By Holly Lebowitz Rossi

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Something seems to protect girls from developing ASD and other developmental disorders. That "something" could be hormone levels in utero, epigenetic factors that turn autism susceptibility genes "on" and "off" during development, or the fact that young girls have in general better social skills than boys and so need a bigger "dose" of what causes ASD to cross that threshold to being impaired. It is also possible that a proportion of girls with mild autistic traits lose those traits early on and so escape detection by 8 years of age (the age of the children in the CDC study).

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Better understanding of the gender differences in ASD will lead to more effective early interventions for girls, Szatmari says.

Image: Shy girl, via Shutterstock.

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