Why Is Autism Underdiagnosed in Girls? The Reason Is Sorta Sexist

Autism is generally thought of as a “male” disorder — it’s diagnosed in boys at nearly five times the rate of girls. But, according to a new story from NPR, gender bias may play a huge role in how autism is diagnosed in girls: some girls display different symptoms of autism than boys do, making the disorder less recognizable to doctors, delaying diagnosis and treatment.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, which also includes Asperger’s syndrome, is most often diagnosed early in childhood, when differences in social behaviors — such as difficulty making connections, engaging in repetitive actions, or nonverbal communication — begin to emerge. A parent may notice that their child doesn’t make eye contact as much as their peers do, or that they focus intensely on one activity to the exclusion of all else. Some people with autism are more high functioning, and have a quality of life similar to their peers who aren’t autistic; others may need more intervention and hands-on care.

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