As the diagnoses of Autism increase, an interesting trend has been noticed. More boys are being diagnosed than girls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disorder is 4.5 times more common among boys than girls. Boys appear to be more vulnerable to the disorder, but the gender gap may not be as wide as it appears. Girls can be better at blending in, according to Dr. Louis Kraus, a psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who specializes in autism.
While girls try to fit in, boys tend to be more isolative. This makes it easier to spot autism at an earlier age in boys, whereas girls may not be diagnosed until later on because their symptoms don’t stand out. This can be hindering since girls then may not get the early intervention that they need.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder, characterized by repetitive, compulsive behaviors, a lack of interest in social interaction and little or no eye contact. There is no medical test to diagnose autism. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.
Girls appear to have mastered what some call “social camouflaging” according to Amanda Gulsrud who’s a clinical director of the Child and Adult Neurodevelopmental Clinic and University of California, LA. She develops school interventions for children with autism. During this study done by UCLA looking at children with and without ASD, the autistic boys stand out as being different. They were very isolated from the other boys, who were in a large group playing sports. The boys with autism were the ones “circling the perimeter of the yard, or off by the tree in the back.”
Girls with autism, on the other hand, don’t stand out as much. They stuck close enough to the other girls to look as if they were socially connected, but in reality they really weren’t. They were flitting in and out of that social connection. Girls with autism tend to be quiet and “behave more appropriately” according to Marisela Huerta, a psychologist with the Weill Cornell Medical College.
Currently, there is a NIH-funded study on girls with autism focusing on genes, brain function and behavior through childhood and adolescence. Preliminary findings suggest there are differences in the brains of girls and boys with the disorder. Brain imaging shows that autistic girls seem to have less of a disruption in the area of the brain that processes social information. Girls may be more likely to understand social expectations, even if they can’t fully meet them.
A late diagnosis of autism is a setback for any child according to Kraus. Research shows the earlier the diagnosis and intervention, the better the outcome. There are many academic and community programs geared to help autistic teens and young adults catch up on their social development. For example, PEERS at UCLA.
What do you think about this research? Do you have an autistic child, teen or young adult in your life? Do you notice differences between autistic boys and girls? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
A lot of this information was found via this article HERE.