Could Autism be Linked to Gender Dysphoria?

gender dysphoria

Most autism parents, therapists, and teachers are aware that autism is four times more likely to occur in boys rather than girls.

Less common in the industry dialog, however, is that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is more likely to occur in transgender individuals than the general population. Not only does this phenomenon introduce a possible link between gender identity and autism, it also raises questions about the four-times-more-common in males statistic.

Many studies conducted across the world have supported this new theory. In one 2012 study, a team of British researchers found that in a group of neurotypical participants, female-to-male members (FTM) showed autistic traits more frequently than male to female (MTF) people or gender typical men and women.

Another study, which assessed children and adolescents in a gender identity clinic in the Netherlands, discovered that 8 percent of the participants were also diagnosed with ASD. While the correlation between autism and gender dysphoria does not yet have a clear explanation, it could be analyzed using the extreme male brain theory (EMB). This model attributes the cause of autism to over-systemization––a typically male trait––and a low level of empathy, also more common in males.

British scientist Simon Baron-Cohen applied this theory to individuals with ASD, noting that people on the autism spectrum generally perform better on systemization tasks than neurotypical individuals––hence the term “extreme male brain.” Surprisingly, this theory was supported by other studies looking at sex and ASD.

“While the EMB theory focuses on cognitive abilities,” said Kyle Simon to the Huffington Post, “other factors related to sex and gender have been found to correlate with ASD.”

Research found significantly higher levels of male hormones in autistic individuals than the neurotypical control group. This discovery evokes many questions about both gender dysphoria and autism. For example, could the imbalance in sex hormones be the cause of both autism and gender dysphoria? What would happen if female hormone levels were higher? As of now, only time will tell until the answers are revealed.

By Nina Bergold

This entry was posted in Autism Action Alerts, Autism Advocacy, Autism Awareness, Autism Diagnosis, Autism Education, Autism News, Autism News, Autism Research, Autism Symptoms, Autism Therapy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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