Girls With Autism Receive Diagnosis 1.5 Years Later Than Boys, Study Finds
Girls with autism typically receive a diagnosis 1.5 years later than boys, according to a new study authored by Dr. Stephen Sheinkopf, an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Brown University. Sheinkopf and his team believe the disparity occurs because language delays are usually the first sign of autism, and the girls in their study had more advanced language skills than the boys.
“We need to think about how we can improve recognition of autism in individuals — including many of these girls — who don’t have the same level of primary language delay but may have other difficulties in social communication, social play and adapting to the social world,” Sheinkopf said, according to a report by Psychcentral.com.
The study, led by the Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research and Treatment (RI-CART), enrolled over 20 percent of pediatric-age individuals in Rhode Island. Many of those participants had already received an autism diagnosis prior to joining the study, and had their diagnosis confirmed during the study by an in-person assessor. People whose diagnoses were less clear-cut were also included in the study. Aside from the gender disparity in autism diagnoses, one of the study’s major findings was that people with autism frequently show co-occurring psychiatric and medical conditions. Almost half of the particiapnts reported another disorder, such as ADHD or intellectual disability.
The researchers hope the RI-CART registry will lead to more studies that can improve the lives of people with autism and their families, in part due to the wide age range of participants in the group.
“Given that autism is a developmental disorder, the field really needs to focus on longitudinal studies: following people’s development and transitions,” Dr. Eric Morrow, also an author of the study, said. “I think we’re going to learn even more when we follow children from a very young age as they develop, including into adulthood.”