‘Autism is seen as a male thing – but girls just implode emotionally’

Jul 14, 2015 by

autisic girl

They arrive self-harming, or unable to talk. Often they’ve been dismissed as hormonal. We visit the only state school dedicated to girls with autism

Within an hour of arriving at her new school, 14-year-old Beth Mitchell made her objections shockingly clear. The headteacher, Sarah Wild, recalls a member of staff calling frantically: “There’s a girl here covered in blood.”

Over the next month at Limpsfield Grange in Oxted, Surrey, Beth cut herself three times a day; she sabotaged lessons and shunned the other girls whom, she says, “seemed very weird”. Beth is autistic and has been diagnosed with pathological demand avoidance, meaning she would go to great lengths to avoid situations that filled her with anxiety – one of the prominent symptoms of girls on the autistic spectrum. Her small mainstream school had said they could no longer cope with her.

Finding a strategy to tackle Beth’s behaviour was just one of the daily challenges that Wild and her staff confront at Limpsfield Grange, the country’s only state-funded residential school for girls with special needs. It was Wild, whose past experience was working with children who have communication difficulties – a key feature of autism – who realised, when she became headteacher three years ago, that a high percentage of the girls were exhibiting behaviour on the autistic spectrum. “My question was: why aren’t we recognising this and doing something about it?”

They set about getting those who needed it statements (56% of Limpsfield Grange’s 70 pupils now have statements on the autistic spectrum), as a first step towards devising a 24-hour pastoral and educational programme.

Source: ‘Autism is seen as a male thing – but girls just implode emotionally’ | Education | The Guardian

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.