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Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder

According to the CDC, 4.5 times more boys are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) than girls [1].

It is currently unknown if this is the result of a biological protection for the female sex or a diagnostic bias created by tools developed mostly by studying boys with ASD.

What is known is that girls need to have more severe symptoms in addition to their autistic traits in order to be diagnosed compared to boys with same level of autistic traits. [2] Genetic research has shown that compared to boys they need to have higher genetic burden (more mutations) before being diagnosed [2]. Girls may also be getting other diagnoses, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or even anorexia instead of an ASD diagnosis. It has been proposed that the clinical phenotype may be different, with girls for example being better able to camouflage their symptoms. [3] 

Brain activation observed in socio-cognitive tasks may be different in girls and boys with ASD. Indeed, a candidate social cognition biomarker (assessed with fMRI) showed promising results in boys but not in girls. [4] Gender may need to be taken into consideration when searching for individual-level neuroimaging-based ASD biomarkers.


[1] CDC. “Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders among children aged 8 years: autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 11 sites, United States, 2010.” MMWR Surveillance Summaries 63(2): 1–22. (2014)

[2] Dworzynski, Katharina, et al. "How different are girls and boys above and below the diagnostic threshold for autism spectrum disorders?." Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 51.8: 788-797. (2012)

[2] Jacquemont, Sébastien, et al. "A higher mutational burden in females supports a “female protective model” in neurodevelopmental disorders." The American Journal of Human Genetics 94.3: 415-425. (2014)

[3] Szalavitz Maia. “Autism – It’s different in girls.” Scientific American (2016).

[4] Björnsdotter, Malin, et al. "Evaluation of Quantified Social Perception Circuit Activity as a Neurobiological Marker of Autism Spectrum Disorder." JAMA psychiatry (2016).


References (3)

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  • Response
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    Autism is the most common disease, which is present in both the girls and the boys. You cannot say that the rate of their presence in boys is higher, because of the biological protection. These are the viruses, which can easily spread out among us.
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