Tag Archives: PDD

At the Intersection of Gender and Autism – Part 3

The final part of a great series on gender and autism from the point of view of a woman with autism.

One thing I found interesting was the ways autism may be hidden with girls. For example, the author of the article played with dolls, but she played with them by lining them up.

Musings of an Aspie

The final post of a three part series (read Part 2)

While many of the intersections of autistic and female in my life have been social, there are undeniable physical intersections too.

The arrival of adolescence brought with it hints of what it would mean to be an autistic adult. My first real meltdowns. My first experience with depression. My first confusing encounters with physical intimacy.

With nothing to compare those experiences to, I assumed they were a normal part of being a teenager. Everyone said that being a teenager was hard. I couldn’t dispute that. It didn’t seem necessary to look beyond the explanation of “this is hard for everyone.”

That would become a theme. Pregnancy. Breastfeeding. Postpartum depression. My body’s reaction to birth control pills. Countless books and magazine articles assured me that these things were no walk in the park. Not knowing that I was autistic…

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At the Intersection of Gender and Autism – Part 2

“Perhaps rather than extreme male brains, autistic women have extreme individual brains. As a group we seem to be less influenced than typical women by the roles society expects us to play.”

Part 2 of the 3 part series by a woman with Aspergers.

A moving account of being a mother with autism as well as a discussion as growing up as a girl with autism.

Musings of an Aspie

Continued from Part 1

There was joy in that realization and also sadness. My diagnosis came too late to help me in my role as a mother when my daughter was young, a role that I often struggled with. Many aspects of being autistic can make the child-rearing years of motherhood challenging.

Babies have round-the-clock needs. They’re stressful, messy, unpredictable and demanding. Basically they are everything that an autistic person finds hard to cope with. Gone was my precious alone time. Gone were my carefully crafted routines. Even my body was no longer my own, transformed first by pregnancy then by postpartum hormones and breastfeeding.

I was completely unprepared for how hard motherhood would be. Unaware that I was autistic, I often felt like a bad mom. What kind of mother breaks down sobbing uncontrollably and bangs her head against the dining room wall? Certainly none that I was aware…

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At the Intersection of Gender and Autism – Part I

“At five, I wanted to be a boy” – the viewpoint of a woman with Aspergers.

This is a great essay with interesting insights into gender and autism.
The essay is featured in the book Ultraviolet Voices: Stories of Women on the Autism Spectrum.

The only bad thing about this essay; it’s part 1 of 3. We’re going to have to wait to read the rest.

Musings of an Aspie

Note: This is my contribution to the Ultraviolet Voices anthology. It’s nearly 5000 words long, so I’m going to serialize it here over the next 3 weeks.  

At five, I wanted to be a boy. I don’t know what I thought being a boy meant. Maybe I thought it meant playing outside in the summer, shirtless and barefoot. Maybe I thought it meant not wearing dresses.

Dresses were all scratchy lace trim and tight elastic sleeves. Stiff patent leather shoes pinched my sensitive feet. Perfume tickled my nose. Tights made my legs itch and had maddening seams at the toes.

Too young to understand sensory sensitivities, I followed my instincts. While other girls favored frilly clothes, I gravitated toward the soft comfort of cotton shirts and worn corduroys.

Somehow, comfort got mixed up with gender in my head. For decades, “dressing like a girl” meant being uncomfortable. And…

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Exploring gender identity within the context of Asperger’s syndrome – Review

This is a thesis from 2012.

According to the abstract, the author interviewed adult men with Aspergers about their “perceptions of masculinity, gender-typed behaviours, relationships, and societal influences.”

She found that “for participants, identifying with male gender provides a platform for fitting in by allowing them to learn from societal stereotypes and rehearse playing ‘male’ roles. Participants displayed ambivalence in their feelings of being drawn to the perceived safety of females but resenting the ‘feminine’ side of themselves.”

Based on her study and the literature on gender identity, she makes recommendations for professionals and parents of children with Aspergers about potential gender identity confusion.

Unfortunately, I am not able to read it online. Perhaps someone else can find out what the author is recommending for parents!

Exploring gender identity within the context of Asperger’s syndrome by Victoria Elliott.

Gender and Autism – an article

This is an excellent article reviewing research on gender and autism. I highly recommend it.

Gender and Autism: a Preliminary Survey Post on the blog “Musings of an Aspie.”

The author discusses the “extreme male brain” theory of autism and suggests some alternatives.

