Raising awareness

Schoolgirls with autism author new book — featuring a teen like them as its narrator

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(Twitter)

Tired of the world’s ignorance about how girls experience autism, a group of autistic British schoolgirls has written and published a novel narrated by a teenage girl who has autism.

With the help of their creative writing teacher, Vicky Martin, the students of Limpsfield Grange school, England’s only state-funded residential school for girls, compiled many of their most joyful — and painful — memories in order to write M in the Middle, a novel targeted at young adults like themselves.

“If society just realized the very simple fact that girls can have autism as well as boys, then the life of girls with autism would instantly be so much better because we wouldn’t be so scared of being labeled as weird, abnormal and strange,” said Francesca Warren, 14, one of the 70 girls attending the school.

There is no official data on autism diagnoses in the United Kingdom, but a National Autistic Society survey from 2012 found significant disparities in how — and when — boys and girls were diagnosed. Only 8 percent of girls with Asperger’s syndrome were diagnosed before turning 6 years old, compared to 25 percent of boys. By the age of 11, 21 percent of girls with Asperger’s had been diagnosed, compared to 52 percent of boys.

According to Sarah Wild, the head teacher of Limpsfield Grange, the discrepancy between when boys and girls are diagnosed with autism is a result of “diagnostic checklists and tests [that] have been developed for boys and men, while girls and women present completely differently.”

The National Association for Headteachers is planning to hold a conference in order to plan how better to help girls who are on the autism spectrum, and the House of Lords is hosting a roundtable, organized by the autism and girls forum, on November 8. For now, however, the girls hope that their book can help others better understand what life is like from their side.

“I’m prey in a world of predators,” said Lauren Mittelmeier, 12. “Life is really hard for girls with autism. Why is life so difficult?”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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