05.07.133:00 PM ET

Autism Affects Boys, Girls Differently

Genetics, social learning are factors.

For every four boys diagnosed with autism, only one girl is diagnosed, and new research is beginning to provide insight into why. Although underdiagnosis in girls may have a hand in producing the numbers, researchers believe that the gender distribution is meaningful. According to a new study out of Yale, being female affords genetic protection against autism, while experimenters at Emory found that autistic boys learn social cues differently than autistic girls do. Emory researcher Ami Klin notes that further research is needed: “We tended to assume that boys and girls [with autism] do the same thing when they adjust to everyday life ... There’s emerging evidence that it’s to the contrary.”