Image by Beverly & Pack via FlickrGirls with Aspergers have different symptoms than boys. They aren't studied as much because they are much rarer. Girls seem to try to have relationships and want relationships whereas boys don't.
This gender dynamic doesn’t necessarily affect girls with Asperger’s when they are very young; if anything, they often fare better than boys at an early age because they tend to be less disruptive. In 1993, Catherine Lord, a veteran autism researcher, published a study of 21 boys and 21 girls. She found that when the children were between the ages of 3 and 5, parents more frequently described the girls as imitating typical kids and seeking out social contacts. Yet by age 10, none of the girls had reciprocal friendships while some of the boys did. “The girls often have the potential to really develop relationships,’ says Lord, a psychology and psychiatry professor and director of the Autism and Communication Disorders Center at the University of Michigan. “But by middle school, a subset of them is literally dumbstruck by anxiety. They do things like bursting into tears or lashing out in school, which make them very conspicuous. Their behavior really doesn’t jibe with what’s expected of girls. And that makes their lives very hard.”
No doubt part of the problem for autistic girls is the rising level of social interaction that comes in middle school. Girls’ networks become intricate and demanding, and friendships often hinge on attention to feelings and lots of rapid and nuanced communication — in person, by cellphone or Instant Messenger. No matter how much they want to connect, autistic girls are not good at empathy and conversation, and they find themselves locked out, seemingly even more than boys do. At the University of Texas Medical School, Katherine Loveland, a psychiatry professor, recently compared 700 autistic boys and 300 autistic girls and found that while the boys’ “abnormal communications” decreased as I.Q. scores rose, the girls’ did not. “Girls will have more trouble with social networks if they’re having greater difficulty with communication and language,” she says.
And so girls with autism and normal intelligence may end up at a particular disadvantage. In a new study published in May, a group of German researchers compared 23 high-functioning autistic girls with 23 high-functioning boys between the ages of 5 and 20, matching them for age, I.Q. and autism diagnosis. Parents reported more problems for girls involving peer relations, maturity, social independence and attention.
Autism - Mental Health and Disorders - Brain Development - Genetics - Girls - New York Times