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New Stratford-based charity launched to help autistic girls





A NEW national charity is being launched in Stratford with the aim of helping autistic girls get a correct – and early – diagnosis.

Autistic Girls Network seeks to raise awareness about how girls can be likely to present, since the delay in recognising young girls as autistic can eventually lead to severe mental health issues in adolescence and adulthood.

Cathy Wassell, pictured, CEO at Autistic Girls Network, which is based in Stratford and will run regular group meetings in town, told the Herald: “The topic of autism and girls has been much discussed in recent years, but while many are aware that girls may present differently, there is widespread misunderstanding about exactly how. This is a huge issue because autistic girls – and those who present in the same way – are being missed and outcomes for autistic females are particularly poor.

Cathy Wassell (57185959)
Cathy Wassell (57185959)

“Official statistics still say that one in 100 people in the UK are autistic, but these figures are out of date. Official US figures now say one in 44 but this is based on 8-year-olds, and as we know all too well at Autistic Girls Network, many people are diagnosed as autistic after the age of eight.

“Official figures in Northern Ireland are one in 22. So, all we can really say is there are more than you think. This is not because autism has become more prevalent, but it has become better recognised.”

However, Cathy explained that girls in the UK are still being diagnosed autistic, on average, up to six years later than boys. And even getting an autism assessment can take years.

“Given what we are coming to understand about the damage a late diagnosis and subsequent camouflaging of autistic traits can do to an autistic person’s mental health, confidence and self-esteem, this is a statistic which needs to change fast.”

Cathy said there remain many issues which can lead to misdiagnosis in autism and some autistic traits can be “camouflaged and internalised to help a child fit in with their peers, which can be a conscious or unconscious decision to avoid the stigma of being autistic”.



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