U.K. school specializes in teaching girls with autism
Misha Gajewski, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, March 4, 2017 10:00PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, March 5, 2017 7:51AM EST
A school in the U.K. is offering a specialized approach to a group often overlooked within the education system: girls with autism.
Limpsfield Grange in Surrey, England is the only public boarding school in Britain that specializes in teaching girls with autism, offering a safe environment for female students to learn from each other and be themselves.
The school aims to prepare the girls for the real world through a range of innovative methods, such as animal therapy.
Autism is a developmental disorder that usually becomes apparent in early childhood. Autism disproportionately affects boys, and it often takes longer for girls to be diagnosed.
“Boys get identified at the age of two or three,” Limpsfield Grange Headteacher Sarah Wild told Channel 4. In contrast, girls are typically diagnosed at age four or five, and sometimes later.
This delay can lead to a confusing experience for girls with autism.
“I didn’t understand why I said things certain ways and acted certain ways and heard things certain ways,” said Kesia, a student at the school.
Kesia’s mother, Benedicte Symcox, said that after three years of struggling to figure out what was affecting her daughter, it took an expert 10 minutes to spot the indicators of autism.
Wild said the number of undiagnosed autistic females in the U.K. could be over 100,000, and she believes symptoms are often overlooked among girls.
A good indicator, according to Wild, is if they move on from interests easily or not.
“Autistic girls will really love [something], for a really long time, with an incredible intensity,” she explained.
Without diagnosis, girls can experience major difficulties in school. Some of the students now at Limpsfield Grange would run away from past schools, while others would experience breakdowns and self-harm.
But after attending the specialized school, the girls have been able to develop a sense of confidence and thrive in the environment with others like them.
“We all know what it’s like to struggle, which means we’re a lot more accepting of anything,” said one student.
In an environment tailored to their needs, many of the girls have shown remarkable progress. According to the school, 100 per cent of the students achieve at least one secondary school qualification.
With files from CTV’s Daniele Hamamdjian and Channel 4