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    • The art of camouflage: gender differences in the social behaviors of girls and boys with autism spectrum disorder

Publication date:
  • 2017
    • 2017, Vol. 21(6), pp. 678–689
  • This study examined the extent to which gender-related social behaviours help girls with autism spectrum disorder to seemingly mask their symptoms. Using concurrent mixed methods, we examined the social behaviours of 96 elementary school children during recess (autism spectrum disorder = 24 girls and 24 boys, typically developing = 24 girls and 24 boys). Children with autism spectrum disorder had average intelligence (IQ ⩾ 70), a confirmed diagnosis, and were educated in the general education classroom. Typically developing children were matched by sex, age, and city of residence to children with autism spectrum disorder. The results indicate that the female social landscape supports the camouflage hypothesis; girls with autism spectrum disorder used compensatory behaviours, such as staying in close proximately to peers and weaving in and out of activities, which appeared to mask their social challenges. Comparatively, the male landscape made it easier to detect the social challenges of boys with autism spectrum disorder. Typically developing boys tended to play organised games; boys with autism spectrum disorder tended to play alone. The results highlight a male bias in our perception of autism spectrum disorder. If practitioners look for social isolation on the playground when identifying children with social challenges, then our findings suggest that girls with autism spectrum disorder will continue to be left unidentified.
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Peer Review:
    • Library
    • Journal Collection
NAS staff access:
    • Michelle Dean, California State University Channel Islands, 2602 Madera Hall, One University Drive, Los Angeles, CA 93012, USA; email: michelle.dean@csuci.edu