Understanding How Autism Affects Boys And Girls In Different Ways

Understanding How Autism Affects Boys And Girls In Different Ways

Autism, a complex neurodevelopmental disorder, affects individuals across genders, presenting a spectrum of symptoms and challenges. A recent study published in  The British Journal of Psychiatry suggests that autism may impact males and females differently, shedding light on the nuanced nature of this condition. In this blog, let's delve into the study's findings that challenge conventional beliefs and highlight the importance of recognising autism gender differences.

Autism & Challenging Traditions

Autism is characterised by a spectrum of symptoms and challenges. It affects communication, social interaction, and behaviour in individuals. More importantly, autism is not confined to a specific gender; however, the expression of symptoms can vary widely. Traditionally, the understanding of autism suggested a uniform manifestation in both boys and girls.

Study At Stanford University School

The study   was led by Dr Kaustubh Supekar, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences from Stanford University School of Medicine. It involved 773 autistic children, 637 boys and 136 girls. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) was utilised to analyse brain scans, revealing distinct differences in brain organisation between genders. fMRI detects tiny blood flow changes related to brain activity, helping identify which brain areas manage important functions. An 86% accuracy rate algorithm successfully distinguished between boys and girls with autism. 

Autism In Males Vs. Females

After examining 976 brain scans from typically developing boys and girls, the researchers discovered that the algorithm couldn't distinguish between them. This confirmed that the gender differences identified were specific to autism. Autistic girls and boys differ in several brain centres, namely motor, language, and visuospatial attention centres. As a result, girls with the most similar brain patterns to autistic boys had the most pronounced motor symptoms. Additionally, the study  identified distinctions in language areas between boys and girls.

Significant Findings

These findings carry significance because girls often experience delays in diagnosis due to factors like camouflaging and a distinct display of symptoms compared to boys. These delays, in turn, result in delayed treatment. Research consistently emphasises the substantial positive impact of early intervention on a child's well-being.

Currently, most autism research predominantly focuses on males, leading to biases in both diagnosis and treatment. This study   underscores the crucial necessity for improved diagnostic tools, especially in screening girls. The identified differences in brain areas related to autism symptoms emphasise the need for tailored tests specifically designed for females in diagnosing autism.  This research challenges conventional beliefs about autism and emphasises the importance of understanding gender differences. Recognising these differences can lead to more tailored interventions, ultimately influencing diagnosis, treatment, and support strategies. 


In conclusion, the journey to understanding autism has taken a significant step forward with the revelation of gender differences in brain organisation. The implications for diagnosis, treatment, and support are substantial. As we advocate for continued research in this area, we envision a future where individuals with autism receive personalised care, recognising and embracing the unique ways in which autism manifests in different genders.

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Dr. Arati Soman

Dr. Arati Soman is a seasoned Ayurvedic physician and Head Formulator at Nisarga Herbs. Driven by a deep passion for Ayurveda and vast expertise, she has been instrumental in formulating medicines, diagnostic procedures, and innovative Ayurvedic treatments that are trusted globally.