The Power of Understanding: Recognising Underlying Needs In Autistic Girls with Nicola Durant

The Power of Understanding: Recognising Underlying Needs In Autistic Girls with Nicola Durant

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How well do you really understand the experiences of autistic girls in your classroom?

In this episode of School Behaviour Secrets, join us as we tackle this important topic with expert insights from Nicola Durant. From anxiety triggers to support strategies, we uncover the nuances that often go unnoticed. Gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by autistic girls in the classroom so that you can create an inclusive educational environment.

Important links:

Visit Nicky's website 'SEND Station'

Or go to eventbrite to explore the latest courses offered by SEND Station

Get our FREE SEND Behaviour Handbook

Download other FREE SEMH resources to use in your school:

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Show notes / transcription

Emma Shackleton  0:00  

Look, here's the cold, hard truth, autism in girls looks different to the way it presents in boys. So it often gets overlooked by both the educational and medical professions, meaning that we're depriving our autistic girls of the strategies and support that they need in the classroom. That's why in this episode, you'll learn what those differences are, and how to recognise and support your autistic girl students in the classroom. Meaning you'll be providing the best possible education to every child in your class, and nobody gets overlooked. This is important information. So let's get started.

Simon Currigan  0:41  

Welcome to the school behaviour secrets podcast. I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton. And we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and of course students when classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're going to share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management behavioural special needs, whole school strategy and more all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential. Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world. So you'll get to hear the latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the school behaviour secrets podcast. 

Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan. And welcome to this week's school behaviour secrets. And yes, my bottom does look big in this. Rude of you to mention it. I'm joined today by my co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma. 

Emma Shackleton  1:31  

Hi, Simon. 

Simon Currigan  1:32  

Time for a quick question. 

Emma Shackleton  1:33  

Of course, 

Simon Currigan  1:34  

Perfect, according to a YouGov poll in 2023. So quite recent, how many Brits felt gender equality had been achieved in the workplace? I should say this wasn't a poll of schools specifically, this was like workplaces in general.

Emma Shackleton  1:49  

OK so you're asking how many people feel that gender equality has been achieved in the workplace? That's a tricky one. It kind of depends who was asked. I'm thinking maybe 50% felt that gender equality had been achieved, and the other 50% were women? What are the answers?

Simon Currigan  2:11  

All right, well, the answers were interesting. Only 21% said it had been achieved. And 16% said working towards improving gender equality was no longer necessary or relevant. I'm guessing they were men. But a whopping 62% said that there were still work to be done. And I think it'd be interesting to see actually, for someone to do a poll of teachers, because my experience of working certainly in primary schools is that they are overwhelmingly female workplaces. Though disproportionately run by men. With more of a balance in secondary sites. I'd be curious to see how that balance changes, attitudes and beliefs. 

Emma Shackleton  2:47  

Yeah interesting. So why are you asking this question today? 

Simon Currigan  2:52  

Today we're going to share my conversation with Nicky Durant from SEND station. And we're going to explore the topic of autistic girls and how their needs are often missed in school. Because the way autism presenting girls often looks different to the way it presents in boys. I mean, it can be overlooked by the teaching profession, and the medical profession come to that. So it's a really important episode.

Emma Shackleton  3:16  

And by the way, if you're working with children who present behaviour that you find challenging or difficult to manage in the classroom, and you're not really sure why they are acting in that way, and you're interested in digging into the root cause of that behaviour. Well, we've got a free download that can help. It's called the SEND handbook, and it will help you to link up the behaviours that you're seeing in your classroom with possible underlying causes, like autism, or trauma or ADHD. 

Simon Currigan  3:48  

The idea here isn't for teachers to try and make a diagnosis. We're not qualified to do that. But if we can link classroom behaviours to possible causes quickly means we can get the right help in place and get early intervention strategies in place. And we know that early intervention strategies are so important for helping kids make progress.

Emma Shackleton  4:07  

And the cool thing is that this free download even comes with a set of fact sheets for conditions such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and developmental language delay. So it's really handy. The handbook is a completely free download, and we'll put a direct link in the episode description. So all you've got to do is open your podcast app, and click directly through to get your copy.

