Autism is a development disorder and refers to a range of conditions characterized by repetitive and restrictive behavior, and challenges with social skills and communication. More specifically, it is called the Autism spectrum disorder to reflect the range of symptoms people with ASD may face. The most obvious signs of autism appear when a child is two or three years old. Although the exact causes of ASD remain unknown, specialists says that both genetic and environmental influences are at play. More males than females are usually diagnosed with ASD. Let’s see why there is such a relationship between gender and autism.
Why do more men get diagnosed as autistic?
Various researches suggest that diagnosis rates for men and women range from 2:1 to 16:1. However, the common view is that for every 4 males diagnosed with ASD, 1 female is diagnosed with ASD i.e. a ratio of 4:1. In essence, more boys and men are likely to get an autism diagnosis than girls and women.
There are certain theories that may explain this split. First of all, there could be an under diagnosis in girls and women because the assessment tools need to be modified according to the female autism phenotype.
What this means is that women exhibit different autistic behaviours compared to men. The testing standards are set according to behaviours of men. This needs to be changed.
Another theory suggests that the incidence of autism is more common in men than women because of the effects of fetal testosterone on brain development. This differentiates against women because women don’t have testosterone. Some researchers also say that there is a genetic difference between girls and boys that makes boys more prone to autism.
There could also be social reasons behind the under diagnosis of autism in girls and women. For instance, teachers tend to under report autism traits in girls. This could be because there is still a stigma attached to mental diseases in certain parts of the world so people tend to conceal it.
Apart from that, women and girls are better at hiding their difficulties. This prevents an accurate diagnosis.
During most researches done on the autism spectrum disorder, one thing constantly turns up: the gender difference. Biological differences also indicate that men are more prone to autism. Despite that, not a lot of research has been done to find the reasons for disparity.
The 4:1 gender difference is most replicated finding in ASD all over the world. Unearthing the reasons behind the difference could to lead to major breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of ASD.
Accurate and timely diagnosis of ASD in both genders will not only enable researchers to understand the role of gender in autism, but will also help healthcare professions to provide appropriate services especially to the female population.
Gender and sex are different
There is a difference between the gender we are assigned at birth and the gender we choose to identify as in our life. When you are born, you are assigned a gender based on your sex i.e. either male or female.
You can then choose to identify as your sex, or you can choose to identify as the other or none at all. Some people feel they have elements of both genders. This feeling about what gender you are is known as your gender identity. We express these different feelings in how we behave among other things.
The issue that might arise with some people, however, is gender dysphoria. This is when people face issues with their sex and the gender they associate with.
Research has shown that their might be a relationship between autism and gender dysphoria and that autistic people are more prone to gender dysphoria. This can also explain the difficulty in figuring out autism in men and women.
However, not a lot of research has been done on this so nothing can be said definitively. Also, research has to be done to also ascertain why this happens in order to come up with better testing and treatment of such patients.
If more research can prove this connection between gender dysphoria and autism, it can have a huge impact on how we currently test autistic people. There are many problems that autistic people face. If there are some that are going misdiagnosed due to gender dysphoria, it can mean a lot of trouble for them. Hence, research is key.
If you suspect that one of your loved ones is autistic, you should see a specialist to get proper diagnosis and treatment for the healthy development and management of the autistic individual.
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