Widely-Used Tests Measure Autism Severity Equally Well in Boys and Girls, New Study Finds
A new University of California study has found that three widely used autism tests measure autism severity equally well in both boys and girls. The researchers found that although the tests - the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), respectively – showed minor differences when rating autism severity in boys and girls, the discrepancies were not major enough for the tests to be considered unreliable.
The new study, published in April in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, was led by Somer Bishop, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California. Bishop and his colleagues identified 7,522 boys and 1,463 girls with autism, between ages 1 and 20, who had participated in several research studies, or received care via the Autism Treatment Network, a group of 17 medical centers in the U.S. and Canada.
The ADOS test was used to observe the participants directly, while the ADI-R was used to interview parents, with the SRS being used to review parents responses through a survey. After focusing on the site of diagnosis, and the children’s intelligence, age, and verbal ability, the researchers found only small differences in how the tests measured autism in boys vs. girls. These differences include the ADOS and ADI-R rating girls as having less autism severity than boys, a result consistent with findings published in 2018.
Bishop and her team are taking gender differences into account as they design ways of measuring social skills in autistic children with a broad range of developmental conditions.