristics, traits, gifts and talents that I have seen in my work over the years. The typical first signs of a parents bring in her child are intense emotional storms, anxiety, not wanting to go to school, a strong will and rigid thinking processes (“bossy and argumentative”).
1. Intense emotions: in particular separation anxiety, stress, anxiety or distress. This is coupled with an inability to be comforted by affection, distracted by a toy or change in situation or by discussion or conversation with an adult.
2. Sensory Sensitivities: there are most often sensory sensitivities involving vision, hearing, taste, smell, touch, balance and/or movement and intuition or a 6th sense. This is known as sensory processing disorder (SPD). First signs may include a sensitive head, not liking to have their hair brushed or washed, clothing sensitivities, food sensitivities.
3. Coping with transitions and/or change: an inability or difficulty coping with change or a resistance to change.
4. Language skills: atypical or unusual traits in terms of the development of language skills. May have more formal or pedantic use of language. May not be able to express in words what she wants to say.
5. Speech: may not typically be delayed, however there may be a loudness or softness in the voice, a monotone, and/or maybe a foreign accent. May regress to babyish talk when stressed, anxious or avoiding something. She may have begun talking very early.
6. The social use of language: may be apparent in that the linguistic profile can often include semantic-pragmatic difficulties, so that the pedantic speech may be apparent and theïr are noticeable eccentricities with the “art of conversation”. May use bigger words than her peers
7. Hyperlexia: may have taught herself to read before formal education. Aspiengirls often have an intense interest in reading and develop an advanced vocabulary.
8. Play: adults may notice the aspiengirl may not want to play with others or she may direct others play, rather than play in a reciprocal and co-operative manner. There is an element of her being “controlling” or “bossy”. She may tell adults that she finds her peers play confusing, boring or stupid. She may prefer to play on her own, with her animals/toys or with boys. If she is extraverted, she may have difficulty with personal space (hugging and/or touching too much, poking or prodding, bumping or touching them, continually calling her peers names, not understanding that a best friend can play with others). Often may need more solitude than their peers or may not be able to socialize for as long as their peers are able to. Engages mainly in parallel play and seeks the company of adults/educators throughout the day.
9. Interests: an aspiengirl’s interests is usually different to other girls, in its intensity and quality, rather than the actual interest itself. Often, play can be observed as more of complex set-up’s, organizing, sorting, collect or grouping items rather than actually playing with them. She may be observed re-enacting a social scene form her own experiences at daycare. A commonly observed interest is collecting stationary/art items, teddy bears, and the like.
10. Conventionality: Aspiengirls are born “öut of the box” and may be observed playing unconventionally. Some prefer Lego, the sandpit, trucks or cars or dinosaurs. Many think in different or unconventional ways, asking continual and exhausting amount of questions pertaining to how things work, why things are the way they are, or why people do or say certain things. Many are quite highly sensitive adn will ask about death and or what happens after death.
11. Appearance and clothing: Young Aspiens may look more tomboyish in appearanceor ultra princess-like, usually preferring clothing that is comfortable. She may want the tags cut out of her clothes and complain about the seams in her socks. She may prefer to wear the same outfit day in and day out.
12. Imagination: Aspiengirls often have advanced imaginations preferring to spend time involved in: fiction, books, fantasy worlds, fairies, unicorns, ponies, pegasus, talking to and/or having imaginary friends or imaginary animals. This may be observed at times to the extent that the child may believe they are an animal, a fairy, and so on. There may be some difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality.
13. Writing: Aspiengirls are often interested in writing and write their own stories on sticky notes, journals, fiction at an early age.
14. Nature and animals: Aspiengirls have an intense love for nature and animals, often preferring them over people. They have an empathic and intuitive relationship and understanding of animals rather than people.
15. Gifts and Talents: Most, if not all Aspiengirls have gifts and talents ranging from singing (perfect pitch or perfect relative pitch), music, art, (drawing, painting and other mediums), languages, acting and performing, dancing, writing, a superior memory, intelligence, to name a few.
16. Determination: A strong will, determination, stubbornness and/or competitiveness, argumentative (with teachers, parents or other adults), a need to be right (even when she’s is clearly wrong)
17. Facial expressions and emotions: A discrepancy between facial expression and feelings. For example, a “fake” smile, intense facial expressions or lack of, or inappropriate facial expression to the situation. May not understand or be confused by facial expressions. May laugh when she is in trouble.
18. Attention Issues: Parents may have taken her to a hearing specialist due to not responding to her name, being “in her own world” and/or thinking she may be deaf.
19. Hyperempathy: May be very sensitive to social justice issues, abuse towards animals, nature or the elderly. May experience the emotions of others. May wonder why they feel different to others.
20. Intuitive: May tell you and/or know about events, people that cannot possible know about. She “knows” certain things without knowing how she knows these things.
21. Curiosity and Questions: May ask an endless array of questions that at times, cannot be easily answered. May ask why they feel different to their peers or why their peers are not like the, or have the same interests.
20. Interests: Interests are usually similar to neurotypical girls, but the intensity is unique or unusual. An obsession with knowledge on a topic of interest is common.
21. May have vertigo, motion sickness
22. Thumb-sucking can last until age 9, biting of nails, grinding of teeth
23. May have Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD), hypermobility, clumsiness, poor muscle tone, may not be able to catch a ball
24. May have social anxiety, muteness and/or separation anxiety, may be excessively clingy.
25. May have fear and/or phobias
26. May have sleep issues
27. Personality: May be intensely shy and introverted OR very extroverted to the point of annoying her peers or family members.
28. The Social Hierarchy: Misunderstands and/is unaware of the social hierarchy. May behave as if she is the parent, parenting their parents, their siblings, peers or teachers. May not understand that she is a “child” or how to “be” a child.
29. May avoid demands due to anxiety (also known demand avoidance or Pathological Demand Avoidance)
30. There is a family history of Asperger Syndrome, Autism, Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP)
31. May display interests more mature than for her age.
32. A concern for the rules, a sense of justice and difficulty with perspective taking, theory of mind, social thinking and context blindness.
33. Social and emotional delay for her age
34. Parents may observe some “self-taught” abilities and/or the child may resist being taught by others
35. May have less or lack a sense of “stranger danger” or safety and/or may wander and/or have social naivety, be too trusting, take others literally. A lack of boundaries
36. Some AspienGirls experience gender confusion very early, expressing a desire to be the opposite gender, not feel strongly either male or female.
37. A tendency to have intense social justice issues and to “police” others, which are often not appreciated by their peers. At times, she may have a misguided sense of justice and an inability to “let things go” or may not understand the issue is not her business
38. May be the “teacher’s pet”, may to interact with their peers not as a “peer” but in more of adult manner
39. A tendency to be too emotionally honest and unable to hide their true feelings
40. May have gastrointestinal issues, gluten, wheat, casein sensitivities to intolerances/allergies.