Thanks for visiting!

This project is now in update mode. Check back regularly to see how things are progressing.

Girls Night Out: Empowering girls with autism

Raised toward our $30,000 Goal
21 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on January 11, at 11:55 PM CST
Project Owners

Girls Night Out: Empowering girls with autism

Thank you to the Women Philanthropists for KU group, whose members kickstarted our drive by meeting their $2500 goal! Let's keep this great momentum going!

Girls Night Out (GNO) is a social skills and self-care program for girls with autism and related developmental disabilities, offered through the Center for Child Health and Development (CCHD) at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs social skills and communication, resulting in difficulties establishing and maintaining relationships. Boys are 4-5 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism compared with girls, resulting in primarily male samples in research and services geared towards this population. Girls present differently in the core areas of autism, which is not surprising given gender differences often found for the general population in social and communication behaviors. Girls with autism often experience greater social difficulties as they enter adolescence and are at an increased risk for depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, suggesting this unique and underserved population warrants our focus and priority in research and service.

Our Organization & Programs

Dr. Rene Jamison established Girls Night Out (GNO) in 2008 to address this gap area with the goal of providing socially valid and meaningful intervention services designed specifically for girls with autism and related developmental disabilities navigating adolescence. GNO’s mission is to empower girls and young women with and without autism toward optimal health and improved quality of life. GNO is unique in that it targets self-care skills along with social skills and incorporates trained, typically developing peers as models and mediators within the intervention. GNO does not occur in a clinic or artificial setting; girls meet at locations within the community. Locations and activities often involve dinners out, parks, hair salons, fitness centers, dancing, skin care, trampoline parks, music, and hosting just to name a few. We establish community partners for many activities in specific areas of expertise (i.e., hair care), collaborating to ensure a successful experience. We’ve worked with over 60 community partners, resulting in positive visibility for people with disability in our community and empowering these partners for future encounters with people with autism. Most important, GNO is fun and provides social outings, relationship building and an opportunity for a much-needed Girls Night Out!

Current Programs and Services

Intervention Groups.  Girls complete the GNO curriculum during weekly 2-hour sessions that occur across 8-12 weeks. Participant groups include 4-5 girls with autism or related disability and an equal number of trained peer volunteers. Facilitators teach and reinforce targeted skills using evidence based strategies and provide specific feedback and coaching throughout social and self-care activities. Girls earn “GNO bucks” for demonstrating target skills, self-monitoring, and working toward self-identified goals. The “GNO store” is stocked with desired items for purchase with their GNO bucks in hopes to reinforce these targeted skills and activities. Past groups targeted adolescents and young adults, thus far completing a total of 12 intervention groups, including over 50 girls with autism and related disabilities, more than 60 peer volunteers, and 25 trained facilitators. New services include intervention groups for younger girls.

Community Events.  These events are open to past, present or future GNO participants, initiated in 2014 to provide ongoing social activities and opportunities to build sustainable relationships. These events are typically less structured than the intervention sessions, but still include coaching and reinforcement during actual social or self-care activities. We’ve reached over 150 girls with and without autism through community events and intervention groups.

Parents Night Out (PNO). Concurrent with some GNO sessions and events, we now provide a parent component. Activities include guest speakers on parent identified topics or time for networking focused on parent connections and support.

Building sustainable programs and funding

GNO, which focuses on girls and women with autism and related disabilities, has the potential to make a significant impact on the trajectory of girls and young women with autism in our community. This can be achieved by establishing sustainable and directed funding to support personnel capable of designing and executing intervention groups, community events, and family support initiatives for girls with autism and related disabilities. Our community, and university, has an opportunity to support an innovative model with potential for replication. GNO is nationally recognized and is one of very few programs in the country designed specifically for girls with autism. Our vision includes an expansion of services for girls and women with ASD, community training, and socially valid research to better understand and work with this unique population. We are eager to grow services to include a broader age range and additional programs, but are hesitant to expand the reach knowing time and support personnel to facilitate such programs is limited. Families initiated the GNO Alumni which coordinates parent-led GNO activities and related parent support initiatives. GNO has an advisory board including girls with autism and their parents. Funding priorities include personnel to provide adequate services for our community and scholarships to enable all girls to benefit.

Choose a giving level


Stock the GNO Store

Make the GNO store the place everyone wants to shop! Help us purchase items the girls really want to buy (iTunes cards, snacks, nail polish, anime, accessories, and personal requests!) and you can help girls reach their potential. Stocking the store with stuff they want means they will work to earn more bucks, and thus meet their goals!


Promote community service

Peer volunteers earn community service for participating in GNO intervention groups. This means spending their evening once a week with GNO for 8-12 weeks and some responsibilities between meetings. Peers incur some expenses by participating in activities and meet at a variety of community locations. Help make this incredible experience available to young girls trying to make a difference!


Make GNO memorable

GNO includes a variety of materials designed to support skill building within GNO sessions and to increase the likelihood participants engage in social and self-care skills throughout their day. Each participant receives a GNO planner, which includes information on targeted skills and personalized supports to increase independence and achieve goals (steps and pictures, goals, tips). Girls get tips for conversation starters at each session and to use outside of GNO.


Host a community event

Help us provide ongoing social events and opportunities for girls to build relationships. Community events allow past, present, or future GNO participants to make new friends, boost social skills, and feel success within a social activity and connecting with other girls. Help us build lasting relationships with community partners. (Thank you Bare Minerals, Paul Mitchell The School, and Kirmayer Fitness for years of hosting GNO!)


Give someone a Girls Night Out

Help support participants who cannot afford the program but who really need a Girls Night Out. Intervention groups include 8-10 girls that meet weekly at locations throughout our community. This is sometimes the only social activity on their calendar for the week and provides an opportunity to connect with others and establish relationships.


GNO Visionary

Help create opportunities that can make a meaningful and lasting impact in the lives of girls with autism and related disabilities, their families, and our community. Imagine the potential impact for a young woman with autism if these types of supports and connections began in elementary school and continued across development.

Our Crowdfunding Groups