Autism in men and women: is there a difference?
Man among people
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is more often diagnosed in boys
Men and boys are diagnosed with this diagnosis about four times more often than girls and women. Researchers explain this in different ways. Some believe that the reason is only in the features of the diagnosis. Others suggest that men are indeed more prone to these disorders than women.
Differences in the development of motor and communication skills
In one study, scientists examined gender differences in the manifestation of autism symptoms and the development of autistic children. Researchers observed children diagnosed with ASD between the ages of 17 and 37 months.
It turned out that the severity of symptoms in general does not depend on gender, but girls have more severe motor impairment compared to boys and less communicative skills.
There are fewer women among patients diagnosed with ASD and high IQ (IQ). Perhaps the fact is that high intelligence allows autistic women to develop effective behavioral strategies that allow them to better adapt to life and more effectively hide symptoms, which is why they are not diagnosed with ASD.
Even among patients with average intelligence, women are often more successful in social interaction. Perhaps the reason is that they are better able to imitate others and thus acquire social skills, even if these skills do not develop on their own.
Limited interests and recurring activities
According to one theory, girls and women with ASD are less likely to have limited interests and repetitive actions. According to another theory, these symptoms simply appear differently in them.
Perhaps people around simply do not pay attention to the repetitive actions of autistic girls, since they do not go far beyond socially acceptable behavior. For example, a girl with ASD may “pick up” the skin around her nails or scratch her face constantly.
Sometimes autistic girls and women follow certain rituals – for example, make up a huge number of lists or follow a strictly defined routine.
Limited interests and repetitive actions are usually more pronounced and dramatic in men with ASD.
If a girl, while playing, arranges objects in a certain order, but from the outside it seems that she plays role-playing games with dolls, those around her may not see anything unusual, although this can be very different from the behavior of their peers. In fact, she simply arranges dolls in rows or certain figures, and does not play roles with them.
If a girl or woman has a limited range of interests, but these interests are considered acceptable, they may not be considered symptoms of ASD. For example, if a woman is actively interested in psychology and self-help books, those around her may not see anything strange in this, despite the fact that she has no other interests.
Limited interests and repetitive actions are usually more pronounced and sharply manifested in men with ASD, and similar symptoms in women often go unnoticed for a long time, and it happens that for years they cannot receive the correct diagnosis and the necessary support and therapy.