Foster carers take on children with complex needs and when these are understood, strategies for coping can be planned. This can only work for foster carers if they are certain of what they are dealing with. Many children with autism are fostered but the majority of these will be boys. That they are on the spectrum will have been realised. But is this because more boys have autism than girls? It is a fact that many more boys than girls are diagnosed with autism – around four boys for every girl found to be on the spectrum. Researchers have pointed toward this variance and cited genetic differences. Current thinking amongst clinicians is that the research which has been conducted has missed out “higher functioning” autistic girls. They seem to be ‘hiding in plain sight’ – being overlooked and consequently diagnosed late. This has obvious significance for foster carers – as well as everyone involved in fostering provision.
Girls with autism can be harder to identify because they tend not to fit the stereotypes. Frequently their symptoms are misinterpreted. It’s also thought they may be better at concealing the signs – at least in their younger years. It’s possible that when a girl’s presentation is clearer, they can still be overlooked. Girls with autism do not always fit the “classic model”. Autism is characterised as a developmental disorder. It is distinguished by two main kinds of behaviours. These are deficits in communication and social skills and repetitive or restricted patterns of behaviour. Children on the autism spectrum also have sensory processing issues. The problem – according to Susan F. Epstein, a clinical neuropsychologist, is –
“The model that we have for a classic autism diagnosis has really turned out to be a male model. That’s not to say that girls don’t ever fit it, but girls tend to have a quieter presentation, with not necessarily as much of the repetitive and restricted behaviour, or it shows up in a different way.”
If you are a foster carer, remember, Stereotypical ideas can also prevent girls from being recognised a being on the autistic spectrum:
“So where the boys are looking at train schedules, girls might have an excessive interest in horses or unicorns, which is not unexpected for girls,” states Susan F. Epstein. Past research conducted by Stanford University showed that girls with autism tend to exhibit leases repetitive and restricted behaviour than boys do.
If you are a foster carer there are signs to look out for when thinking a girl who may be autistic:
If certain of these criteria seen to match the child you are caring for and no references been made to autism, a medical opinion should be sought. Remember, it can be difficult to diagnose high functioning autism in a girl who has learned to manage and cope with her own challenges. And if you get a diagnosis it’s worth visiting this web site to find out more about the support available whilst guiding an autistic child through their education.
Hopefully, you will be inspired by the challenge of fostering a child who has autism. If the answer is yes, you can come along this year’s Autism Show being held at NECX, Birmingham on the 21st – 22nd June. It’s an effective way to find out more about autism and ASD – as well as providing foster care for a child with ASD. It’s the national event for autism, in association with the National Autistic Society. Again, if you’re seeking information and direction pre or post diagnosis for a child you may be looking after, or are facing daily challenges then The Autism Show could help you.
It will be a great opportunity to hear from the country’s leading professionals in the field of autism. Looking forward to seeing you there at our stand.
You can find out more about foster care for children with complex needs by visiting:
If you have a general interest in fostering, you could visit: http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/what-makes-a-foster-carer/