We do know that there are four times as many boys with autism than girls, but is that increased number due to boys being more predisposed to having autism or girls being under-diagnosed?
Current theories lean to girls wanting to be more social and will try to be part of a group even if it is awkward. Boys on the other hand tend to be more isolative. These natural tendencies make it more likely that a boy with autism will be diagnosed earlier than a girl and this early diagnosis may be beneficial in the long run.
Girls are also more adept at “social camouflage”. Social camouflage is defined as using specific techniques to appear socially competent and finding ways to prevent others from seeing their social difficulties. Girls with autism observed interacting in a group were noted to be close enough to look socially connected but there were no meaningful conversations or exchanges. They were hovering around the perimeter of the social exchange while boys with autism were noted to be far away from the group.
Girls with autism were also noted to behave more appropriately and were quieter while boys exhibited more compulsive behavior. Preliminary findings suggest there are differences in the brains of girls and boys with autism. Brain imaging shows that girls with autism seem to have less of a disruption in the area of the brain that processes social information and may be more likely to understand social expectations, even if they can’t fully meet them.
A late diagnosis of autism is a setback for any child. The PDQ-1 questionnaire developed at Rutgers University may help to diagnose a child as young as 18 months in as little as two minutes and the earlier the diagnosis and intervention the better the outcome.