A few simple words

A few simple words

“I know Autism, and this isn’t it”

And with those words, so set the course for the school year. A year of fear and anger. A year that Poss spent more of it under the table, than at it. More time standing outside the office, than inside the classroom.

“If she was just disciplined a bit more”

The words spat at us as though they were something ugly tasting in her mouth. And I suppose they were. They started a chain reaction; first the teacher, then the kids and then the parents. Because if the teacher says one kid is the naughty kid, others catch on soon enough.

It doesn’t take long before Poss became the kid that everyone blamed when something went wrong. When that happens time and time again, it’s easy to understand why a child begins to believe they actually are the naughty kid.

And the cracks begin to show in our little girl.

“I don’t have time for those reports, and I’m not interested in what you have to say”

The therapists called me in hushed tones to relay their conversations, to share their concerns. We’d sent them in to the classroom to try and help understand what was going on. Why was Poss so upset at the end of each day? Why was she crying herself to sleep? Why were we always being called to pick her up well before the school day was over?

Their best efforts were in vain. All suggestions and offers of help were brushed aside. Not needed, no time, not wanted, not necessary. Apparently.

“I’ve taught in the best boys schools in Melbourne.”

So she had. As she kept telling us over and over again. Her credentials were never in question, yet it didn’t stop her questioning everyone else’s.

Our paediatrician countered with the fact that she’d consulted in some of the best hospitals in Melbourne. And doubting the diagnosis, Poss’ diagnosis, was actually doubting her, as she’s the one who made it.

She looked down glasses, as they perched on the end of her nose, as she calmly explained this. Across the table from the teacher, her eyes steely but her mouth turned up slightly at the corners, as though she was slightly amused (or was it bemused) at the conversation unfolding in front of her.

“But girls don’t get Autism”

And there it was. Six months and a million tears later, and here we were. A diagnosis being doubted, a child being bullied, a family in distress, essentially all because of gender and a misinformed opinion.

Because of course girls have Autism. While there may not be as many of them as boys, and it may present differently, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

It’s like saying that just because you’ve always had milk chocolate, and it’s easier to find and appeals to more people’s tastebuds, that dark chocolate couldn’t possibly exist.

It was one of those moments, a rare one, when my words escaped me. Like a vacuum, they must have whooshed out when my jaw dropped open.

Thankfully there were others around the table that stepped in and shut it down. People with expensive degrees and years of experience in clinical settings. People who can use big, medical words with confidence, speaking a language that conveys certainty.

Girls do have Autism.

In fact, estimates put the rates of girls being diagnosed is about 1 in 189 of people diagnosed (although there’s a lot of talk about this being under-diagnosed). Or in other words it’s about four times less than boys. But they’re still diagnosed.

And does this lower rate of diagnosis make it any less real? The challenges any less pronounced? The achievements any less hard won? The people any less important, and their feelings any less valid?

Although we stuck it out for a few more years, the damage was done and we eventually left that school. That teacher still teaches, but not at that school. These things are not unrelated.

It’s taken literally years to put those pieces back together again, to rebuild the self-confidence and self-worth of our little girl. To convince her she’s not a naughty kid and in fact, she’s amazing, and worthy, and awesome.

And it all started with a few simple words.


This story is why this year we’ll be hanging with the Yellow Ladybugs for World Autism Awareness Day. They are asking everyone to ‘Go Yellow’ on the day, to show support for girls on the Spectrum. 


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  1. I am so glad Poss has you championing for her, so that she can thrive and shine.

    You are an amazing mama. x
    Chantelle recently posted..You can change the worldMy Profile

  2. I’ve been an ABA therapist for over 10 years & although ive worked with fewer girls I can vouch they do get Autism. i cannot believe how ignorant & insensitive such educated professionals can be sometimes!!!
    Ditto to what Chantelle wrote!
    You are #oneawesomemama

  3. Wow. That’s truly awful. In my son’s class, there are two kids on the spectrum, and they’re both girls, so it seems unbelievable to me that a teacher could really think this these days! Shocking. But at least you didn’t stop until you found out what was at the bottom of it, Poss is so lucky to have you.
    Amanda Kendle recently posted..The Thoughtful Travel Podcast: Episode 3 – Staying With LocalsMy Profile

  4. Kirsten Roberts says:

    Love your posts and messages babe. Hoping we can hang in Melbourne some time soon xx

  5. What an incredible story! I’m a teacher, and it breaks my heart to hear how your daughter must have been feeling… Thank you for sharing your story

  6. As a teacher, I’m so sad and disappointed about how your daughter was treated. It’s never even crossed my mind that autism might be gender specific, because it’s not. High five to you for being your daughter’s advocate and her voice and for helping her find her happy place.

  7. I’m so sorry you and Poss had to go through this experience. Continually fighting ignorance and misinformation is exhausting and damaging. I’m pleased the pieces are coming together again and you’ve all been able to make a new and more positive life.

  8. I love your writing. So clear and concise and not a trace of self pity. You’re clearly doing a magnificent job with Poss. My question for you as the parent of an ASD boy who has just started mainstream school – what would you focus on to keep their learning on track?

    • Thanks so much James! We had a conversation the other day with our OT and she said just focus on the basics – maths and english, as they’ll be the subjects they’ll need the whole way through school. It’s hard though. Make home a safe place, and know that you’ll probably cop it a bit there, while hopefully holding it together in the class room. Best of luck and let me know how you go!

  9. My son when starting grade one ( with a mountain of reports from Monash child psychology unit) was told by teacher – he doesn’t have autism, he doesn’t sit in a corner and flap…..

  10. I can’t believe that Poss was treated that way by a teacher of all people. I’m so glad that you got away from that experience and have rebuilt her confidence. My niece has autism as well and is due to start school next year, I hope she is never treated this way.

  11. You do an amazing job supporting her!


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