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Did you know that men are more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder than women?
1 in 42 American boys and 1 in 189 American girls are diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum. Now - with increased awareness, better understanding and a greater ability to talk about our health - these children are more likely to be diagnosed before they reach adulthood.
This was not always the case.
Although Autism was first observed in 1943, previous generations have been less understanding of conditions on the autism spectrum. While more research was undertaken in the 1970s and 80s, parents still confused autism with being psychotic and intellectually disabled.
As a result, many adults today are still undiagnosed.
What is autism?
Autism is a general term for a group of brain disorders. Disorders on the autism spectrum cause difficulties, to varying extent, with communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviours.
At its most severe extent, disorders on the autism spectrum can cause intellectual disability, loss of skills (where skills are learnt by the age of twelve months and then lost), and poor motor skills. Such disorders on the autism spectrum are typically diagnosed before the age of three years old.
However, higher-functioning disorders on the autism spectrum, such as Asperger's Syndrome, may not have such profound and noticeable symptoms. People with Asperger's Syndrome may have poor social skills, focused interests (such as a keen interest in trains, computers, or art), and altered sensitivity sound, touch, taste or smell.
With these symptoms, it's not surprising that many adults with higher-functioning forms of autism have been undiagnosed for many years.
Could my boyfriend have autism?
Does your boyfriend show a strange lack of social skills, an inability to detect that you're not fine when you fold your arms and say - in that low voice - "I'm fine"? Does he say, when you ask "Don't you like my mother", "No, not really", or - when you ask the age-old "Does my bum look big in this" - does he look, before he says, "It's fine"?
Does he know each chord of every song Blink-182 ever released, or the code of every computer game ever made, but have only the vaguest notion of the month in which you have your three-year anniversary?
Does he choose the precise moment when you're unclogging the stopped-up sink - elbow-deep in gunk - to ask why his blue shirt, which he always wears on Wednesdays, is not hanging on the back of the wardrobe, as it should be on Tuesday night?
Is he always asking you to turn down the sound on the TV, because it's too loud, to the point where you need subtitles in order to know what people are saying?
If so, your man is one of the many experiencing undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome. Males make up 90% of Asperger's Syndrome diagnoses.
Britain's leading autism expert, Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen, argues that autism is actually a case of just having an "extreme male brain". This theory is now called the Extreme Male Brain (EMB) theory of autism.