Difference between boys and girls who have Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is caused, in part, by genetics. Research in the genetic aspect of ASD has increased over the past decade and is leading to some findings that are pointing scientists in a new direction. Among these aspects studied are the differences between boys and girls with autism. ASD usually starts showing symptoms when the child is still an infant. It shows primarily in significant problems with social interaction. Because there is such a wide spectrum of autism the symptoms can be difficult to detect in some children. There has been a lot of exposure and attention brought to the strain on the family of autistic children, including the financial aspect. There is also a heavy cost involved socially and emotionally as the entire family is affected by the autistic child's inability to interact socially with other people.
There have been little attention brought to the differences between boys and girls who have autism. The medical community has known for years that the disease is more common in boys and that the symptoms seem to manifest differently in the two genders, as well. These differences are starting to be studied more as they may affect the diagnosis and treatment of children with autism. A recent report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that over the past decade there has been a 78% increase in ASD cases. The ratio of boys to girls is about 5-to-1. This is much higher than the usual numbers reported by other studies.
While the difference in the ratio of boys to girls with autism is evident, there is no real reason why this is. This is, however, similar to other childhood developmental problems such as learning disabilities and A.D.D. Studies also show that girls tends to lead the ratio in disorders that onset after puberty, such as depression and anxiety. Research has shown that girls may be protected from developing ASD and other development disorders because of hormonal levels in utero. Because girls are generally considered more social than boys it seems that a larger amount of the genes that cause ASD would be needed for the disease to occur. It's also thought that girls "grow out" of the symptoms many ASD children exhibit and therefore by the age of 8 are no longer considered within the autistic spectrum.
Regardless of the findings in the difference between boys and girls ratios of autism, the studies are finding the "protective" factors aiding in the prevention of autism. It's also found that girls with autism tend to be among those that are higher functioning. It's also recognized that girls a re not necessarily diagnosed as readily as boys. Their fixations tend to be on "normal" girl topics like dolls, ponies and princesses, while boys tend to fixated on stacking blocks and or playing in sand. Girls are also less likely to exhibit the signs of anxiety that accompany many autistic children. These behaviors often include rocking and spinning. Early detection is one of the best ways to help an autistic child develop the needed social skills, but late diagnosis may keep these treatments from being ineffective.
While sex differences in ASD are an important topic, it has only recently come under the spotlight of the medical ASD world. While studies are looking at why girls are less likely to develop autism, the importance of this knowledge is to treat every autistic child with the best treatment for their specific level of autism.