Autism in females research
New Evidence Highlights a Serious Flaw in Our Perception of Autism

Autism diagnosis in females may have been greatly underestimated, according to recent findings. A study on mice revealed that both male and female brains may have a similar susceptibility to Autism, contradicting previous beliefs that Autism is a primarily male disorder. The traditional diagnostic criteria for Autism have been based on male presentations. Since males were more likely to be diagnosed with Autism, it was assumed that the females were less prone to the disorder.

However, experts had raised concerns that this male-centric approach to diagnosis stating that it could be the reason many females are excluded from receiving the proper Autism diagnosis in their early years.

The cause of Autism -Autism in Girls & Boys

The cause of Autism is unknown, but research is now centered around the impact of synaptic impairment on the development of this complex neurodevelopmental disorder. In simpler terms, scientists are exploring how changes in neural connections may contribute to the symptoms and behaviors associated with Autism. To do so, they are studying two well-established mouse models containing human-based mutations that mimic Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The Autism mouse model Research

The scientists conducted a comprehensive analysis of social behaviors, brain maturation, and protein levels related to synaptic signaling in their mouse subjects. Through comparison with mice without the identified mutations, it was observed that the model mice displayed reduced spine density – meaning less dendritic protrusions from their neurons – as well as decreased levels of important signaling proteins. In other words, the study revealed potential indicators of abnormal synaptic function in these mice models of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Another significant finding of this research was that there appeared to be no gender differences in these synaptic impairments and related social behaviors. This challenges the long-held belief that a “female protective effect” may be responsible for girls being less likely to exhibit autistic traits.

Some theories to explain why girls get diagnosed too late is that girls may require a higher number of mutations to display symptoms, making them biologically more resilient to Autism.

Autism in Girls

Other researchers have also proposed that females have greater internalized disorders compared to males, leading to their symptoms being overlooked or misinterpreted. An example offered is boys with Autism are more likely to isolate themselves, while girls may appear to socialize normally at first, but their unique differences become apparent over time and can lead to difficulties in maintaining long-term relationships.

The latter theory on camouflage is actually backed by the findings of Tripathi and his team. The researchers propose that girls are susceptible to Autism just as much as boys, but they tend to mask or what they refer to as “camouflage” their autistic characteristics more effectively. The problem is this has been largely overlooked and not thoroughly researched in the past, leading to a lack of understanding of Autism in Girls.

Autism Treatment & Awareness

The results of these studies highlight the need for a more gender-inclusive approach to Autism treatment. Illinois Autism Center is a leading organization in spreading awareness and providing behavioral services for Autistic children, regardless of their gender. Learn more about our services here.