Simon Currigan  4:33  

And while you've got your podcast app open, don't forget to subscribe to the school behaviour secrets podcast so you never miss another episode. Hit that subscribe button, and you'll feel as elated as a cat who's discovered the perfect cardboard box to call home. Yeah, you'll be loafing within those sweet walls a podcast comfort all day long. Result.

Emma Shackleton  4:55  

And now here's Simon's interview with Nicola Durant

Simon Currigan  5:00  

Today I'm excited to welcome Nicola Durant to the show. Nicki is a specialist autism teacher and has worked as a SENCO for 8 years as well as working for the local authority for 13 years. She has a master's degree in autism and currently runs a special needs consultancy, as well as being joint director for SEND station, which is an online special needs training platform. She says that most importantly, she's a mom to a 19 year old autistic daughter, who has taught her more about the condition than she'll ever learn from a textbook or gaining letters after her name. Nicki, I love that sentiment. Welcome to the show.

Nicola Durant  5:34  

Thank you, Simon. Thank you for having me.

Simon Currigan  5:36  

So we're going to talk today specifically about the topic of girls and autism. But I think we need to start with the basics. For people that are new to the topic, I think a lot of listeners will have an informal understanding of the word autism, because it's a word that's bandied around a lot. But in simple terms, what actually is autism?

Nicola Durant  5:55  

Autistic people, they see the world very, very differently from typically developing people. It is just a difference in brain wiring. So somebody that's autistic will see the social world around them very, very differently. So in terms of how they process and perceive interactions is very, very different. And that's the area really where we need to be mindful, compassionate, and support autistic people to help them feel more comfortable, really, with social interactions. There's just a difference in brain wiring. People often say, oh, there's something wrong with me. And if there's nothing wrong, there's nothing missing. It's just different. That's all it is.

Simon Currigan  6:36  

Can you give me a couple of examples of what those differences might look like to a teacher in a classroom to help them identify and spot and recognise what that might look like? 

Nicola Durant  6:46  

For our young people, it is split into two areas. So the first area in terms of we're thinking about sort of social communication in terms of spoken words and language, lots of our kids, they are very articulate, they use really, really good levels of vocabulary. But it's the social understanding of language that often for our young people is really, really tricky. So they will take things that you say, literally, they will take you to your word, and it can be open to a lot of misinterpretation. So we just have to be very careful with our young people in the classroom, how we, you know, support them and address that. And particularly in terms of the curriculum, I always say to teachers, it's things like the inference and the deduction skills that autistic children will have difficulties with. So if you are asking the child, what did the author mean when they use this word? Or how do we know a character felt in a certain way? It's teasing out that information from text that autistic young people would find really, really difficult. The other side of that is all the nonverbal communication and it's the eye contact, it's the body language, it's the gesture, it's the tone of voice. And autistic people find that very, very difficult to really understand in other people as well. So socially, that's why they find interactions tricky. And as my daughter always says, to me, Simon, I just don't like people. And he's not that she's not sociable, because she's an amazingly sociable young lady. But those skills just don't come naturally, she's had to work really hard at being able to understand facial expressions and gestures. And what does that tone of voice mean? It's not something that is instinctively developed in her she's had to have a lot of teaching, coaching modelling over the years, and still has a lot of support with that.

Simon Currigan  8:39  

And you can imagine if it's something having to work out, that must make social interactions exhausting, because you're having to work that much harder, especially as people become older, because there's lots of implicit communication. Like we were just talking earlier at the moment, as we're recording this, we've got the video and we can see each other's faces, and that carries so much information. And if you happen to work hard to get that that must make social interaction exhausting.

Nicola Durant  9:01  

And I think you know, the more autistic young people I come across and adults as well, I work with lots of autistic adults, I think over the years, they just found it easier to avoid social interactions. It's just easier to be in socially familiar situations, perhaps we close members of the family, rather than putting themselves in situations where as we know, people are unpredictable. We never know what other people are going to say and do and that causes a lot of stress and lots of anxiety. So it's just easier a lot of the time to say, I don't want that, you know and avoid it.

Simon Currigan  9:39  

How does autism and girls present differently to boys? I'm painting with a big brush here. Everyone's an individual. Everyone's unique. Every child is different, but what kind of unique characteristics do we see that tend to apply to girls?

