One of the most common stereotypes about Autism Spectrum Disorder is that it is a type of learning disorder. For most girls on the autism spectrum, they have average to above-average intelligence scores. With this misperception, parents may be hesitant to seek out psychological testing if they do not have any immediate academic concerns. While Autism may not be a learning disorder, related executive functioning issues and trouble understanding social rules may affect reading comprehension, concentration, and class participation.
Common features of Autism in girls include:
- Difficulty making and keeping friends
- Conversation is limited to topics of interest, which are usually passionate and specific
- Relies on other children to guide and speak for her
- Unusual anxiety, depression, and moodiness
- Difficulty regulating emotions
- Unusual passivity, quietness, and shyness
- Difficulty with social communication increases with age
- Sensory difficulties
Why do Girls on the Autism Spectrum Struggle with Learning?
Autism and learning disabilities can occur together, but they are distinct from one another. This means, girls on the spectrum may be more likely to have learning differences. However, the root of their academic struggles may be more related to sensory processing issues or social communication rather than understanding academic material. Additionally, a large classroom environment may feel overwhelming and it can be harder to advocate for her needs if her teacher doesn’t have time to offer individualized attention.
For example, a student may struggle with sharing in group discussions due to trouble organizing her thoughts, but the bigger issue is that she may feel overstimulated by other people talking on top of each other. Or, she may difficulty completing math problems because of rigid thinking and trouble understanding abstract ideas rather than mixing up numbers or operations.
What might seem like dyslexia may be related to issues with auditory or visual processing. They may have difficulty distinguishing subtle differences in sounds or miss subtle differences in similarly shaped letters. Poor hand-eye coordination may explain messy handwriting.
How Can Learning Support Help Students Who Aren’t Diagnosed with Learning Disorders?
Learning is not a one-size-fits-all task. Whether or not your daughter has been diagnosed with a learning disorder, every student learns differently. Therapeutic boarding schools offer individualized academic plans for students with a wide range of learning differences.
At Asheville Academy, small class sizes help teachers meet students where they are, and truly personalize each student’s learning experience. Our Learning Support Specialist provides additional individual attention to those who need it, both inside and outside the classroom. Each student is assigned an academic advisor, who works with students to set goals, stay organized, and manage their time appropriately, which paves the road to success.
Our multidisciplinary treatment team works together to understand how mental health struggles and neurodevelopmental disorders, like Autism Spectrum disorder, affect all areas of learning—both academically and socially. Our assessment process helps families get a better picture of their daughter’s learning style and ways to accommodate their learning in and out of the classroom.
Asheville Academy Can Help
Asheville Academy for Girls is an accredited Therapeutic Boarding School for girls 10-14 that commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other learning differences. Our small classrooms encourage teamwork and collaboration with additional support for girls struggling with academic skills. This program is focused on emotion regulation and building confidence, communication skills, and social skills that will help students transition back into their home and school life. We can help your family today!
For more information about helping your daughter on the autism spectrum at Asheville Academy, call 800-264-8709 today
Cat brings more than thirty years of experience making an impact in the lives of adolescents. Cat has developed multiple programs helping children, teens, and young adults in a variety of settings and with a diverse range of diagnoses. She has dedicated her career to behavioral health and is honored to be part of the passionate team at Asheville Academy for Girls. She recognizes how delicate this age is and is proud of the role she and her team play in helping girls grow and prosper.