Recent studies point to a huge discrepancy in the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder between boys and girls. Due to these differences, researchers believe that many females are misdiagnosed with other disorders when the true culprit is actually ASD.
So how is Autism different for boys and girls? And what can you, as a parent, do to manage these differences? Let’s take a closer look.
In the early days of autism and Asperger’s research, many studies found that boys were more affected by autism and, therefore, were more likely to have ASD. In his 1943 research, Leo Kanner concluded that boys were four times more likely to have autism over girls. Over the years, similar data seemed to prevail with research showing a ratio of 4:1 or 5:1 of boys and men having autism over girls and women.
Why the Gender Split?
There are many theories that explain the reason behind the gender split when it comes to an autism diagnosis. Some of the most popular theories over the years include:
- Boys are genetically predisposed to inherit autism compared to girls.
- Women and girls are more adept at hiding their symptoms, and, therefore, cases of autism in women go underreported.
- Assessment tools to diagnose ASD are more geared towards boys and men, leading to underreported cases of autism in girls.
New Research Explains More
According to Scientific American, there is new research that might suggest that boys are actually not more susceptible to autism and that, in fact, girls simply experience ASD differently, which is why it’s not often caught until later years. Some examples of how boys and girls experience autism spectrum disorder differently include:
- For girls, ASD is often misdiagnosed as attention deficit, OCD, or even anorexia.
- Autistic girls tend not to fixate on the same stereotypical obsessive behaviors as boys and tend to care more about socialization and a greater desire to connect than autistic boys.
- Girls with ASD will appear to play the same way as typical girls, however, beyond the surface; they show the same obsessive tendencies as boys with ASD.
Brain scans of boys with ASD and girls with ASD show similarly reduced activities and development. However, for autistic girls, the scan results would be lower than typical girls of the same age but comparable to typical boys of the same age. This means that the presence of autism in girls is very much there, but often more difficult to diagnose due to the current diagnostic practices. Compared to autistic boys, girls with ASD are high-functioning and well-developed. However, compared to typical girls of the same age, there is clearly a discrepancy.
As research continues to gain momentum and more information is made clear, there’s no doubt that the gap between boys and girls with ASD will become smaller. At the same time, better treatment and diagnostic practices will come to light and offer more insight on how to help boys vs. girls with autism.
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