However, the autistic disorder seems to be more prevalent in boys than in girls. According to a team of researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, this is because there are certain differences in some parts of the brain between boys and girls who suffer from it.
The results of the study suggest that a potential factor could contribute to the smaller number of females that are diagnosed with autism, according to lead study author Kaustubh Supekar, who is a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University.
He added that people who suffer from this condition display restrictive and repetitive behavioral patterns, which usually are the first signs that something is wrong and prompt the physician to check if the child has the disorder.
The researchers’ analysis shows that it is possible girls who exhibit less intense behaviors might not be diagnosed with autism.
“On the other hand, boys with more pronounced repetitive and restrictive behaviors may show more false positives for autism spectrum disorders, given that repetitive and restricted behaviors are not specific to children with autism and are also observed in other neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Supekar.
In order to reach these conclusions, the researchers looked at the symptoms 614 boys and 128 girls that had been diagnosed with autism had. Their ages varied between 7 to 13 and their IQ was above 70.
Then they compared some of their MRI scans with those of children without autism. They realized that girls suffering from autism had less serious repetitive behaviors than their male counterparts, even if their difficulties to communicate were very similar.
The scans also revealed there were differences in various parts of the brain between boys and girls diagnosed with autism. However, these differences did not exist between the healthy children involved in the study.
The research might have a significant impact on the differentiated treatment for boys and girls suffering from this disorder, according to Mayra Mendez, who is a program coordinator for the developmental and intellectual disabilities and mental health services, working at the Providence St. John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica.
From now on, treatment for girls should focus on developing behavior skills to support social communication and interaction. At the same time, boys’ treatment should aim to reduce the repetitive behavior patterns.
Nevertheless, given that the sample size was very small, further research should be carried out.
The results of the study were published in the online journal Molecular Autism on September 3.
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