Nicolett Zeliat

A new study shows that girls with signs of autism at an early stage have fewer problems with social communication than boys, but in their teens, their skills become worse. Researchers considered the social features of autism in the entire population, and not only in children with autism. Girls have fewer such social problems than boys at the age of 7, but their social skills correspond to boys under the age of 16.

Conclusions can help explain why girls often get an autism diagnosis later than boys.

"There is a group of girls who can not attend clinics aimed at working with social difficulties before adolescence," said lead researcher William Mandy, senior lecturer in clinical psychology at London College.

It is unclear why these difficulties occur during adolescence. Mandy and others say that terms can refer to the increasing complexity of the social environment of girls at this age.

"This can be an example of social needs in adolescence that exceed the potential, especially for women," says Stelios Georgiades, assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, who did not participate. >

However, some experts doubt the relevance of the issue of social problems in adolescent girls.

"I was very surprised by these findings," says Tony Charman, a student of clinical child psychology at King's College London, who did not participate in the study. "It would be much easier to take seriously the probable truthfulness of the assertion about these traits of adolescent girls if you could see that this is repeated on other examples."

Tracking:

Mandy and his colleagues analyzed data from 9,744 children in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children study. The study tracks the development of children born in south-west England between April 1991 and December 1992.

When the children were 7, 10, 13 and 16, their parents filled out a checklist of social communication disorders, which is a diagnostic tool. High scores on this questionnaire indicate possible autism, and help in its early treatment.

The researchers built estimates of each child by age, and then compared the average trajectory of boys with girls. They reported the results on April 19 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

In general, the average score for boys and girls shows a slight decrease from 7 to 10 years and an increase in age from 10 to 16 years. But girls are rated lower than boys at the age of 7, and their average score increases in adolescence.

The same picture persists when researchers limit their analysis to children with the highest level of autism signs, based on their assessments in the control list. Sexual differences do not depend on the level of intelligence.

If children with an autism spectrum disorder follow the same pathways, clinicians may have to evaluate the girls several times to determine the symptoms of autism, says Hyun "Sophie" Kim, associate professor of psychology in clinical psychiatry in medicine Vella Cornell in New York , which did not participate in the study. "Repeated evaluations in adolescence can be important for girls who have subclinical symptoms at an early stage," she says.

Jump points:

The findings lend themselves to Georgiades' unpublished testimony, which indicates that the severity of autism signs increases in some children when they begin to go to school. The results are taken from a Canadian study called Pathways in Autism Spectrum Disorders, in which researchers monitored children under the age of 11.

"Trajectories of social traits are not linear," says Georgiades. "There are potentially important transition points - for example, in the school system at about the age of 6 and in adolescence between the ages of 11 and 12."

However, skeptics say that the apparent increase in signs of autism in adolescent girls may reflect common problems such as anxiety and depression that are more common in girls of this age than boys.

"Social behavior is a complex organism in itself, and it reflects a lot," says Elise Robinson, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard University, who did not participate in the study. "It's hard to guess what changes occur in the spheres of influence when we grow old."

A study conducted by Mandy's team in 2017 contradicts the idea that high levels of anxiety explain new results. This study found that signs of autism predict social anxiety, but not vice versa.

Mandy and his colleagues analyzed data from 9,744 children in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children study. The study tracks the development of children born in south-west England between April 1991 and December 1992.

When the children were 7, 10, 13 and 16, their parents filled out a checklist of social communication disorders, which is a diagnostic tool. High scores on this questionnaire indicate possible autism, and help in its early treatment.

The researchers built estimates of each child by age, and then compared the average trajectory of boys with girls. They reported the results on April 19 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

In general, the average score for boys and girls shows a slight decrease from 7 to 10 years and an increase in age from 10 to 16 years. But girls are rated lower than boys at the age of 7, and their average score increases in adolescence.

The same picture persists when researchers limit their analysis to children with the highest level of autism signs, based on their assessments in the control list. Sexual differences do not depend on the level of intelligence.

If children with an autism spectrum disorder follow the same pathways, clinicians may have to evaluate the girls several times to determine the symptoms of autism, says Hyun "Sophie" Kim, associate professor of psychology in clinical psychiatry in medicine Vella Cornell in New York , which did not participate in the study. "Repeated evaluations in adolescence can be important for girls who have subclinical symptoms at an early stage," she says.

Jump points:

The findings lend themselves to Georgiades' unpublished testimony, which indicates that the severity of autism signs increases in some children when they begin to go to school. The results are taken from a Canadian study called Pathways in Autism Spectrum Disorders, in which researchers monitored children under the age of 11.

"Trajectories of social traits are not linear," says Georgiades. "There are potentially important transition points - for example, in the school system at about the age of 6 and in adolescence between the ages of 11 and 12."

However, skeptics say that the apparent increase in signs of autism in adolescent girls may reflect common problems such as anxiety and depression that are more common in girls of this age than boys.

"Social behavior is a complex organism in itself, and it reflects a lot," says Elise Robinson, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard University, who did not participate in the study. "It's hard to guess what changes occur in the spheres of influence when we grow old."

A study conducted by Mandy's team in 2017 contradicts the idea that high levels of anxiety explain new results. This study found that signs of autism predict social anxiety, but not vice versa.

Mandy and his colleagues plan to study the characteristics of girls without autism, which demonstrate a dramatic increase in social problems of communication in adolescence in order to identify signs of social problems.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Mandy W. et al., J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry Epub before printing (2018) PubMed

Source: www.spectrumnews.org