Nicola Durant  9:52  

Well, with females on the spectrum, it seems to be much harder to diagnose those young ladies  and to recognise those traits. And that is because the traits generally are more hidden, they are more subtle than the male presentation. And therefore what happens with our young ladies is they tend to go under the radar at home and at school and people don't perhaps ask the questions that they need to because it's not glaringly obvious that perhaps there is an underlying special need. So they are more able to mask and camouflage those autistic traits. And the other thing we need to remember with the girls on the spectrum is that they are more inclined to want to fit in socially, they have a greater social desire, even though they are autistic. So again, that's where the masking and the camouflaging comes in, because they desperately try hard to look at what other females are doing and copy and mimic. So again, they go under the radar, and people just don't ask the questions they need to because it's not obvious that perhaps there's a difficulty there. 

Simon Currigan  10:56  

Masking is quite a specific term, can you sort of give us some detail about what masking means and tell us about I mean, you've seen this maybe firsthand, the impact of that masking at school and at home? 

Nicola Durant  11:07  

Well, with masking, I mean, they've got a bit of a flash word for it now, fawn approach. I mean, I just think, you know, when a young lady performs a fawn approach, what it means essentially, is that on the outside, they look as if everything is fine, they're coping, there's no anxiety, but actually, internally, there's high levels of anxiety. And they're trying very hard to just hide how they feel from the world and not reaching out or telling anybody, whether that's teacher, Mum, or dad, and it causes a massive problem longer term, because actually what it can do for a young lady is just cause exhaustion. Certainly, I've seen with my daughter over the years, just needing an awful lot more downtime, the oldest she's got, the more exhausted she has become. I mean, you know, when she went to sixth form, she was only doing two hours a day, and she would come home and she would have to lie down for two hours. She's just like, Mom, I'm exhausted. I've had my college mask on. I am the college version of me. And that isn't the real me. And I have to try really hard to behave in a way that I think I should behave rather than the real me. Yeah, it certainly takes its toll mental health wise, and just physical and mental exhaustion for our young ladies.

Simon Currigan  12:22  

And you can imagine then the conversation, perhaps between the parents and the school becomes the parent says, I'm really worried about my child. I don't know if it's a technical term, don't if it's a real term, but I heard post school collapse as a term. And if it's not real for me, it kind of fits. Because you're having that emotional collapse, parents being really concerned about their child, but the school then turning around and saying, Well, we don't see anything because of the masking.

Nicola Durant  12:44  

It's a common problem. And what often happens is you've got parents saying, but I've got this version of my child at home and school saying but they're fine in school. And on the outside the presentation of the young lady is perfect. They're fitting in, they're working hard, they present as sociable. At home parents often report this,  what we call a coke bottle effect where that anxiety and that angst is being kept in all day. And as soon as the young person goes home boof, they just explode or they internalise and have a shutdown. And because actually, when are young people are in their safe space, that's when they can just release those emotions that they have built up because mom, dad, whoever is looking after us, they love us. And they will always be there. So we can chuck those emotional responses at them and know that we're still safe and loved. And really, it's about supporting schools to understand that actually, if you've got parents saying this to you,  it is very real. They've not made it up. And it's really about home and school working together to actually think, right, what can we do here in terms of collecting evidence, have we got a young person who is autistic, that we need to maybe go down the diagnostic route with, you know, so there's lots of things we can do. But it's that communication that's so important between home and school. 

Simon Currigan  14:04  

If the student doesn't have a diagnosis, and parents aren't volunteering that kind of information, you can easily see how that will get overlooked in school. So are there any sorts of things that teachers should be looking for, that may indicate that the pupil has like an underlying need or difference? So we can start getting in place that kind of timely support, starting conversations with parents if they haven't initiated them when it's needed?

