Diagnosing Autistic Spectrum Disorder: Differences Between Boys and Girls?

Diagnosing Autistic Spectrum Disorder: Differences Between Boys and Girls?

 

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD, has found that girls are diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) later than boys. Data was obtained by reviewing the institute’s Interactive Autism Network, which is an online registry that includes nearly 50,000 individuals and family members affected by ASD.  The researchers examined gender differences regarding the age of an ASD diagnosis and symptom severity. Of the participants in the registry, the age of diagnosis was available for 9, 932 children. Of the participants in the registry, 5,103 were available to be assessed for symptom severity as they had completed the Social Responsiveness Scale, an instrument that assesses the presence and severity of social impairments.

 

The data review yielded results stating that girls were diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a type of ASD, at a mean age of 4.0 years; boys were diagnosed with it at 3.8 years. Girls were diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which affects language and behavioral development, at a mean age of 7.6 years, as compared to 7.1 years for boys.

One possible explanation is that females often exhibit less severe symptoms than males; therefore ASD is often less recognizable with girls than boys. The researchers suggest that girls tend to struggle more with issues related to social cognition and impairments in interpreting social cues, while boys tend to exhibit more severe mannerisms, such as repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand flapping) and/or highly restricted interests.  The researchers suggest improving screening methods as a way to diagnosis ASD more effectively, in addition to increasing public awareness.

 

Faisal Roberts, M.A.

WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Autism Diagnosis Made Later in Girls. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 30, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2015/04/29/autism-diagnosis-made-later-in-girls/84057.html

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