Is Autism The Same In Both Sexes? Possible Differences In Autism Symptoms Between Boys and Girls

There have been many different studies conducted about autism in children that makes us believe that girls have a type of genetic protection against autism. However, it’s recently been shown that the autism symptoms that affect girls may go unnoticed or ignored by family and even some professionals because some of the symptoms are expected in girls without it implying any level of autism. Professionals are usually more careful with boys because these behaviors are not as common, which is why there are possible differences in autism symptoms between girls and boys, which we will talk about below.

Possible Differences In Autism Symptoms Between Boys and Girls
Possible Differences In Autism Symptoms Between Boys and Girls

Gender stereotypes may work against an autism diagnosis in women, especially high-functioning autism because symptoms like extreme shyness, fear, sensitivity, and some obsessions, which are not uncommon in girls. However, when a boy shows any of these symptoms, it raises a red flag and is more likely to be diagnosed earlier.

On the other hand, experts explain that even though autism symptoms in boys are well defined, there is a possibility that some of the main traits of autism in girls are left out, like Rett syndrome autism, which only affects girls. These peculiarities explain why diagnoses are made later in girls than boys, or in cases of high-functioning autism, goes unnoticed in girls.

Autism experts argue that more in-depth studies need to be conducted to find the possible differences between autism between sexes. Simon Baron-Cohen, autism specialist at the University of Cambridge says “We know that people with high-functioning autism have two basic problems: communication and socialization. However, we’ve seen that the girls studied in the same spectrum have different symptoms. Women tend to possess an obsessive interest related to relationships and people, but because these behaviors are expected from girls, they usually get over-looked”.

Possible differences in autism symptoms between boys and girls

These differences are still being studied, but these are some examples provided by families with autistic children.

-Boys don’t like playing imagination games: For girls with autism, they seem to obsess over games that require imagination. They usually play as fairies, or princesses, etc. which may be considered a typical symptom of autism in girls.

-Boys don’t want to be part of a group: For autistic girls, however, it’s the opposite. Girls with autism may have a higher sense of social belonging and hope to be part of a group, even though they may not always be good at relating to others and being in the group. They are very motivated by social groups and the rejection or failure is hard on them.

-Girls with autism tend to enjoy being with younger children: especially babies or little kids, which is not common in boys with autism.

All of these differences are subtle and haven’t yet been validated through studies, but it seems like girls with autism are more interested in social interactions than boys with this disorder, and they are usually less aggressive and ignore what they don’t like rather than acting out and yelling.

While we don’t have a lot of information, we know a few things for sure: more studies about Autism Spectrum Disorders in girls and women need to be conducted so we can find out if there are diagnostic differences between boys and girls with autism.