Nicola Durant  14:30  

The biggest thing really schools can do is just to be approachable. One of the things I have found that works more than anything else over the years is if a young lady has got a trusted person and he only needs to be one person in a school that makes all the difference just somebody that gets them that understands them that the young lady can go to just to talk about any difficulties, problems, worries and stuff. It's a difficult question because obviously every young lady presents differently as well as perhaps autistic traits, we've got personality characteristics, we've got introverts, we've got extroverts, but it's really just thinking about some kind of basic autism friendly strategies that actually schools can employ supporting young ladies to understand anxiety, because you know, autism is very much an anxiety driven condition. And the behaviours that we see from our autistic young people are the result of anxiety, however they manifest it might be sometimes violence, aggression, defiance, you know, it's always around anxiety at the heart of that. So it's supporting our young people to understand anxiety, because many of them don't, you know, they don't understand where it sits in their body. And it's a really abstract emotion as well, isn't it? And it's supporting that young lady to, you know, if my head feels funny, or my stomach or my chest, it's supporting them to understand that actually, if that's anxiety, how can we begin to start to identify earlier, then communicate it to somebody and then do something about it. You know, so there's lots of different stages, and really understanding where that young lady is in terms of those emotional skills that they have, or perhaps they don't have.

Simon Currigan  16:13  

I think you said something really interesting there about, you can get what looks like an aggressive behaviour. But actually, unless we think more deeply about where is that aggression coming from, or what appears to be aggression, it might be an attempt just to escape, but then allow it to escape the confines of the classroom, we've really got to start digging in as educators into why we're seeing the behaviours that we see because we don't we can't help the kids.

Nicola Durant  16:37  

And we know Simon, we've had this conversation before haven't we, but all behaviour is communicating something to us and with the autistic population, whether theyre male or female, the behaviour you see in front of you, the manifestation is always anxiety, it may come out as anger, aggression, frustration, diving under a blanket, you know, just shutting yourself away from the world, but it's always around anxiety. And what we need to do is, where's that anxiety coming from which part of the profile is driving that, and unfortunately, for our young people, just educational establishments often are overwhelming on a sensory level, a learning level, just people. You know, socialising is just too much.

Simon Currigan  17:26  

30 people in the room. And some adults, if you've got social anxiety, I always think about, so I've got this irrational fear of big dogs, right? I've never been attacked by a big dog or anything. But if I'm scared of those big dogs, and I go to a school where the teacher is a dog lover and can't understand, so she brings in 30, dogs one day that are barking and yapping, and I can't understand them, she loves big dogs. And these days, it's almost like, we've got to understand that because some people are very happy in a social environment, underneath that socially, environment, all the other kids because they're difficult to read, they might be provoking that kind of anxiety, just because some people are comfortable in the environment with 30 other people, it doesn't mean that's not a real challenge for other people or the kids.

Nicola Durant  18:06  

And I think it's again, it's important to remember that often without girls, and my daughter being the prime example of that, on the surface, she would smile, she would be sociable, she would initiate conversations because she had friends. But at the heart of that she didn't find any of that easy. She had to massively work at that to be as successful as she was. They just didn't see that school just did not see that. And that's why her diagnosis came in so late at the end of the day, because I was saying, look, we've got something going on in school, we're saying, she can't be autistic, she's sociable, and she makes eye contact. You know, there there couple of the myths out there aren't there that people always you know, autistic people, they don't make eye contact, and they don't have friends honestly have to laugh, because there's just not enough knowledge and understanding out there in terms of the condition and what it is

Simon Currigan  18:58  

if you're a teacher listening to this, and you discover that there's a girl in your class just got a diagnosis, you've started talking about, you know, like mentors, but where should you as the teacher, begin in terms of putting in place support strategies or speaking Sencos? What sort of things do you need to start doing to foster your student success? I understand that every child is an individual, but where do you begin to untangle what kind of support is needed?

