Friday 11 March 2022

Safeguarding Autistic Girls {Book Review}

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Safeguarding Autistic Girls is a book covering topics that are not talked about enough, in my opinion. Written by Carly Jones MBE, this is a practical guide intended to prompt other adults to be aware of how to help vulnerable girls and young women. I've had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Carly a couple of times; Carly was diagnosed Autistic herself at the age of 32 and is passionate about helping other autistic females. She has two Autistic daughters and this books reflects some of her family's experiences, as well as those of Carly herself. 

Red book cover with 6 arms holding hands in the middle and book title

Many parents of autistic girls will worry about how vulnerable their daughters are, especially as they approach the teenage years. I'm sure all parents of any teenagers worry, because we know that teenagers don't have the awareness and experience that comes with growing older and wiser, but for autistic children who often have processing difficulties or understand social nuances less, the teenage years can be extra problematic.

This book shines a spotlight on situations where misunderstandings can easily arise and where a lack of 'quick thinking' and not so much flexibilty in adpating quickly to unexpected situations might lead to worrying events. It's not an easy read in that it covers difficult topics such as abuse and addiction, aspects of life that us Brits often like to stick our heads in the sand about. But Carly's matter-of-fact, honest and humorous way of writing about these challenges can lead us all to a better appreciation of the dangers, and an understanding of how we can help prevent or at least prepare ourselves and our daughters for some of these experiences.

A look at diagnosis is where the book begins - or as Carly puts it, 'Team diagnosed vs. team undiagnosed'. I've written previously on my blog about a high level of masking that can occur for autistic females (and men) - this section reminds us that receiving a diagnosis can come down to a postcode lottery. The book then delves into the problems with the educational system in the UK - also a subject I have covered on my blog before.

Body autonomy, bullying and hate crime, teen pregnancy and drug use are just some of the many topics covered in the book. There are plenty of 'strategies and tips' sections throughout the book, giving great advice such as areas in which to consider training, or how to offer explicit instructions, or how discreet supervision might work. The photo below shows strategies around technology and the Uncle Kev trick for girls walking alone, which I definitely recommend sharing if you have daughters.

Page of text from the book showing strategies for technology and walking alone

One strategy Carly suggests, to help prevent abuse being something secret because the child doesn't actually realise it is abuse, is to ask a daily, non-leading, straight-forward question such as "Tell me the best and the worst thing that happened to you today?" One of the sentences jumped out at me and I'm sure many others will relate to this: "The ability to talk in no way correlates to the ability to ask for help; even the most verbal young person may not know if, when or how to report abuse or ask for help."

Carly has used real case studies from a variety of people (albeit with changed names or ages) to highlight life experiences and the learning curves that have taken place. Her passion for helping vulnerable autistic females to avoid some of these pitfalls shines through as always. Although the strapline suggests this book is for professionals, I thoroughly recommend this book for parents and carers too. Available now from Amazon: Safeguarding Autistic Girls.

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