Girls continue to be underdiagnosed and under-researched in the study of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is the result of a systemized preference towards masculine symptomology of ASD examined and created to diagnose ASD. The ideas produced by the research trickle down to teachers who then are in charge of flagging students for signs of ASD, however this step is not only limited by understanding, but their own inherent gender biases on behaviors. Our sample consisted of 139 current or former teachers. Each participant received one of three, (varying from severity levels and gender), rating scale of behavior association, rating scale of levels of concern about behaviors indicated in the vignettes, rating scales of likelihood of follow up on behaviors, modern sexism scale items. For each rating item, a 2 (gender of target: male or female) by 3 (symptom severity: mild, moderate, or severe) ANCOVA was conducted with participants’ scores on the Modern Sexism Scale as a covariate. The results indicated severity biases in perceptions of behaviors as well as in the types of interventions sought out. There was a significant positive correlation between scores on the modern sexism scale and higher likelihood of seeking out disciplinary actions through administration. In addition, there was a significant positive correlation between gender and likelihood of giving referrals for special education, as well as diagnostic services. Future research should continue evaluating how gender and severity biases act independently, as well as together within diagnostic systems of ASD, in addition to racial biases.
Date of publication
Dr. Amy Hayes, Dr. Sarah Sass, Dr. Frank Dykes
Masters in Clinical Psychology
Niederstadt, Kaitlyn, "Sexism and Severity: An Examination of Teacher's Attitudes About Autism Symptomology in the Classroom" (2021). Psychology and Counseling Theses. Paper 15.