The Whys of Gender Disparities in Autism


1 in 40 children are diagnosed with autism (ASD), but research tells us that females are less likely to be diagnosed than males (1 in 189 vs 1 in 42). In recent years, scientists have begun to ask why this disparity exists. Is it genetic? Does autism present differently in females? Do females “mask” their symptoms more than their male counterparts? And if so, why?

As researchers set out to determine why the rates of ASD differ in males and females, they find themselves grappling with additional questions: are the tools used to diagnose autism more sensitive to symptoms in males? If the diagnostic tools miss the symptoms of autism in females, how can researchers enroll proportionate numbers of females into studies to determine if in fact autism occurs at different rates? 

While science grapples with these questions, The Center for Autism Research’s Medical Director, Dr. Susan Levy, stresses the importance of universal autism screening for toddlers and “having primary care physicians and non-autism physicians, comfortable in making a diagnosis, or suggesting a diagnosis may be probable” as the necessary first steps towards a more complete understanding of autism. 

The Center for Autism Research has many ongoing studies and is looking for self-advocates of all ages and their families to help us advance the science of autism. For those interested in participating, visit the Enrollment page on CAR’s website for more information.