Yale researchers study autism in girls

New Haven, Conn. — A group of researchers from Yale are conducting a clinical study aimed at getting a closer look at autism in young girls.

Autism in girls are considered extremely rare and symptoms do not usually manifest in the same way they do in young boys. Because of this, the developmental condition is often left undiagnosed in girls until a later age— which is problematic since early intervention is important in helping children with autism reach their full potential.

This is why the researchers, headed by Pamela Ventola, started the study — citing that it is important to find out whether autism in girls are in fact the same in boys— to help understand whether or not the treatments being used on boys are just as effective in girls.

The Yale Child Study Center researchers are now in the process of recruiting young girls with autism in the New York and Connecticut areas to take part in the three-year study.

According to Autism Speaks Medical Research Head Dr. Paul Wang, the researchers’ study is the only known study of its kind that’s being conducted as of the moment. He told:

“We absolutely need to know if the treatments work for girls, not just boys, or whether we’re just wasting the girls’ time. We want to be confident that we’re providing the right treatment for girls.”

According to Ventola, there is a lack in the study of autism in girls due to the fact that the condition appears to be very rare in females, and scientists often experience a hard time trying to find young girls living with the disorder. She told:

“Until now, girls have largely been excluded from research because it’s hard to recruit a meaningful sample of girls.”

Ventola and her team hopes to recruit 24 families— and has so far found five who agreed to enlist.

The researchers also hope to observe if young girls with autism have the same response to treatments and social signals as young boys with autism. They are also keen to find out whether or not there is a genetic difference among the children, and if supplements of oxytocin— a hormone which is known to have an effect on feelings of attachment and social bonding— can be an effective treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder.

The clinical study, which is partly funded by Yale’s Women’s Health Research, will also involve the parents of the girls of autism.

Families of the girls involved in the study will be taught a number of the therapies, to help continue the process even when the young girls are at home.

Source: courant.com: At Yale, A Unique Effort To Study Autism In Girls