Late Diagnosis of Autism in Girls: The Problem is Uncovered
The diagnosis of autism is often delayed in girls compared to boys. Why?
Because girls may have different characteristics than the typical signs of autism. This makes it difficult for them to get the support they need.
The researchers’ perspective
A group of researchers at Flinders University looked into this question. They hypothesized that under-detection of autism in girls could be due to two reasons.
First, girls with autism tend to behave differently than boys. Second, the diagnostic tools used are generally geared towards characteristics of boys who may not respond to girls’ signs.
dr Joanna Tsirgiotis, the lead researcher, stated: “We need to better understand the unique challenges girls face so that we can improve our diagnostic assessment processes.”
Unique characteristics of autistic girls
Girls with autism may exhibit less obviously unusual interests and less repetitive behaviors than boys.
They also tend to be strongly socially motivated, contrary to the general perception of autism.
Girls often have good imagination and the ability to mimic social behaviors, which can make their symptoms less visible and miss the diagnosis.
The study results
The Flinders University team examined the profiles of 777 children using two common autism diagnostic tools to uncover these differences.
They found that girls’ symptoms can often be misinterpreted as fear or quirkiness, or even passed off as “normal” behavior. As a result, girls’ diagnosis of autism may be delayed or missed altogether.
In another related study, researchers found that doctors are often less confident in evaluating girls for autism because they interpret autistic behavior differently depending on the sex of the child.
Conclusion and next steps
The researchers note that timely diagnosis of autism in girls requires a better understanding of their individual challenges and assessment tools that adapt to what we are learning about autism in girls.
Professor Robyn Young, co-author of the study, stressed the importance of educating diagnosticians, clinicians and teachers about these differences to ensure timely detection of autism in girls.
If you are interested in autism, please read Studies on a New Cause of Autism and Vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.
For more health information, see the recent studies on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination and gut health involved in autism.
The study was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
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