The New York Times has an in-depth article on autism in girls, a topic largely neglected in the research literature owing to the fact that males are much more likely to be diagnosed with the condition.
It’s only recently that researchers have started to look in earnest into differences between boys and girls with autism.
Generally, the studies find that there are no major differences in the core aspects of autism between the sexes. But as a diagnosis of autism relies on these aspects, by definition, they’re going to be largely the same.
Studies looking at brain structure, cognitive abilities, and other types of everyday problem and emotional disturbance, have found some key differences though, and it seems they sometimes affect girls particularly negatively:
No doubt part of the problem for autistic girls is the rising level of social interaction that comes in middle school. Girls’ networks become intricate and demanding, and friendships often hinge on attention to feelings and lots of rapid and nuanced communication ‚Äî in person, by cellphone or Instant Messenger. No matter how much they want to connect, autistic girls are not good at empathy and conversation, and they find themselves locked out, seemingly even more than boys do. At the University of Texas Medical School, Katherine Loveland, a psychiatry professor, recently compared 700 autistic boys and 300 autistic girls and found that while the boys’ “abnormal communications” decreased as I.Q. scores rose, the girls’ did not. “Girls will have more trouble with social networks if they’re having greater difficulty with communication and language,” she says.
The article is a well-researched tour through some of the latest research on girls with autism, but also has some wonderful illustrations of how girls with autism experience the complex world of social interaction.
Link to NYT article ‘What Autistic Girls Are Made Of’.