Brown researchers find delays in diagnoses for girls with autism

PROVIDENCE – A recently published study by Brown University has found that girls with autism tend to receive a diagnosis about a year and a half after most boys with the condition.

Researchers also found that autism is more likely to affect boys than girls, and that people with autism often have accompanying psychiatric or medical conditions.

The study was published in Autism Research on Jan. 20, according to Brown. More than 20% of people with autism, from about age 1 to 64, in the state were enrolled as participants. About 78% of the group was male.

The study’s authors, Stephen Sheinkopf and Dr. Eric Morrow, worked with the first 1,000 participants in the Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research and Treatment. Female participants’ language skills tended to be more advanced than those of boys, likely leading to later diagnoses for girls, they said, noting that speech delays are often one of the first indicators of autism.

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On average, the research team found, boys were diagnosed around 5½ years of age, while girls were diagnosed at around 7 years old.

Delays in diagnosing the condition can be significant, Morrow said, because it can impact the success rate of treatments such as intensive therapy.

Study participants also reported a range of other disorders, including attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder, intellectual disability, psychiatric disorders, or neurological problems such as seizures or migraines, along with other conditions.

The Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research is a partnership between Brown researchers, Bradley Hospital and Women & Infants Hospital. Its broad base includes a number of other sites that serve those with autism across the state.

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