By Jenny Jiao, ’16

Boys outnumber girls in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnoses by about four to one. Logically, this seems to mean that boys are more susceptible to ASD than girls. Recently, however, research has shown that that may not be true.

Researchers have taken to looking at how autistic features manifest themselves in the behaviors of both genders.

Researchers have found that not only are the “typical” indicators for ASD milder in girls, but also girls may actually have completely different behaviors.

Experts commonly refer to a list of what they call “repetitive and restrictive behaviors” when diagnosing ASD. Common behaviors include “lining up toys, a fascination with spinning wheels or parts of objects, or obsessions with trains, motors, video games, or mechanical objects,” according to the Interactive Autism Network (IAN). However, scientists and physicians learned about most of these behaviors by studying males.

What this means is that the current diagnoses may not be sufficiently understanding or recognizing the indicators for ASD in females, and thus diagnosing them less often.

“Studies are suggesting that girls with ASD … differ from males in key symptoms and behaviors, particularly around social interactions,” said IAN Director Paul H. Lipkin M.D. “We must consider whether the girls are not only being recognized later but also may be under-identified due to less pronounced symptoms.”

Lack of recognition, or even a late diagnosis, of ASD in girls could be extremely harmful, as they won’t be getting the sufficient help they need. Researchers and doctors nationwide are continuing to uncover the gender differences in ASD; but in the meantime, many recommend being both proactive and protective and keeping in mind that ASD does not necessarily look the same in boys as it does in girls.