Does displaying social skills differently from boys prevent or delay timely autism diagnosis? A new study finds this is so.
Going as per the recent surveyed parental reporting measures, girls diagnosed with autism are seen to struggle with more difficulties in comparison to their male counterparts in completing routine tasks such as striking up a small conversation or getting up and dressing.
The study group further observed that the condition is seen to vary between sexes, even when the basic clinical diagnostic criteria are similarly observed. The findings support the age-old perception that girls diagnosed with autism behave differently than boys.
The authors of the study group highlight that one of the many reasons for the delayed diagnosis among girls is their ability to successfully mask social difficulties.
The study was led by a group of researchers from the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National Health System.
Allison Ratto, clinical psychologist and lead author of the study, comments, “The research findings and the analysis of parental reports showed that autistic girls face a harrowing time with day-to-day activities compared to their autistic male peers.”
Allison further explains, “Nevertheless, these results also suggest that girls and boys who are diagnosed with autism and display a similar set of clinical criteria are, at times, more severely affected by the ongoing set of adaptive and social skill deficits that one doesn’t normally capture during the course of clinical measures.”
These social traits among girls make them vulnerable to having a delayed autism diagnosis.
To accurately assess the differences based on sex, the study used a traditional method of matching the IQ signals with the child’s age while adhering to the instructions laid down by standard clinical tests. Further, parents were interviewed to understand their children’s adaptive skills.
Lauren Kenworthy says, “The study is the first of its kind to eliminate factors that hinder the ways autism symptoms are studied when groups of different sexes are involved.”
“The clinical tools that are designed today do a good job of capturing the various traits that affect male children. However, these tools seem to take a backstage when it comes to understanding female children,” explains Lauren.
The researchers add that these issues are critical and necessary studies that should be undertaken to understand the success rate of early interventional programs in children of different sexes. It is high time we find better ways to effectively identify girls who might have the disorder so that the best approaches can begin in a timely manner.
The authors highlight specific evidence about young female children and women being more effective in camouflaging communicational and social deficits. Nevertheless, autistic advocates theorized the unique demands and constant social pressures could play a major role in teaching girls to blend into the mainstream society without displaying symptoms that are required for an autism diagnosis.
Dr. Ratto concludes, saying, “Nevertheless, in our constant quest to understand more about the diverse nature of the condition, we hope to understand the influence of the condition more accurately, which will pave the way for more efficient diagnoses.”