Today is World Autism Awareness Day, and the spotlight is on females, especially young girls who are often not diagnosed correctly.
One in every 68 children in the Unites States are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Tech Times reports. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is something that is 4.5 times more prevalent among boys compared to girls.
This ratio is also noticeable in other parts of the world. In Australia, for examples, three-fourths of all confirmed patients with ASD are male, while in the United Kingdom, the ratio of boys to girls in the National Autistic Society’s charity schools was five to one in 2015.
Research conducted by autism specialists say that these numbers are caused by misdiagnosis, as those with ASD exhibit less observable symptoms, especially at an early age. Children with ASD tend to be expressive and interactive, making it difficult for teachers to spot them and suggest clinical evaluation.
While this may sound like good news for girls with ASD, misdiagnosis or not being diagnosed at all can lead to serious mental health problems when the patients grow to become teenagers.
A report says that they will find it difficult to adjust in complex social situations, and their reactions might be mistaken for other disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or eating disorders like anorexia.
Scientists have only started exploring sex differences in ASD in depth in recent years. Brain imaging showed that the brains of girls with ASD have less disruption in the part that processes social stimulus.
Kevin Pelphrey, child psychologist and director of George Washington University’s Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute, says this means that girls with ASD are able to comprehend social expectations better, though they feel stressed when they are unable to meet these standards.
Autism Speaks says that the onset of symptoms is different in each child – some kids manifest the condition as early as six months, while others take a little longer. Most red flags can be observed at one year old, when there is a lack of communicative gestures of babbling.
This year, as part of World Autism Awareness Day, the United Nations has adopted resolutions to empower female ASD patients, as well as other girls suffering from disabilities.