In the last 18 months I have shared my story of late diagnosis Autism anywhere and everywhere someone will listen, and I fully intend to continue doing so.
Last Friday I was reminded precisely why I need to keep bleating on and shouting about girls with Autism. I went to view a school for children with special educational needs. The school was specifically for children who are Autistic. My son is diagnosed Autistic and struggling with the social and emotional demands of mainstream education, hence viewing the school.
We were shown around the premises and talked about their provisions for Autistic children.
Whether the school is indeed right for our son’s needs, we are yet to decide, and even if it is, there are no guarantees that a place can be secured.
I was also visiting the school with my daughter as she was exploring it as an option for one of my grandchildren (yes, I have grandchildren in the same age range as my two youngest children, you are not misreading things, and I am old enough). Out of the visit, one thing stayed with me, however, a comment…
“How many children are in the school?” “Oh, we have about 100, but only 12 are girls.” Only 12 are girls! As a late diagnosed Autistic diagnosed at age 45, I really should not be shocked by this, but I am the product of the 1980’s when it was believed that only boys could be Autistic. Twelve out of one hundred is the product of 2023 not 1980! It seems that in forty-five years, we have made very little progress in understanding Autism in girls (and those who identify as female).
I do not believe for a moment that twelve out of one hundred exists in that school because of an absence of Autism in girls in South Yorkshire where I live, it is simply more evidence that we still do not have sufficient
Autism awareness to spot the signs and traits in girls. Even more frustrating, it is not too difficult to learn them. There are more than enough females, and late diagnosis stories available to illustrate how we present, and how we presented as children. The information is out there and not difficult for professionals and lay people to find.
27th March to 2nd April 2023 is World Autism Acceptance Week. Yes, Autistic people do need acceptance, and support, but as yet we are most definitely not in a place where we can overlook awareness.
I will stop raising awareness when I hear numbers that reflect a better understanding of girls with Autism, and when I see it realised in everyday situations such as enrolment at special educational needs schools.