Research has Failed Girls with Autism

Posted in: Blog | 0

Kevin Pelphrey is a prevalent researcher in autism at Yale University’s world-renowned Child Study Center. Even though he was well versed within the spectrum that is autism he still was not able to detect the condition present within his own daughter. Frances (his daughter) was diagnosed when she reached the age of 5. As a baby she was slower than other kids when it came to walking, talking and responding to her own name. She is now 12 years old. Her brother, Lowell, seven, was also diagnosed with autism but this happened much earlier, when he was only 16 months old.

Page, their mother is able to recount the very different diagnostic process between her two children. She recalls that the process was much quicker when it came to her son, Lowell. But when it came to Frances, she says, they took various trips to different doctors and ultimately were told to wait and watch or they were given other physical reasons for her delays. One of these delays being her inability to see properly due to strabismus which would mean surgical treatment for Frances at just 20 months of age. Page says “We got a lot of different random little diagnoses…they kept saying, ‘Oh, you have a girl. It’s not autism.’”  

The criteria for the diagnosis of autism is based around the communication and social difficulties, inflexible and repetitive behavioral patterns is based solely on studies conducted on boys. Researches including Pelphrey are now considering that these criteria are missing girls and women because of different symptoms. The disorder is expected to affect 1 in 68 kids and is 4 times as likely to affect boys historically. On average the girls that were affected showed more severe symptoms and were considered to be more seriously affected. Research now suggests that these ideas are wrong.

Girls often go undiagnosed since symptoms seem to be different within women and often go unchecked as they dont meet the criteria for autism present in males. Female autism can even be misdiagnosed as ADHD or OCD, and even anorexia. Scientists are only now studying autism in girls and  are confronting findings that reveal more information about autism as well as as sex and the difference in the biological development of the two sexes. They are also coming up with ways to accommodate women and girls on the spectrum.

In conclusion, The current diagnostic methods of autism overlook girls, meaning the statistic of one in every 68 kids is inaccurate and more kids are on the spectrum. According to preliminary and behavioral neuroimaging it is found that autism is different within girls. Women and girls with autism are closer to typical males in their age range than boys with autism. Lastly, it is harder to diagnose females with autism for a couple of reason such as the criteria for autism specifically designed around males as well as multiple diagnosis to explain behavior such as anorexia, OCD and ADHD. We have shortcomings in our research. The sample type and size was not accurate to the entire population. It isn’t fair to all the individuals who could not get proper care and attention due to lacking research.

More information at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/autism-it-s-different-in-girls/