Important points to consider

Discussions on safety focussed on the vulnerabilities that autistic girls, teens and women may have that might lead to unsafe situations – and that others may not understand or may take advantage of these. Some of the vulnerable areas were felt to be:

  • Peer pressure – going along with things that may not be comfortable with or fully understand consequences of
  • Not knowing what to do if things don’t go to plan
    • Situations can sometimes escalate very quickly
  • Lack of self awareness about how others may perceive actions
  • Not being assertive in saying ‘no’
  • Not picking up on signs that in an unsafe place, or with an unsafe person
  • Struggling with transferring learning from one situation to another.

In addition to others not understanding these vulnerabilities, it was also felt that issues may arise when others assume something has been learned or understood, especially with those women and girls who are verbally articulate.

Ideas/suggestions

Below is a summary of some of the ideas and suggestions that were thought to be helpful in learning about and improving safety for autistic women and girls.

Building self awareness

  • Learning to recognise and manage emotions can be key
    • Decision making skills can be impacted by emotions
  • Being able to explain self, needs and communication to others
  • Developing awareness of how actions might be interpreted by others

Planning ahead

  • Learn what places/areas are safe or unsafe to be
    • This may be different depending on whether it is light or dark
  • Planning journeys in advance to avoid any areas that are unsafe

Developing decision making strategies

  • Such as ‘STOP’ – Stop, Think, Others, Plan
    • Stop what you are doing; Think about and analyse the situation you are in and the positives and negatives; consider Others – is there someone you can trust there to speak to, do you need to let anyone know where you are or what you are doing, do you need to ask for help; make a Plan for what you should do next

Staying in touch

  • Checking in with a trusted person when you arrive and leave places

Learning to recognise the signs

  • Learning to recognise signs that you may be in an unsafe place, or with an unsafe person
  • Learning which people can be trusted – recognising positive/negative relationships and influences

Using checklists

  • What do I need to do before I leave? What do I need to do when I’m there?
  • Could be a mental checklist, a physical list, or on a phone

Using technology

  • Have shortcuts to call important numbers programmed into your phone
  • Learn how to use the torch on your phone (if it has one)
  • Make use of Apps such as Google Maps so you always know where you are and can find a way to somewhere safe – safe places can be saved on to the map

Educating about importance of safety

  • Important not to scare and overwhelm
  • Keep things practical and realistic
  • Be open and explicit in explanations
    • Don’t assume suggestive phrases will be understood
    • Don’t assume learning will be picked up from others
  • Give tools and strategies that can be used to analyse situations and assess safety
    • Including assessing the motives of others
  • Use ‘Tools and Rules’ – make the most of logical thought processes

Reflecting on experiences

  • Thinking about what went well, what didn’t go well, what needs to change in future

Assertiveness

  • Learning to say no is important
  • Assertiveness training can be useful
  • Building self-esteem and confidence can mean less likely to go along with suggestions of others

Having someone to talk to and ask questions

  • Knowing how to seek help and who to ask
  • Build trust and openness in communication with a safe person

Early education on safety and assertiveness

  • Thinking about safety should be ingrained from early on

Learning through social stories

  • Can also learn from television or books
    • Reflect on what happened and how problems were solved
  • Harness existing skills and interests

Self defence

  • Some find that martial arts training can give confidence

Resources/links

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