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      Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) scores in males and females diagnosed with autism: a naturalistic study

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          Many tools are available for assessing autism in an adult population; however, few have been studied for the effects of gender on diagnostic scores. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) assessment for gender bias in a clinical population, specifically whether the ADOS favours a “male-type” of autism.


          The ADOS scores of patients referred to an NHS specialist autism assessment service were retrospectively examined for significant gender differences. The combined ADOS scores and diagnostic outcome were grouped by gender for each participant. The data were analysed in SPSS using independent t-tests to look for significant gender differences between combined ADOS scores and diagnostic outcomes.


          A significant difference was observed in the mean combined ADOS scores for those participants who later received an autism diagnosis (male=10, female=6, t (13)=3.34, p=10; 0.005). However, no significant difference was observed between mean scores of those who did not receive an autism diagnosis ( t (26)=1.21, p=0.237).


          The ADOS is a popular assessment used for autism diagnosis. These results provide support for a male gender bias. This could have clinical implications for autism assessment services, whereby lower diagnostic thresholds could be considered for female patients. This could allow more females with autism to receive a diagnosis, and access support services.

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          Most cited references 21

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          Is Open Access

          Subgrouping the Autism “Spectrum": Reflections on DSM-5

          DSM-5 has moved autism from the level of subgroups (“apples and oranges") to the prototypical level (“fruit"). But making progress in research, and ultimately improving clinical practice, will require identifying subgroups within the autism spectrum.
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            Sex differences in autism spectrum disorder: an examination of developmental functioning, autistic symptoms, and coexisting behavior problems in toddlers.

            Little is known about the female presentation of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during early childhood. We investigated sex differences in developmental profiles using the Mullen Scales of Early Learning, autistic symptoms on the ADOS-G, and coexisting behavior problems on the CBCL in 157 boys and 42 girls with ASD aged 1.5-3.9 years. Overall, boys and girls evidenced a markedly similar pattern of developmental profiles, autism symptoms, and coexisting behavior problems, although subtle differences exist. Boys and girls evidenced a similar pattern of developmental strengths and weaknesses. Girls with ASD evidenced greater communication deficits than boys and boys evidenced more restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped behavior than girls. Girls exhibited more sleep problems and anxious or depressed affect than boys.
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              Is Open Access

              An investigation of the ‘female camouflage effect’ in autism using a computerized ADOS-2 and a test of sex/gender differences

              Background Autism spectrum conditions (autism) are diagnosed more frequently in boys than in girls. Females with autism may have been under-identified due to not only a male-biased understanding of autism but also females’ camouflaging. The study describes a new technique that allows automated coding of non-verbal mode of communication (gestures) and offers the possibility of objective, evaluation of gestures, independent of human judgment. The EyesWeb software platform and the Kinect sensor during two demonstration activities of ADOS-2 (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition) were used. Methods The study group consisted of 33 high-functioning Polish girls and boys with formal diagnosis of autism or Asperger syndrome aged 5–10, with fluent speech, IQ average and above and their parents (girls with autism, n = 16; boys with autism, n = 17). All children were assessed during two demonstration activities of Module 3 of ADOS-2, administered in Polish, and coded using Polish codes. Children were also assessed with Polish versions of the Eyes and Faces Tests. Parents provided information on the author-reviewed Polish research translation of SCQ (Social Communication Questionnaire, Current and Lifetime) and Polish version of AQ Child (Autism Spectrum Quotient, Child). Results Girls with autism tended to use gestures more vividly as compared to boys with autism during two demonstration activities of ADOS-2. Girls with autism made significantly more mistakes than boys with autism on the Faces Test. All children with autism had high scores in AQ Child, which confirmed the presence of autistic traits in this group. The current communication skills of boys with autism reported by parents in SCQ were significantly better than those of girls with autism. However, both girls with autism and boys with autism improved in the social and communication abilities over the lifetime. The number of stereotypic behaviours in boys significantly decreased over life whereas it remained at a comparable level in girls with autism. Conclusions High-functioning females with autism might present better on non-verbal (gestures) mode of communication than boys with autism. It may camouflage other diagnostic features. It poses risk of under-diagnosis or not receiving the appropriate diagnosis for this population. Further research is required to examine this phenomenon so appropriate gender revisions to the diagnostic assessments might be implemented.

                Author and article information

                Advances in Autism
                Emerald Publishing Limited
                03 April 2018
                : 4
                : 2
                : 49-55
                Adult ADHD and Autism Service, South West Yorkshire NHS Foundation Trust, Wakefield, UK
                University of Huddersfield , Huddersfield, UK
                Autism Service, South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Wakefield, UK
                Author notes
                Marios Adamou is the corresponding author and can be contacted at:
                608295 AIA-01-2018-0003.pdf AIA-01-2018-0003
                © Emerald Publishing Limited
                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 43, Pages: 7, Words: 3332
                research-article, Research paper
                cat-HSC, Health & social care
                cat-LID, Learning & intellectual disabilities
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