Girls Different Autism Symptoms Lead to Later Diagnosis


Autism is thought to be far more prevalent in boys than it is in girls. Boys are diagnosed as being on the spectrum earlier and more often than girls. It is believed that boys have ASD four times as often as girls, but the gap might not be as wide as people think.

Notable Differences in a Diverse Disorder

Autism is already a very diverse disorder, and the symptoms and the severity of those symptoms can vary greatly from one child to the next. But there is another more obvious divide that exists between the way autism becomes apparent in girls versus boys. When a study was done comparing the general symptoms of boys with autism and girls with autism it was found that boys were more likely to have more sensory related symptoms such as hand flapping while girls had more trouble reading social cues.

Dr. Paul Lipkin, director of the Interactive Autism Network at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore noted that the social cognition deficiencies that girls are more likely to experience are harder to identify when a child is not in a highly social environment. Because of this, it’s more likely that symptoms won’t be noticed until they are in elementary school.

Girls Diagnosed Later

In general, girls are diagnosed with different disorders on the autistic spectrum later than boys. Pervasive development disorder, which impacts basic skill development is usually diagnosed in girls at age 4, while boys receive their diagnosis at 3.8 years. Asperger’s syndrome is typically identified in girls when they are 7.6 years old, but it is found in boys at 7.1 years.

Many Girls Not Diagnosed at All

Many of the symptoms of autism that are more typical to girls are “quieter” than boys. Things such as hand flapping, rocking, and vocalizing are more likely to draw attention, and even cause a disruption. No one likes to consider the possibility that their child is different than others, especially when those differences mean that their child will need to face obstacles that others do not face. A girl’s symptoms can be interpreted as being quiet and perhaps shy. It is easy to assume that she will grow out of these things, and to think that as long as she isn’t bothering anyone, “what’s the harm?”

But there is harm. Any of the symptoms on the autism spectrum can reduce a person’s quality of life. Getting an early diagnosis and becoming involved with a treatment plan as soon as possible is just as important for girls as it is for boys.

At Reaching Milestones, our applied behavior analysis is designed to see all the individual symptoms a child has from a behavior-analytic perspective, and our treatment program looks at each one individually as it applies to that specific child. The United States Surgeon General endorses these types of programs exclusively for children with autism. Many children have made great improvements in their quality of life by learning these methods, and in turn are able to lead more satisfying and independent lives as adults. Reaching Milestones operates in several locations in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.