Girls May Be Under-diagnosed With This Disorder

August 1st 2017

Kyle Fitzpatrick

Autism in girls may be underdiganosed, according to a new report from NPR, because the condition's manifestation in girls may not match the conventional presentation.

Girls with autism trend towards “social camouflaging,” according to Amanda Gulsrud of UCLA's Child and Adult Neurodevelopmental Clinic, where they blend in with peers instead of showing signs of social isolation, a defining trait of autism that is typical of boys.

The diagnosis criteria for the disorder has been based on studies of boys, Kevin Pelphrey, a lead researcher at Yale University's Child Study Center, explained to Scientific American in a 2016 piece. The Center has studied gender differences in autism for four years. "These criteria, Pelphrey and other researchers believe, may be missing many girls and adult women because their symptoms look different," according to Scientific American.

A recent survey found that 70 percent of clinicians specializing in autism saw clear differences in symptoms between genders: autistic boys were more fixed and repetitive in their behaviors while autistic girls were more social and varied. Moreover, the survey noted that, compared with boys, girls with autism are more social and verbal.

Another defining trait of autism reported by NPR is fixating on objects, according to autism specialist Dr. Louis Kraus of Rush University Medical Center, which occurs more softly for girls whereas boys find themselves isolated by obsession.

Sexism in healthcare puts women at risk.

From underestimating pain in women to doctors simply telling women “I don’t know what’s wrong with you,” gender biases in medicine are a huge problem that puts women in danger.

As The New York Times reported in January, gender disparities in healthcare cause inadequate preventative treatment for issues like blood clots and less intense treatment for heart attacks.

Moreover, these matters are only compounded by minority patients receiving worse care than their white counterparts.

This can be fixed: the industry needs more variety in gender.

A clear, simple solution for this problem is for women to be included in medical research, for their symptoms to be observed instead of defaulting to male. There are myriad reasons why this exclusion happens, ranging from a medical taboo based in genetic equality of the sexes (according to findings by The Guardian in 2015) to scientists resigning the problem to "complexities of the menstrual cycle," as noted by Popular Science in 2016.