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article imageIs autism being overlooked in girls?

By Tim Sandle     Mar 28, 2016 in Health
London - One in 68 children in the U.S. is affected by autism, with boys receiving four times as many diagnoses as girls. Is there a medical difference or are girls being missed out in terms of diagnosis?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior. There is no "single" autism; rather it is a spectrum of different behaviors, and the causes are thought to be a mix of genetic and environmental factors.
With the difference in rates of diagnosis between boys and girls for autism, a new finding suggests this disparity may be the result of girls on the spectrum getting overlooked and misdiagnosed. The finding has been revealed by Maia Szalavitz in Scientific American Mind.
In the review, Szalavitz discusses data presented by the British Psychological Society's Division of Educational and Child Psychology. This data suggests that autism in girls is often missed because girls with autism often behave differently to boys and most systems and procedures are geared towards detecting different types of the autism spectrum with boys.
The research has been conducted by Felicity Sedgewick, Vivian Hill and Professor Liz Pellicano. These psychologists note that autistic girls are more socially motivated and have more intimate friendships than autistic boys. However, girls with autism are not as good as girls without autism at recognizing conflict in those friendships. The difference to boys is a cause of misdiagnosis.
In a research note, Sedgewick said: "Autism is seen as being much more common in boys because more boys than girls are diagnosed as being on the spectrum. This may be because diagnostic tools and criteria have been developed with boys and so are more biased towards identifying a 'male presentation' of autism."
To this she added: "So it is important to look at possible differences between autistic girls and boys to understand differences in the presentation of autistic features, which in the long run should help us better able to identify autism in girls."
The researchers hope the new findings will help change policy and lead to improvements in detection rates for girls who fall on the autism spectrum.
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