Wednesday 18 September 2019

'I was told only boys could be autistic'

Jasmine Ghibli was diagnosed with autism at two years old in America. The diagnosis was taken away from her when she moved to Scotland after her GP decided she was the "wrong sex" to be autistic.

Now at 18, Jasmine has her diagnosis but not without enduring years of frustration at a system that she thinks appeared to forget the female face of autism.

Nicole Bonner, Jasmine's mother, said their GP told them that, "autism isn't for girls - she's just a bad kid."

After moving to Scotland from America, the children's hospital informed Nicole that Jasmine wasn't autistic, and that her original diagnosis was unrecognised.

Speaking to BBC Scotland's The Nine, Jasmine, from Helensburgh, said the confusion around her diagnosis caused her mental health to deteriorate.

She says the lack of support and bullying at school led her to attempt to kill herself three times - the first time was when she was just seven.

Nicole Bonner says Jasmine felt "hopeless"
Jasmine's mum doesn't blame Jasmine for trying to end her life. "She felt hopeless - I felt hopeless," she says.

Jasmine's story is not uncommon. The National Autistic Society's most recent study examining the ratio of diagnosis in men was higher than that in women. The official estimate is now 3:1.

'Being a brat'
There are multiple theories speculating as to why more men and boys get an autism diagnosis. Some reports say that girls are better at camouflaging or "masking" their autism by using mimicking techniques. Jasmine masks her behaviours by copying the people around her.

"It's like putting on a horrendous amount of face paint, and at the end of every day, you have to wipe all of that face paint off," she says. "I'm constantly exhausted."

Jasmine believed she couldn't appear as autistic because she wouldn't get the same treatment as if she was male - "There would be no understanding if I had a meltdown. It would just be perceived as me being a brat."

Jasmine felt isolated due to the lack of support and understanding
She says she was forced to find her own sources of support. She now works closely with the Scottish Women's Autism Network (Swan) as an advocate for autistic women.

"Swan saved her life," Nicole says. "Jasmine would not be here without the support of those kind and understanding women."

Jasmine has also spoken at an autism cross-party group at the Scottish Parliament to share her experiences, and hopes to be an advocate for more awareness in the area.

"I can't express how important it is to empower autistic women and girls," she says. "One of the main reasons I want to raise awareness is that it's so easy to feel lonely and ostracised as an autistic person, but particularly as an autistic woman.

"We are completely underrepresented."

Both Jasmine and her mum are now hopeful for the future
Despite leaving school at 16 with little to no qualifications, Jasmine is going to the University of Glasgow in September to study English Literature, Language, and Linguistics.

"I always knew Jasmine was going to do great things," Nicole says. "That's just what she does - she changes people. She already has."

"People just need to be tolerant, and show a wee bit of love. All she's ever wanted was friendship and kindness."

(Source: BBC)

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