Nicola Durant  19:23  

I think you know, one of the first things you need to do is to really understand the profile because in terms of an autistic profile is made up of key areas of difference which I won't go into now but it's for staff to really look at and think about what are the anxiety triggers for this young person so it's understanding knows it's understanding their sensory needs, making sure there's regular sensory input that's in place for that young lady as well. And it's simple things like seating position, you know, as educators it seems to be the go-to, to put a child with special needs at the front of the class, but it's is not always the right thing to do, particularly for autistic people who actually they often feel more comfortable sat at the back of the room so they can see what's going on in front of them, or perhaps by an exit, so that if they need to get out of the room, they can remove themselves quite quickly. There's lots of small things like that, that can, you know, we can do to help. Thinking about using visual supports for young people, visual timetables, you know, thinking about structure, predictability, routine, because autistic people thrive on those things, it's building up a trust with a young lady as well. So again, she's got somebody's teacher learning support system that she can go to, I think as well, in terms of supporting the emotional regulation, the biggest thing we can do is to provide autistic young ladies with a way to communicate how they are feeling in terms of their anxiety. So one of the interventions I use an awful lot and suggest that schools use is The Zones of Regulation, it's perfect, it teaches our young people that all emotional responses fit into one of four coloured zones. It's a very visual way for somebody to say to an adult, this is the zone I'm in this is how I'm feeling rather than that reliance on a young lady having to use the spoken word to say, I'm just not in a good place. Often, when you're highly anxious, you lose that ability, don't need to articulate what you want to say.

Of course, I suppose the danger here for the teacher, is if the child is masking, then on the outside using those strategies, it might appear that they're not making much of a difference internally, they are for the child. But if the teacher on the outside isn't seeing much external difference, then they might start thinking, what's the point they don't really need them. 

That is a problem. But that is where the communication between home and school comes into play. Because I had a young lady many, many years ago where that was happening. And mom was reporting this coke bottle effect and the young lady going home for hours on end and bouncing on a trampoline and not coping and just exploding. And as soon as school were on board and they put regular sensory breaks into play, she had a visual timetable. Lo and behold, Mom was absolutely sobbing and said "she comes home happy".

Simon Currigan  22:15  

When we as educators get things right, you began to talk about the impact that the teachers and the teaching assistants might not see, you might see the result of that at home. Have you got a personal success story that you'd like to tell us about supporting autistic girls?

Nicola Durant  22:29  

Yes, there was a young lady, she was a gorgeous young lady in year two, and very much a masker, a camouflager, nobody had questioned autism up to that point. And Mum had decided to ask me to go in to see her and you really couldn't see any visible anxiety at all. And she really baffled to me. And yet I had mum saying, you know, very, very violent outbursts at home. And so really, again, it was sitting and looking at the profile and school were very much, she's not autistic, we don't see anything. And it was a real battle of almost wills, but actually working with both home and school to bring it together to actually you know, have a look at this young lady and what was happening and thinking about putting in some social skill support, just a little buddy system at play time looking at the things the areas that we know possibly would be anxiety triggers for her and just put in in a package of support over the course of a day. And again, you know, another young lady, where parents were saying, Wow, what a massive difference in changes of behaviour, no changes in school, because presenting is fine, but completely different, you know, at home. One thing I do want to mention and something that I've had an awful lot of success with over the last few years is the use of Fitbits particularly a couple of success stories with females to where you've got a young idea that masks and camouflage is at school, but it's a very different story at home. If the young lady can wear a Fitbit during the day. What that gives you access to is the heart rate data so you can see the fluctuations. What point during the day is this young lady getting highly stressed and anxious and it can give you a really, really good understanding one of the anxiety triggers if perhaps they don't know themselves, but also evidence that you can then perhaps submit in order to ask for an EHCP or a change of placement. So the use of technology is certainly becoming more and more useful.

Simon Currigan  24:35  

Can you just dig in a little more about how the heart rate is related to anxiety so people understand how to use the Fitbit?

Nicola Durant  24:41  

So with the Fitbit it basically just measures the heart rate data and we know you know when we get anxious our adrenaline starts to pump out, our heart rates increase so that can then be monitored quite simply on the Fitbit that you if you link it to a smartphone you have some quite conclusive data. And an example of that. It was a young lady called Chloe, she had a diagnosis of autism, PDA profile as well. We couldn't quite work out across the day where the anxiety points were what the data showed over the course of a week that it was a certain lesson and a certain adult that she came into contact with, that were the anxiety triggers that were causing the stress. And it was just useful to then be able to formulate a plan and change some things for her which had a really positive knock on effect. 

Simon Currigan  25:32  

Looking back to your own experience as a parent and for your daughter, is there something someone could have done maybe differently or earlier, that would have made a big difference for you?

