Autistic Girls Network supports autistic girls and their families, helping them to understand each other, signposting to practical help and creating the basis for a lifelong, positive autistic identity. We also campaign for earlier recognition and diagnosis of autism, run workshops for parents and produce resources and training materials for education, social care and health professionals to help them understand neurodivergency and open their minds to the idea that others experience the world in a different way. Research shows girls are diagnosed on average 6 years later than boys and 80% of autistic girls remain undiagnosed at 18, up to 71% of autistic young people meet criteria for at least one mental health condition and unsupported neurodivergence leads to poor mental health.
For autistic people, outcomes are statistically poor and mental health difficulties increase the likelihood of poorer long-term outcomes including lower social functioning, educational and employment difficulties, poorer quality of life, and a much higher suicide rate than average so it’s a huge problem that has not been addressed. In addition, both research and the experiences in our Facebook group show that while autistic young people have a much higher rate of mental health problems and eating disorders and are far more likely to be under CAMHS than their peers, they have a lower rate of receiving effective help.
For a few years, AGN was mainly an online support group. We now provide resources and workshops, have piloted our first schools training and opened our first face to face group in Stratford-upon-Avon for autistic teen girls. The aim of the group is to build self confidence, wellbeing, life skills and a positive autistic identity for this very vulnerable cohort. There are no other comparable groups within Warwickshire, and only a handful around the UK. Our objective is to help the autistic young people self-advocate, understand and be comfortable with their neurodivergence, be better able to self-regulate their emotions, build connections and friendships with their peers and gain valuable life skills. In turn this should mean they are less likely to suffer mental health problems and more likely to be able to enjoy a stable, independent happy adulthood.
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