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‘Social camouflage’ may lead to underdiagnosis of autism in girls

By Patti Neighmond, Jane Greenhalgh, NPR Digital Media

Many more boys are diagnosed with autism every year than girls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disorder is 4.5 times more common among boys than girls. Boys appear to be more vulnerable to the disorder, but there is some evidence that the gender gap may not be as wide as it appears.

That’s because the symptoms of autism are often less obvious in girls than they are in boys. Girls can be better at blending in, says Dr. Louis Kraus, a psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who specializes in autism.

“Girls tend to want to socialize and be part of a group,” he says, even though it may be awkward. Boys, on the other hand, “tend to be more isolative,” says Kraus.

That makes it more likely that autism in boys is spotted at an earlier age. Girls, on the other hand, may not get diagnosed or may be diagnosed later because their symptoms don’t stand out, Kraus says. This means girls don’t get the early intervention that they need.


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