Nicola Durant  25:43  

The journey I've been on with my daughter has been an incredibly difficult one. She has been a very difficult young lady, I think for everybody to understand. I'd say from the day she was born Simon, she's been hard work, let's just be open and honest about that. A very tricky baby didn't sleep very well didn't really feed, very bright, very engaged in the wild, eye contact, amazing language development, very, very quickly passed all of the checks with the health visitor, nobody raised any concerns. And then she just did not grow out of the toddler temper tantrums. And we got to the age of five, and six, and seven, and I thought, why is she still throwing herself on the floor? And then you start asking questions, don't you as a parent, and I knew I had enough skills as a teacher that I was a good enough parent. I knew it wasn't anything I was doing wrong. And then you think actually, is there something more organic going on for her? And I think the bit I wish had been different is that professionals had listened to me as much as I was a professional myself. I was mom in that situation. I wasn't a specialist consultant. I, you know, I just wish other professionals would have listened to what I was saying, as a parent, we'd gone to two NHS paediatricians, and I had my concerns about her development, and we left it until she started secondary school. And she'd really started to take a nosedive after the first term, started self harming. And the two NHS paediatricians, I saw said that I was an overanxious mother who just needed to appreciate that some girls, with a start of puberty, have a really tricky couple of years ahead of them. So I was told to go away on both counts, we then ended up in their mental health system, and again, I was I was told there by a couple of professionals that my daughter didn't present with autism, ADHD, and actually again, as a mom, I needed to take a chill pill. Very, very difficult, difficult time. And in the end, we paid privately we went to the Lorna Wing Centre, which is part of the National Autistic Society. And lo and behold, after a full day assessment, I was told that my daughter had, you know, a very, very complex presentation of autism that she had hidden beautifully and wasn't easy to identify.

Simon Currigan  28:14  

How did it feel to get that information? I bet it was a relief?

Nicola Durant  28:18  

I sobbed. I did, I really got upset. I wasn't in the room with my daughter when we were told about that. It was just my husband and I at the time because the way the assessments work at the Lorna Wing centre is that the parents are separated from the young person. So my daughter had spent the day with with a psychologist and a speech and language therapist, if we were delivered that news and I knew I knew she was autistic, I'd collected enough information myself and the fact that we were paying Ã3000 for the assessment, I was 99% Sure, that's what I was dealing with. I felt a lot of mum guilt that I'd left it until she'd gone to secondary school to seek that diagnosis. Even though over the years, I'd questioned things with health visitors. But it was only as the years went on, you saw the gap between her peer group just get wider socially and emotionally. And I think I've got the qualifications and the training to spot this stuff in other young ladies. But when it comes to your own child, it's completely different. But I think the bit that probably will stick in my mind more than anything else was my daughter then coming back into the room because the psychologist had said she wanted to let her know that she was autistic and my daughter Alana, she came bounding into the room where we were sat and she just punched her hands in the air. She went Yes, I'm autistic Alana. She went Mom, I'm not the local fruit loop, I'm not the school Nutter, I'm autistic and I know, I'm getting emotional talking to you now. You know, parents often say to me, I don't want to label my child, but if you don't get a label on it diagnosis for your child they label themselves in derogatory terms as my daughter did. I'm a fruit loop, I'm a weirdo, I'm a nut job, I'm thick, all of those things and actually to give somebody a label that you are autistic, you are dyslexic, you have ADHD, that comes with so much positivity, and hopefully self acceptance and an understanding and, and all of those kinds of things.

Simon Currigan  30:26  

Well, I mean, that's massive. I mean, hearing that personal tale there, you can just see how important it is that we get this right, you were just talking about, not just about educators there, but you know, medical services, it's a listening and being curious, isn't it not just being dismissive. If a parent's saying something, then we need to give that time. 

Nicola Durant  30:43  

You know, the difficulty that I think females on the spectrum have is that the diagnostic assessments that clinicians use, they often don't pick up the subtleties of the female presentation of autism. And I've had numerous young ladies over the years where they've gone in for an assessment and perhaps, and a DOS assessment has been used. And the conclusion is that no, this young lady is not autistic. But lo and behold, a number of years later, parents will maybe seek a second opinion or they will go privately. And the young lady gets a very, very clear diagnosis of being on the autism spectrum. So we have to really be careful because we do not have in this country, a diagnostic tool for females with autism. And so many of our young ladies go under the radar because parents present them in front of a paediatrician who, with the best will in the world, you know, what the research has shown is that people that diagnose autism often don't have the training around the female presentation. That's something there that's very clear in the research and that desperately needs to change. Because if you've got a bright, Sparky, intelligent young lady who can make conversation and eye contact, often it's, oh, well, she can't be autistic. And actually, we need to change the tide, in terms of our understanding of that isn't the case. There are so many myths out there that people still hold on to in terms of what is autism. 

