WEDNESDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- With four to five times more males affected by autism spectrum disorders than females, much less is known about girls with autism.
Fortunately, more research is beginning to focus on autism in girls, said Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of Autism Speaks, with two such studies set to be presented Saturday at the International Meeting for Autism Research in San Sebastian, Spain.
"Autism affects boys much more frequently than girls. But, we may be missing some girls. The diagnostic criteria were developed using symptoms in boys, and symptoms in girls and boys may be different," Dawson explained.
"Because of this difference in incidence, researchers may end up with a small number of girls in studies," she said, adding that differences in symptoms or reactions to treatments may lead to the girls' data being excluded from studies. But, it's just those differences that may really need to be researched, to make sure girls are being diagnosed and treated correctly.
"Other neuropsychiatric disorders have already made the discovery that symptoms can be different in girls and may require different treatments for girls," said Dawson, who is also a research professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. One such example is attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Girls tend to be less hyperactive than boys, and may instead appear as if they're daydreaming.
In the latest autism research, the first study compared visual scanning patterns in boys and girls with autism spectrum disorders. Scanning patterns were also collected for typically developing children.
"We used eye-tracking technology while the participants in these studies watched videotapes of social scenes that presented naturalistic stimuli," said study co-author Ami Klin, director of the Marcus Autism Center, in Atlanta.
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