5.7% of Parents Say Their Child with Autism Struggles with Gender Identity, Survey Finds

Recent studies have suggested that people on the autism spectrum are more apt to be impacted by gender dysphoria than their neurotypical peers. A new survey from an autism publication has found similar results.

Autism Parenting Magazine recently sent out a survey to more than 160,000 of its subscribers throughout the world to see how gender identity and autism may overlap. These subscribers are primarily parents of children on the spectrum. When asked if their child struggled with gender identity, 5.7% said yes.

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APM notes that the DSM-5 estimates gender dysphoria impacts 0.005–0.014% of those assigned male at birth and 0.002–0.003% of those assigned female. As a result, the survey’s numbers indicate that it may be more common among people with autism.

Of respondents who said their child had experienced gender identity issues, half said it was apparent when their child was aged 10 or older, about a third said it was before the age of 5, while the rest said it began to present between ages 5 and 10. As for preferred pronouns, 17.6% use the neutral term ‘they,’ and 59.6% use ‘he’ or she,’ though only 17.6% use the pronoun they were assigned at birth. The rest of parents gave other responses, with many saying their child is nonverbal.

On the topic of hormones, 4.5% said they administer puberty blocker medication, and 20% were open to considering it in the future. Interestingly, 34.8% also reported knowing other families with children on the spectrum who had experienced gender identity issues.

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APM spoke with a few mental health professionals to better understand this apparent link. There were some differing opinions.

Emily Ansell Elfer, the magazine’s editor, says, “The reasons for this are a matter for debate. Some experts believe people on the spectrum are naturally more nuanced, while others say it’s a result of gender fluidity gaining increasing coverage in the media.”

To read thoughts from these experts and to find more results from the survey, you can read APM’s article here.

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