Simon Currigan  32:14  

If you're a teacher, a school leader, or indeed a parent listening to this podcast, what's the first step you can take today to start learning more about supporting autistic girls? 

Nicola Durant  32:24  

Do your research. There's lots and lots of influential people out there who happily talk about their diagnosis, the journeys they've been on. There's lots and lots of literature available, particularly with the National Autistic Society. There's lots of information there at your fingertips. But what I would say to people is look at it, look at the information, think about it in reference to yourself and make lots of notes. Look at the profile, do I meet that because so much of this is about having a paperwork trail and collecting incidences or having data and examples that actually you can then say, look, I meet this criteria. So it's definitely doing your research, you know, hooking on to training, there's training providers out there, SEND Station, sorry,  a bit of a shameless plug there. But we certainly provide lots of training around autism, particularly Autism and Girls Module One is a basic autism awareness that I run regularly just looking at a basic autism profile, what does that look like in relation to females, and some things that we might say specifically that we should be looking out for and Girls and Autism Module two is specifically an hour and a half, just focusing on strategies to support these young ladies. So there were two very specific modules that send station, one is myself, obviously, the presenter that that runs those, and those are very, very popular.

Simon Currigan  33:57  

And how can our listeners find those? Where would they go?

Nicola Durant  34:00  

Just go to Eventbrite, and just would type in Send Station at the top in the search bar. And then the list of all of the courses that we are running throughout the course of the term up until Christmas are all on there. 

Simon Currigan  34:12  

Brilliant,And I'll put a direct link in the show notes so people can click through really easily. Last of all, we ask this of all our guests, who is the key figure that's influenced to you, or what is the key book that you've read. That's had the biggest impact on your approach to working with kids?

Nicola Durant  34:28  

I think the person has probably had the biggest influence on me is Tony Atwood. I follow Tony's work, his research is amazing, just in terms of ease of research, that very much is passionate around, you know, autism and that female presentation, but certainly, you know, over the years as I felt my daughter was autistic, I really latched on to him. I just like his approach, his empathy, his understanding. There's just so much about him that I think is really inspirational and the fact that he just continues use to try and educate the world to make it a better place. And certainly he's very much trying to create a diagnostic tool that can diagnose our females on the spectrum. 

Simon Currigan  35:12  

Nicki, thank you for sharing both your personal experience and your expertise with us today. I'm sure our listeners will have gotten a lot from our conversation today. Thank you for being on the show. 

Nicola Durant  35:22  

Youre welcome Simon and thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure.

Emma Shackleton  35:26  

What I loved about listening to Nicola, there was the mixture of knowledge about autism and hearing her reflect on her personal experiences as a parent, and talking about the experiences of her own child. Because as educators, it's easy to approach special educational needs as a technical subject. And sometimes we lose sight of the human beings that are affected.

Simon Currigan  35:51  

Yeah, there's more to supporting kids and parents than just looking at strategies. I'll put direct links to Nicola's website and SEND station social media in the show notes. All you got to do is open up the app and tap through

Emma Shackleton  36:02  

And remember if you found this episode helpful, then what are you waiting for? Share it today with one or two friends or colleagues who you know would get something from listening to the episode. So these ideas and strategies can reach the people who'd benefit from the most. It will take you about 20 seconds of your day. Simply open your podcast app, hit the share button and send a direct link by email messenger WhatsApp, however you like to message your friends and feel that warm glow of doing your colleagues a favour.

Simon Currigan  36:33  

That's it for today's show.

Emma Shackleton  36:36  

We hope you have a brilliant week and we look forward to seeing you next time on School Behaviour Secrets Bye for now.

Simon Currigan  36:42  

Take care

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)