LAS Launches First Girls Group

Have you heard? We’ve launched a new girls group with Lothian Autistic Society! Over the past few months we have had a number of requests about support for young women and are very excited the opportunity has come around for us to facilitate this service. We have been amazed by the response rate to our news, and cannot wait for the first session. All places are currently full for the Girls Group, however please get in touch if you would like to enquire about this service.

Going through puberty is always a whirlwind of new emotions, your body changing and a multitude of different ways to navigate throughout school, friendships, crushes, family and more. Our new Girls Group aims to provide a safe space to chat, make friends and increase confidence and self-esteem. We will be focusing on mindfulness, and building up our skills in independent travel and other areas to take into adulthood.

While early research indicated boys were more likely to be diagnosed with autism, this notion is becoming increasingly challenged. There are many studies outlining how autistic girls are often more skilled at mimicking their peers, unfortunately meaning an early diagnosis can be missed. And with a missed diagnosis many young girls are not supported enough throughout their schooling or from their peers to reach their full potential.

A study from National Autistic Society looked into young girls and their friendships, trying to distinguish if there was a difference in how autistic girls and neurotypical girls developed friendships. The research found many autistic girls have very close friendships like neurotypical girls, and they tend to have one or two close friends rather than a large group. However, the research also discovered how autistic girls are often the target of bullies and the subject of gossip, particularly in relationship contexts and friendship making. This worry was echoed by parents of young women who, in a separate study, said many of their daughters had been the victim of bullying at some point during school, and often it was a case of being left out, isolated or being talked about behind their back.

“These are all things typically associated with teenage girls of course,” the study says, “but they were especially difficult for autistic girls to understand because they were very loyal in how they perceived friendships, so they were confused by people they thought of as friends being mean about them, and by the rapidly shifting dynamics of teenage female friendships.”

Mike Penny, CEO of Lothian Autistic Society, says: “As a parent I was struck by how, during my daughter’s time at high school, all of the girls who had been friendly with her during primary school drifted away from her circle.

“Although she started S1 with several friends who spent time with her during breaks and the like, by S4 she was almost totally reliant on school staff and no longer spent any social time with peers during the school day. Her social circle became limited to adults and two peers who went to other schools who she saw infrequently.

“We are delighted this new service has come about, and cannot wait to start building friendships.”