Our daughter was a very happy baby and toddler. She was early to walk and talk. She made friends easily and played happily. She was full of sparkle and fun… until around year 4 at school. At this point she started to withdraw, finding the chaos of break times overwhelming. The demands of others to play as they wanted, the insistence on loud games and being pulled into conflict she did not want. It all became confusing and overwhelming. Her teacher said she was a confusing child, we had only ever had feedback of how bright, happy and gentle she was with others. Suddenly, things just didn’t make sense.

Looking back, we always knew there were some differences. The endless energy and refusal to sleep! She showed a deeper understanding of the world around her than her peers from a young age and this often increased her anxiety as she cared so deeply for others.

At the end of year 4, she had become mute in most social situations. Her smile and sparkle had disappeared. School still said she was fine there, but at home she was a shell of herself. We reached out to talk to someone away from school and the suggestion that she was Autistic was raised immediately.

This was a total shock to us! She didn’t show any signs that so many people connect with being Autistic. Luckily there was a local conference soon after where Cathy from Autistic Girls Network was presenting about the internal presentation in girls. Suddenly, everything made sense. The intense empathy, anxiety, silence then exploding into melt-down… She was soon on the pathway for assessment and was diagnosed months later.

Autistic Girls Network played a crucial part in educating us for her benefit. It also helped me to realise at the age of 42 that I am also Autistic. The relief of understanding so many parts of my life, at this age, is immense. Autistic Girls Network have supported us both, helping us to figure out our Autistic identities and learning how to self-advocate. They have provided us with a sense of acceptance and belonging.

Our daughter is lucky enough to attend the friendship group run by AGN. She has gained so much confidence and made new friends. It’s a safe environment to meet others who understand you and connect. The activities are wonderful, so many creative ideas and a beautiful space for them all to meet.

The care, acceptance and level of information provided by AGN has been life changing for our family. We continue to learn and grow with their support. The charity is improving the lives of so many Autistic girls and women and needs support to continue this much needed work. Thank you for any support you can offer.

If you would like to help Autistic Girls Network in our work, then please consider volunteering your time or donating to our cause.