Autism Affects Males and Females Differently

Autism Affects Males and Females Differently

A new UK research, published in the journal Brain, suggests that autism affects males and females differently.

Autism generally develops in the first three years of life in children, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.

Studies are becoming more apparent with the startling rise of this developmental disorder, and because autism is 4 times more prevalent in boys than girls, scientists are suggesting more research needs to be focused on the latter for a better understanding.

In a study, MRI’s were used to examine 120 males and females to see how autism affects the brains of different genders.

They found the brains of females with autism “look” more like – but still not the same as – healthy males, when compared to healthy females. But this contrast was not seen when looking at males with autism.

Dr Meng-Chuan Lai, who worked on the study said, “What we have known about autism to date is mainly male-biased – therefore, we should not blindly assume that everything found for males or from male-predominant mixed samples will apply to females.”

While it is not clear why this disorder is so divided amongst genders, some suggestions point to societal expectations which make it harder to spot in girls, overall stigmatizing female traits. For example, young girls with autism show traits that are acceptable in many healthy young girls; like the development rate of better social skills compared to boys.

“Girls can be more adaptive than boys and can develop strategies that often mask what we traditionally think of as the signs of autism,” said director of The National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, Carol Povey. She adds, “This masking can lead to a great deal of stress, and many girls go on to develop secondary problems such as anxiety, eating disorders or depression.”

Written By: Annie Elizabeth Martin

Scientists are urging for more research in regards to autism in girls and women so that gender doesn’t remain a barrier when it comes to understanding this disorder.
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