She also talks about factors that might influence how people with autism spectrum disorders experience gender:

“This raises the question of what role being autistic might play in the formation of our personal experience of gender. For example, autistic children are less sensitive to social cues than typical children and may not make friends with or become part of groups of same-gender peers. If we’re not tuned in to what the social norms for children of our gender are, we’re less likely to adopt them early in life.

There may also be an aspect of autistic-related body dysmorphia in general that factors into gender dysphoria for some autistic individuals. Many autistic people have difficulty feeling connected to their physical selves or being physically comfortable with their body.

Finally, there is the issue of sensory sensitivities. Dressing or presenting androgynously may be a result of gender dysphoria or it may be related to avoiding sensory triggers associated with certain types, textures or styles of clothing.”

Enjoy the article!

Brains of Children with Autism Fail to Trim Synapses – NY Times article and a Question

A fascinating article in the NYTimes about a new study of children with autism.

A few interesting points:

Babies grow many synapses connecting the neurons in their brain. As they grow up, they prune these synapses.

It looks like autistic children may not prune these synapses as well as other children and teenagers do. Their problems with social learning may be due to having too many connections in the brain.

They may also have a problem clearing out old and degraded cells.

From the NYT article:

“‘Impairments that we see in autism seem to be partly due to different parts of the brain talking too much to each other,” he said. “You need to lose connections in order to develop a fine-tuned system of brain networks, because if all parts of the brain talk to all parts of the brain, all you get is noise.'”

This overconnectivity in the brain could explain “symptoms like oversensitivity to noise or social experiences, as well as why many people with autism also have epileptic seizures.”

More than a third of people with autism have epilepsy!!!!

Is there any connection between this and gender dysphoria?

Probably not, but it is interesting to speculate. What if gender dysphoria is also caused by overconnectivity in the brain, just less of it? Perhaps gender dysphoria is caused by too many connections in just one part of the brain. That might explain why there are more people than you would expect with both ASDs and gender dysphoria. Something for someone to research, perhaps.

It might also be interesting to find out if people with gender dysphoria have a higher rate of epilepsy than expected.

Comorbid childhood gender identity disorder in a boy with Asperger syndrome – Review

This is a very short article, actually published as a letter to the editor.

The authors present a case of a boy who they diagnosed with both gender dysphoria and autism. (In a later follow-up study, they found that he no longer had gender dysphoria at age 16.)

They present this case study as a counter point to the “extreme male brain” theory of autism. As they say, with the extreme male brain theory, “gender dysphoria in female subjects with Asperger syndrome (AS) could be explained logically. But a literature search yielded no boys with AS and gender identity disorder (GID). Hereby we present such a case.”

The authors diagnosed the boy with gender dysphoria based on the following criteria: feminine behaviors and speech, preferring female playmates, preference for feminine activities, lack of interest in sterotypical boy toys, liking cute characters in cartoons, always painting cute girls surrounded with hearts and flowers, dressing in girls’ clothes at home, regretting being a boy, wishing he were a girl, and saying that he would grow up to be a woman.

The child was of average intelligence and had not had delays in developing motor skills or language. However, he had “limited interactions with others, difficulty in developing peer relationships and was underresponsive in social situations. He liked making his own rules and frequently lost his temper when there were broken.” He was also preoccupied with certain colors and figures.

The authors make a distinction between gender-related symptoms in autism and gender identity disorder:

“Most of the gender-related symptoms in autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) could be related to behavioral and psychological characteristics of autism. For example, a boy with ASD might have a sense of belonging to the female sex after being bullied by male peers. Tranvestism in ASD may arise from a preoccupation with specific clothes such as a flared skirt which satisfies their tactile sensation. In their youth, ASD subjects can sometimes develop a unique confusion of identity that occasionally expands to gender-related problems. But these views do not explain the present case. For the diagnosis of GID in ASD, sufficient language abilities and sufficient follow-up time are essential. The present case fulfills these requirements.”

The authors conclude by saying that if the GID persists, they would treat the patient following international standards – i.e. he would be allowed to transition following the same protocol as anyone else.

One thing I found interesting in this article was that one of the boy’s feminine behaviors was covering his mouth with his hand when he laughed. This is something women in Japan do, but not in the West. Clearly culture plays a role in how a child expresses their gender dysphoria.

Original Article:

Comorbid childhood gender identity disorder in a boy with Asperger syndrome by Masaru Tateno md , phdYukie Tateno md, Toshikazu Saito md , phd in Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences Volume 62, Issue 2, page 238April 2008