Shifting Demographics: Autism Rates in Girls on the Rise

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that the autism rate in girls has surpassed 1 percent, the highest ever recorded. This is a significant increase since the 1940s when autism was first studied, and girls with autism were often identified as having intellectual disabilities. Despite this, girls with autism are still more likely to be missed or misdiagnosed than boys.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social and communication difficulties as well as repetitive behaviors. It has long been associated with boys, but over the past decade, the proportion of girls diagnosed with it has grown. More adult women like Dr. Morénike Giwa Onaiwu are also being diagnosed, raising questions about how many young girls continue to be missed or misdiagnosed.

As behavior analysts, it is crucial to understand the early signs of autism in girls and to help identify them as soon as possible. Early identification and intervention are key to improving outcomes for children with autism.

In girls, autism can manifest differently than in boys, making it more difficult to identify. Girls with autism are more likely to camouflage their social challenges, sometimes by mimicking the behaviors of the girls around them. This makes it harder for parents, caregivers, and clinicians to recognize early signs of autism.

ABA therapy can help identify early signs of autism in girls. ABA therapists can use behavioral assessments to evaluate a child’s social, communication, and behavioral skills. These assessments can identify early signs of autism, such as not responding to their name, avoiding eye contact, not talking much, or playing on their own.

ABA therapy can also help teach social and communication skills to children with autism. ABA therapists can use evidence-based interventions to teach children with autism how to communicate their needs, make friends, and interact appropriately with others.

As the demographics of autism shift, with more girls and nonwhite children being diagnosed, it is important for behavior analysts to stay informed about the latest research and intervention strategies. With early identification and effective intervention, children with autism can improve their social, communication, and behavioral skills and lead fulfilling lives.