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Gender Differences During Toddlerhood in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Prospective Community-Based Longitudinal Follow-Up Study

Abstract

Relatively few studies have examined gender differences in infants and toddlers, and most focus on clinically referred samples or high-risk infant cohorts. The current study aimed to examine gender differences in early autism manifestations and cognitive development in a community-ascertained sample. In total, 46 males and 21 females with ASD were seen at approximately 24 and 48 months of age. No significant gender differences were observed on overall cognitive ability, verbal skills, non-verbal skills, overall autism severity, or restricted repetitive behaviours. However, females were found to exhibit more social communication impairments than males. These findings may indicate that female toddlers with less severe or different, social communication impairments may be more likely to be missed during routine surveillance during toddlerhood.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge the Research Focus Area Understanding Disease at La Trobe University for providing a Write-up Award that facilitated the preparation of this manuscript. LPL is funded by the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC). The authors are also extremely grateful to all the study participants and their families for contributing to the project.

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RJ, JB, and CD conceived and designed the study. JB and LPL assisted in the data collection. LPL obtained funding to facilitate the preparation of the manuscript, conducted the data analyses, and drafted the manuscript. RJ, JB, and CD critically revised the manuscript and provided feedback. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Lauren P. Lawson.

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Lawson, L.P., Joshi, R., Barbaro, J. et al. Gender Differences During Toddlerhood in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Prospective Community-Based Longitudinal Follow-Up Study. J Autism Dev Disord 48, 2619–2628 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3516-y

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Gender differences
  • Longitudinal
  • Community based cohort