Square Pegs in Round Holes: Investigating How Diagnostic Practices Fail to Identify Females with ASD
About four times as many males than females are diagnosed with ASD. Many researchers suspect this gender difference is partly due to the ability of females with ASD to “camouflage” their symptoms by learning and using basic social skills, and partly because widely-used diagnostic tools were originally developed to be sensitive to the symptom presentation of young males. This proposal is for an enhancement to a funded investigation which involves interviews with girls and women who experience ASD symptoms about their developmental trajectories in school, family, and social situations. This project will add (1) an in-depth, objective observation of autism symptoms as part of administration of the gold-standard diagnostic interview measure; (2) an objective test of social cognition (the ability to understand meaning from others); and (3) measures of distress and dysfunction. Information from these measures will allow us to quantify the degree of camouflaging on top of underlying social skills deficits. Data will be valuable for modifying standard assessment tools to be more sensitive to females and more likely to lead to an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.