Autism may be harder to detect in girls

Recent study finds girls may exhibit different traits than boys


A recent study found autism spectrum disorder may affect girls differently than boys. Dr. Tom Frazier treats children with autism at Cleveland Clinic Children's and led the study, which he says is the largest of it's kind. He says one of the most important findings is that girls with high-functioning autism may be more difficult to identify because they have less restriction of their interests.

"In girls it seems like their restricted interests are not quite as easy to detect. So a girl may have a more age-appropriate interest in dolls, but they only want to talk about certain dolls,"  Frazier explained. "And that makes it harder for clinicians to pick up."

Frazier says boys with autism typically have restricted interests.  He says they will often only want to talk about one thing-like dinosaurs or trains. But the results of this study show the problem is less frequent in girls, which can make it harder to detect. Frazier says the findings could lead to the development of new ways or a new approach to diagnosing girls with autism.

"And in these females because they have less restriction of interest it may be that we're under identifying them. That we're not picking them up appropriately and in reality we may have to redesign some of our measures and our diagnostic tools so that we can better capture females with autism," said Frazier.

Frazier says the goal would be to identify girls with autism earlier, which will lead to earlier and more tailored treatments.