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Your Dollars @ Work: Girls Night Out!

In 2011, Autism Speaks provided a grant of nearly $25,000 to the Center for Child Health and Development at the University of Kansas Medical Center to fund Girls Night Out (GNO), a social skills and self care program for adolescent girls with ASD and other developmental disabilities.

CCHD had two goals in mind when applying for a Family Services Community Grant:

  1. To build sustainability of a specific intervention program (Girls Night Out) to improve social competence and self care skills in an understudied population: adolescent girls with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and
  2. To increase capacity of professionals implementing social skills programs within school communities.

GNO works with both peer models and community partners. Peers help participants learn and practice new skills during age appropriate social and self care related activities and play a critical role in helping empower girls with developmental disabilities reach their goals! GNO partners with members from the community so that the participants have opportunities to learn and practice social skills within a natural social setting.

GNO target social skills related to conversation, phone and texting, making and maintaining friendships, planning events and establishing social networks within the community. They also target self care skills, with previous sessions on fashion, makeup, body care, hair care, and nutrition and fitness.

Past activities have included: a private makeover session at JC Penny’s Salon, painting at the Ceramic Café, a session with fashion consultants at Forever 21, night out on the town with new friends, group dance lessons, fondue at the Melting Pot, roller Coaster madness at Worlds of Fun, volleyball in the park AND MUCH MORE!

The program has been a big hit and has made a big difference in the lives of girls with autism, as well as their peers.

“I have loved this program. It has taught me so much to be proactive with myself. I have enjoyed meeting new people and getting comfortable with new people."
- GNO Participant

"GNO has taught me how to put makeup on, take pictures, dance and all of other fun things. It is a great experience to have."
- GNO Participant

“I learned so much about people’s behaviors and even realized how my own actions can influence people. I don’t feel like I can explain how much I learned and enjoyed the time with everyone.” 
- GNO Peer

"This experience has given my daughter confidence and many “A-HA” moments. What she has learned has flowed over into her non-GNO activities as well.”
- GNO Parent

Dr. Jamison anticipates the manual for curriculm and content will be available in 2014.

For more information about this exciting program, visit GNO's website, Facebook page, or contact GNO Director Dr. Rene Jamison!

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.