A new study from researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine found that boys and girls who are diagnosed with autism behave in different ways.
Girls with autism do not always exhibit restrictive or repetitive behaviors. Restrictive behavior includes absolute focus, repetitive motions and strict adherence to rules, according to Inquisitr.
According to PsychCentral, the study also found that brain differences between girls and boys with autism help explain behavioral differences. The study also might explain why autism is detected less in girls than in boys.
“We wanted to know which specific clinical manifestations of autism show significant gender differences, and whether patterns in the brain’s gray matter could explain behavioral differences,” Vinod Menon, one of the study’s authors, said.
For the study, published in Molecular Autism, researchers observed symptoms severity data of a study containing 128 autistic girls and 614 autistic boys. Both groups were similar in age and IQ.
Researchers also evaluated symptom severity and structural imaging data of another study involving 25 autistic boys and 25 autistic girls along with 19 boys and 19 girls without the disorder.
The second study revealed several differences between boys and girls when referring to brain structure in developing children. The research also displayed that girls and boys with autism had a “dissimilar set of gender differences, especially in the motor cortex of the brain.”
Furthermore, the researchers discovered that girls with autism were closer to the “normal” range when it came to restrictive and repetitive behaviors.
“[The findings of the study] raise the possibility that girls with less prominent repetitive and restrictive behaviors may miss being tested for autism or get mis-classified as social communication disorder. 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 neuro-developmental disorders,” the lead author of the study Kaustubh Supekar said.
The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that approximately one in 68 children have autism or autism spectrum disorders. And the disorder is nearly five times more likely to be identified in boys than in girls.
The information from this new study may help healthcare officials think again before diagnosing boys with autism and before failing to test girls for the disorder.