Sharp observation skills may guard girls against severe autism
Infant girls at an elevated risk for autism pay more attention to social cues in faces than do boys at the same risk1. The finding may help to explain why girls with autism tend to have subtler symptoms than boys with the condition.
Researchers have long suspected that genetic factors guard girls against autism. The new study suggests cognitive elements help shore up the gender shield.
“For the first time, we show that infant girls at risk for autism have very unusual attention to social stimuli,” says lead researcher Katarzyna Chawarska, director of the Early Social Cognition Laboratory at Yale University. “This might protect against development of social difficulties and put high-risk girls on a different trajectory than high-risk boys.”