Friendships in Girls with Autism Research Project

Wanted – Young women living with autism or their parents & carers

We need your help to make it easier for girls living with autism to make and keep friends.

Adelaide University is looking for women aged 16-25 who live with high functioning autism or their parents and carers to take part in a research project. The project will help work out what the best services would be to support these young women to make and keep friends.

All we are asking for is 30-60 minutes of your time to find out about your experiences – that’s it!

Your help will improve the lives of women living with autism.

Register your interest



Friendships are important. Being friends with other kids, teens and young adults can promote a sense of wellbeing and belonging, as well as feeling comfortable, safe, and more confident.

Living with autism can make it more difficult to make or keep friendships. Research tells us that friends are crucial for the emotional wellbeing and social development of girls living with autism, however while many programs exist for boys and young men to support them to develop and keep friendships, there is far less available for girls and young women.

Not much is known about the experiences of girls and young women living with autism when making and keeping friends. That’s why whether you’re the parent or carer of a young woman living with autism or if you live with autism yourself, we’d love to hear about your experiences.

It could help us design a service just for young women living with autism to support them in developing and keeping friendships.

Did you know? Novita has a knowledge and innovation team that supports research projects. This is so Novita’s services for people living with disability are always best practice. In this case, Novita is supporting an Adelaide University Honours Psychology project being undertaken by Catherine Yeoh and her supervisor Dr Clemence Due.

The full title of the project is ‘Exploring experiences of friendships in girls and young women with high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder’.


What will I have to do?

This is one of the first ever studies to explore experiences of friendships in teens and young women with autism, particularly how friendships change as girls grow up.

Researchers would like to talk to young women aged 16-25 years who have a diagnosis of high functioning autism and/or the parents or carers of these young women. They would like to do an interview with you that will take between 30 minutes to an hour. They’ll ask questions to understand what friendship was like during primary school and high school.

This project is looking for around 18-20 young women and parents of young women living with autism, to take part in these individual interview discussions by 31st July 2018.

Interviews can be on the phone, or face-to-face in a mutually agreed location. They will be with either one or two researchers.

Participants will remain anonymous in the findings. We hope the results will help all organisations to provide the best supports and services to girls and young women living with autism.


What’s in it for me?

Girls diagnosed with autism can find it difficult to maintain friendships with other girls or understand their complex interactions. They can feel anxious around social situations or have interests no one else seems to. It can be a lonely feeling.

Girls and boys with autism experience friendships differently. For example, past research shows some girls with autism can actually find forming friendships relatively easy, as they’re more inclined than boys to mimic appropriate social behaviour, or hide some characteristics. The struggle can be to maintain the ‘act’ to keep up the friendship.

We also know that friendships can change as girls become young women, and this can be a challenge if you live with autism. Young women with autism could benefit from support designed to help them with friends as they move from childhood into early adulthood.

If you live with autism, or you are a parent or  carer of a young woman with autism, taking part in this research we hope will be a really rewarding experience. We ask you to tell your story, your way. Your views and experiences are very valuable, and could improve supports for other girls and young women in the future.


What’s the aim of the research?

We hope the findings will assist in providing helpful and relevant services that encourage same-age friendships for girls and young women living with autism.

This could include:

  • Giving family, friends or teachers useful information to best support young women living with autism to build and grow friendships.
  • Providing young women living with autism personal support and skills to promote their self-confidence, and trying new ways to way friends.
  • Supporting parents to understand why their daughter living with autism makes friends differently and how to support their friends and families to understand this too.

Findings from the research should be available in December 2018. Hopefully, they will enable Novita to develop services specifically for young women with autism.


Why is friendship so important?

Having friends can be good for you in lots of ways. From feeling happier or getting better results at school, to reducing anxiety or fighting with siblings less. Here’s more on the benefits of friendship.

This is true for young women living with autism too, despite keeping friends being a bigger challenge. Friends are a very important part of feeling positive emotions and understanding social cues.


Sounds great. Sign me up!

If you are female and aged 16 to 25 diagnosed with high functioning autism, or are a parent or carer of a young woman who fits those criteria, we’d love to hear from you.

You will need to be available for interview before 31st July. Discussion will be around your experiences (or that of your daughter) of friendship during primary school and high school.

You will remain anonymous in the research findings.

Register your interest