Scientists around the country are now studying girls with autism as never before.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with autism in America, mostly boys. In fact, the CDC says boys are four times more likely to get the diagnosis than girls.
Researchers at the University of Virginia, George Washington University and other institutions are following children through adolescence into adulthood to understand the differences between how boys and girls present when they have the same diagnosis.
They will be using high-tech brain scans to investigate brain development in each sex. In addition, they will use gene sequencing in hopes of linking gene variations with specific brain abnormalities. And, they will examine response to interventions, as well as attempt to validate their findings based on collaboration with men and women with autism.
The Center for Discovery’s Associate Executive Director, Dr. Theresa Hamlin, says ASD research is critical: “At The Center for Discovery, we are also actively studying autism, especially individuals who have highly complex forms of autism with multiple co-morbidities. Results of one of our ground-breaking research initiatives with Texas Children’s Hospital examining the gut-brain axis is due out this fall. And another ongoing research initiative, the “Lab School,” will have published results next month, which examines the role of stress in the daily lives of the boys and girls with complex conditions like autism.
Most research to date has been done on boys. But, UVA’s Kevin Pelphrey, the Director of the study and an autism dad, worries that diagnostic criteria may exclude some girls who then are not diagnosed and never get needed therapies and treatments. He also hopes the study leads to better understanding of the differences between boys and girls with ASD and ultimately, more targeted support and treatment.
The research is a part of the National Institutes of Health’s Autism Centers of Excellence program.
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