Revisiting the link: Evidence of the rates of autism in studies of gender diverse individuals


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Comments on the article by J. L. Turban & G. I. van Schalkwyk (see record 2018-00328-005). Turban and van Schalkwyk assert in their translations article that an over-representation of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in gender dysphoria is unsupported based on current evidence. They suggest that increases on ASD-related measures in transgender and gender-diverse groups are likely due to the non specificity of ASD screening tools. They posit that findings of apparent ASD increases in gender-diverse youth might stem from “environmental factors related to social deprivation,” namely “a high prevalence of minority stress, poor peer relationships, and familial non-acceptance.” They suggest that in this context these social characteristics “could represent a reversible condition, because these patients do not have the intrinsic social cognitive deficits that underlie ASD.” Turban and van Schalkwyk discuss 7 of the currently 19 available empirical studies of the over-occurrence of ASD and/or autism traits with gender dysphoria/diversity. They are correct to note that some ASD screeners might lack specificity; that is, a clinical-range total score could indicate non–ASD-related mental health conditions or other developmental difference. However, they do not account for the 7 available studies that specifically report rates of clinical diagnoses of ASD within unselected gender-diverse samples.

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