Are you the mama or educator working with a girl with autism? Should any of the visual supports or strategies be different for autistic girls? It’s such a good question! Autistic girls tend to go unidentified or are identified much later than boys. This is partly due to the diagnostic criteria mainly being studied and developed on boys. Parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers may be less likely to look for characteristics of autistic girls. Claire Sissons says, “There is some evidence to suggest that certain indicators of autism are more common in boys than in girls. For example, repetitive behaviors and difficulty with impulse control may appear more often in autistic boys than autistic girls. These indicators can be easier to spot than difficulties with communication or socializing.”.
Are Strategies Different For Autism In Girls?
Autism is 4 times more prevalent among boys vs girls. When girls are diagnosed with autism, do you use the same strategies as you do with boys? The short answer is “yes”. However, it is important to look at some of the differences in how autism affects girls, and tailor the visuals to support those differences.
Tip 1: Are Girls Represented In The Pictures?
One thing you want to make sure of is that girls are represented in the visuals you use. We tend to just grab pictures without thinking about this a lot of the time. Since the statistics show that autism occurs 4x more in boys than in girls, we tend to have visual supports with boys in them. Take a look at your pictures, and be thoughtful about creating duplicates with girls in them. All people like to feel represented in the educational materials they use every day. Additionally, be sure to include a diverse representation of both boys and girls in the visuals.
Tip 2: Use Visuals To Check In More Frequently
Autistic girls tend to have increased anxiety. A check-in, like Zones Of Regulation, can be helpful, especially if used proactively. Start with a simple “I feel – I need” visual support for young autistic girls. You can place a “check-in” picture on their visual schedule several times per day. Then, use a self-regulation visual support to have your student or child let you know how they are feeling. To learn more about autism and self-regulation skills, read this blog post.
Tip 3: Social Skills And Girls
When it comes to emotions, social skills, and friendships, girls tend to have deficits or differences but have a strong desire to connect with others socially. Jane Strauss says “there are a number of things I wish my parents had known and had been able to teach me. These include how to make friends, how to tell if people really are friends, how to deal with bullies and bullying (as I have learned that often institutions don’t do this effectively), and that it is okay not to live in herds”. Social skills can be taught in many ways. It could be in a 1:1 setting and group setting. It can also be done with parent coaching and/or video modeling.
For more tips on self-regulation, and emotions for young autistic children, read this blog post.
Be sure to grab up this free Visual Supports Starter Set by clicking here!