Book review: Safeguarding Autistic Girls: Strategies for professionals

Safeguarding Autistic Girls: Strategies for professionals by Carly Jones MBE. Reviewed by Holly Sutherland

Date published: December 2021

Safeguarding autistic girls

Paperback price: £17.52

Link to book on Amazon

Reviewer: Holly Sutherland, PhD researcher, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

Reviewer expertise: Autistic autism researcher

What is the book about and who is it aimed at?

Safeguarding Autistic Girls: Strategies for professionals is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from the title – a book about safeguarding autistic girls, aimed at the professionals likely to come into contact with them. (Meaning, given the 1-in-100-or-higher prevalence of autism in the general population, pretty much every police officer, doctor, teacher, social worker, or other public-facing professional.) This clear and concise title, however, disguises a book with a wealth of valuable information for probably just about every person on the planet.

A brief description of the book

The book is remarkably thorough. After a brief definition of autism, and how being autistic can lead to social vulnerability, it launches straight into exploring the kinds of vulnerabilities autistic girls face: everything from bullying, to missed medical issues, to various forms of exploitation. It then explores how to not only spot at-risk autistic girls, but how to spot autism in at-risk girls who may be undiagnosed, and how to support these girls once identified. Throughout, the advice and strategies provided by the book are backed up by anecdata and true stories from both the (autistic) author herself, and from the autistic people she has encountered as part of her support and advocacy work.

Is the content in line with best practice or research evidence?

Despite a slight misuse of the Double Empathy Problem during the introduction, the rest of the book is up-to-date in its terminology, compassionately written, and at all times deeply respectful of autistic people, our differences, and our unique needs. This is undoubtedly helped by the fact that the author brings significant lived experience to the table, both personal and professional, on this topic. As a caveat, however, I am an academic and not a teacher/police officer/social worker, or trained specifically in safeguarding. I’m therefore not really equipped to comment on whether the safeguarding advice provided constitutes best practice – but it certainly seems, from my perspective, to be reasonable and sensible.

Would this book be helpful for its target reader?

Despite its subtitle being ‘Strategies for professionals’, this book is an immensely valuable resource for anyone who interacts with autistic girls and women on a regular basis, including family members and close (adult) friends. Though probably not appropriate for autistic girls themselves (given the adult nature of both the content and writing style), I suspect many autistic women would benefit from reading it – whether for its valuable insights into autistic behaviour and social vulnerability, or for the kind of catharsis that comes from discovering shared experiences with other members of your community.

What is your final, overall opinion on the book?

Safeguarding Autistic Girls is, at times, a challenging read. Many of the case studies are drawn from the author’s personal experience as an autistic advocate, and are a frequently-upsetting illustration of how vulnerable autistic girls and women can be – and how often they are failed by systems that should be supporting and protecting them. But, for precisely this reason, it is also an essential read, because it is only by confronting and understanding these vulnerabilities that we can start to build a safer world for autistic girls.