Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Autism may be underdiagnosed in girls due to gender bias

A new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry explores the differences in diagnostic characteristics of autism between boys and girls, suggesting a gender bias in which girls with "high-functioning" autism are under diagnosed. After comparing this data, the researchers found that the girls, rather than the boys, who met the criteria for ASD had a significantly higher prevalence of low intellectual levels and behavioral difficulties. This suggests that in lieu of behavioral and intellectual deficits, girls are less likely to be diagnosed with ASD than boys. This may be due to the fact that girls who meet some of the criteria for a diagnosis of "high-functioning" autism (those who did not demonstrate low intellectual levels or behavioral deficits) may possess better adaptive or compensatory skills, leading to the gender bias in diagnosis. Whether girls acquire such adaptive skills developmentally, or if this is a shortcoming of the diagnostic measures used for ASD, is unclear. However, if a gender bias does exist, and girls are being underdiagnosed in comparison to boys, this may mean that the current rates of autism diagnosis, currently at 1 in 88, is also biased as a result.

 Full article.