Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Guest Post - Differences in Autism Diagnosis between Girls and Boys - Mandy Chivers & Sarah Lyst

We are raising awareness of the difference of autism in girls as we are finding that it takes significantly longer to get girls diagnosed with ASC (Autism Spectrum Condition) due to presenting differently and often being misdiagnosed initially with mental health problems. The current crisis in the mental health system means that girls are waiting a lot longer to have any assessment and then having a delayed diagnosis and delayed support.

We both have experience of having a boy and a girl diagnosed. We have both found it easier to have our boy's diagnosed and have had long protracted routes to having our girls diagnosed. Both of our girls’ mental health has suffered as a consequence. Sarah’s daughter has suffered from severe anxiety for over 18 months, she’s completely unable to attend school and has now recently started suffering from depression for which she’s not able to get help with for weeks to come due to the waiting lists at CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – run by the NHS in the UK), even though she self-harms. Being told you must be suicidal to be seen within a few months is unacceptable. No 11-year-old should be in a position where they suffer from mental health problems and can’t get help.

It took 7 years to get a formal diagnosis for one our daughters and she has been at 11 different education settings, both main stream and specialist. Our local authority insists that every school under their control should be able to manage ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), unfortunately that is not our experience at all. We both have neurotypical and neuro-diverse children and Sarah has experiences as a professional as well as having two children on the spectrum. Sarah is a qualified psychotherapeutic counsellor, who has worked in a specialist school and is studying for a psychology degree and has seen the same issues in her professional life.

There is also no appropriate provision in our county for girls on the autistic spectrum. Girls are being placed in schools for mild learning difficulties who often don’t have any autism training or they are being put in mainstream schools and struggling to cope, or even worse placed with other SEN pupils who pose a risk to vulnerable girls, as I and my daughter can personally attest to after she was sexually harassed at the age of 10 whilst in a taxi with other SEND (Special Education Needs and Disabilities) pupils. We are not willing to put our girls at risk and we strongly believe nobody else should have to do either.

We recognise that these girls have huge potential if they are supported correctly and in the current system, there's very real risk of these girls costing the NHS a great deal of money in years to come because of the associated problems of being diagnosed late, through no fault of their own and at huge personal cost. We believe that being diagnosed earlier will save money overall.

We strongly believe that the life expectancy of autistic person being 56 due to the high rates of suicide is an unacceptable. We believe that young people on the autistic spectrum being 28 times more likely to consider self-harm is unacceptable. We believe, as Justine Greening said this week, “all children should have the same opportunities to reach their full potential.”

Please help us try to implement a change and raise awareness of this issue and you have a powerful voice and we would appreciate your support.

If you could share our social media details too, that would be fantastic. We are FIGS on Facebook and @figsuk on Twitter.

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