Autism in girls


by Rumbold
23rd February, 2010 at 8:18 pm    

The Independent reports that autism, traditonally seen as a much more male condition, might be more common in girls than previously realised:

Autism is an overwhelmingly male diagnosis – it has been described as the “extreme male brain”. Boys with the diagnosis outnumber girls by between 10 and 15 to one…

But in the developing story of autism – interest in which has increased hugely in the last decade – girls have been neglected. That omission will be remedied this week with the first conference on autistic spectrum disorders in women and girls. One aim will be to examine whether the condition has been underdiagnosed in females – and what links there may be with eating disorders.

According to Janet Treasure, professor of psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, around a fifth of girls diagnosed with anorexia have autistic spectrum features and 20 to 30 per cent may have exhibited rigidity and perfectionism in childhood. Anorexia has been called the female Asperger’s (the mild version of autism).


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  1. Yakoub — on 23rd February, 2010 at 8:40 pm  

    (1) There is no such thing as “autistic spectrum features” – autism is a WHO recognised diagnosis, the most reliably diagnosed developmental disorder, and you’ve either got it or you aint, and (2) Asperger Syndrome is NOT, I repeat NOT, “mild” autism. It’s a serious and disabling condition, and the unemployment rate for people diagnosed with Asperger is over 90%.

  2. Katy Newton — on 23rd February, 2010 at 9:35 pm  

    There is a group of psychological disorders which are sometimes called autistic spectrum disorders or ASD, but that relates to different types of social/psychological disability that are similar to autism, rather than a sliding scale from less serious to more serious. Aspergers is similar to autism in some respects but is not the same thing, and although someone may appear to be very mildly affected by it, in the sense that they don’t seem obviously “off” in social situations, or not unusually so, it has very deep roots and, as Yakoub says, can make it incredibly hard for that person to function in society. My cousin has Aspergers, and is considered to be only mildly affected by it, which frequently leads me question the definition of “mild”.

    I’m very interested in the idea that in girls it’s linked to eating disorders. I’ve known a few girls who suffered from eating disorders and looking back I suppose they might have had ASDs. But then they were almost certainly very depressed and/or dealing with serious trauma of one sort or another, so who knows? These things are still very poorly understood. I often wonder whether Aspergers, for example, is a disorder or just an extreme end of the spectrum of human behaviour, and where you draw the line.

  3. WestEndGirl — on 23rd February, 2010 at 11:17 pm  

    All the males down my Father’s side of the family display distinct Asperger’s syndrome and indeed the youngest male (now 3) has recently been diagnosed as autistic. And all the women descended from these men have suffered eating disorders, particularly anorexia but also bulimia and associated perfectionism, rigidity, problems with socialising, learning by mimicry etc.
    So I have absolutely no problem in believing the findings from King’s College. Hopefully it will be a lot better for our next generation if more research is done in this area.

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