In the United States, one in every 68 school children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and according to the CDC, it's 4.5 times more prevalent among boys than girls.
Surprisingly, this overtipped ratio can also be seen in other parts of the world. In Australia, around three-quarters of all confirmed patients are male children, while in the United Kingdom, the ratio of boys to girls in the National Autistic Society's charity schools was at 5:1 in the year 2015.
According to a research involving specialists, these figures are unfortunately caused by misdiagnosis, as young ASD patients exhibit less obvious signs of autism, especially at an early age. They are quite expressive and interactive, making it difficult for teachers to identify them for clinical evaluation.
Though this sounds like good news for girls with ASD, not being diagnosed early will actually lead to serious mental health issues as they grow into adolescence.
A report states that by then, they'll find it difficult to adjust to complex social settings, and their reactions can be mistaken for symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or eating disorders such as anorexia.
Understanding Sex Differences In Autism
Scientists have long believed that brains of male and female patients possess physical differences, but they've just started exploring sex differences in ASD during these recent years.
Through brain imaging, they discovered that brains of girls with autism have less disruption in the area in charge of processing social stimulus.
According to Kevin Pelphrey, child psychologist and director of George Washington University's Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute, this means that female ASD patients have a better comprehension of social expectations, though it stresses them out that they can't meet these standards.
Early Detection Of ASD In Children
The onset of autism's first symptoms varies from one child to another, says Autism Speaks. Some cases can be apparent as early as the child's first few months, but others can also begin to suffer from the disorder only after they have reached two years of age.
A child may have autism when, at six months, he or she does not respond to other people with warm or happy expressions and does not maintain any eye contact.
Most red flags can be observed during the first year. Parents must look out for the lack of babbling, as well as hand gestures for communicating. The child may not also be capable of responding when called by his or her name.
Pay attention to the way a child talks. Another sign is if, at 16 months, a toddler is still not capable of forming words or two-word phrases.
Nonetheless, whether these symptoms of autism are present or not, the best measure for early detection is to always have a child undergo screening at 18 and 24 months.
This 2018, the World Autism Awareness Day focuses on empowering female ASD patients, both young and old. Evaluation tests are being developed particularly for diagnosing girls. Besides this, the United Nations has also adopted resolutions fighting for the rights of females with disabilities.