82 - ASD & Gender: Who am I? with Dr. Tony Attwood

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Professor Tony Attwood has specialized in Autism Spectrum Disorders since he qualified as a clinical psychologist in England in 1975. He has written two books: Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals and The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. Between the two, they’ve sold over 800,000 copies and have been translated into dozens of languages.

He has been a keynote speaker at many Australian and International Conferences and he presents workshops and runs training courses for parents, professionals, and individuals with Asperger’s syndrome all over the world.

Today, Dr. Attwood helps us to better understand autistic traits in the gender-questioning teens we see today. We covered this topic in Episode 17 but felt there were things we missed and wanted to clarify. As Dr. Atwood informed us before we hit record, his expertise is in Autism, and he may not be as well versed in the intricacies of contemporary gender identity activism or the studies around gender dysphoria, transition, and desistance. But his knowledge of autism in children and teens is vast and he was engaging and lovely to speak to!

We asked Dr. Attwood about special interests, or the fixations and narrow obsessions that are common in autism, we asked him about the difficulty with socializing and how immediate affirmation in an LGBT peer group might be experienced. We also delve into the vulnerabilities and strengths of autistic adolescents and how parents can best support their children when they make rigid or urgent demands. Dr. Attwood highlights the difficult position parents may be in when their child is highly distressed but rushing into a process he/she may not fully understand. We also explored the new world that has opened up to teens via computers and social media and the tricky landscape that complicates a normal adolescent search for identity.

Links:

  • Website:

https://tonyattwood.com.au/

  • Dr. Attwood’s Books on Amazon:

https://amzn.to/3PKm1AN

  • Events:

https://www.attwoodandgarnettevents.com

Extended Notes

  • Sasha explains to Professor Attwood the slower, psychological approach to gender facilitated on this podcast.
  • Often, in those with autism, the age of emotional maturity does not match the chronological age.
  • Professor Attwood describes what he believes to be the similarities between autism and gender.
  • Autistic individuals seek affirmation and the transgender community offers affirmation but not at the level the autistic individual is seeking.
  • Discovering a self-identity, regardless of gender, is a mechanism of realization utilized by Professor Attwood.
  • Parents are expected to accept a child’s different concept of self in autism and gender.
  • From a psychological perspective, it seems that social transition creates a sort of pathway toward medical transition.
  • With autism subtlety is rare.
  • Professor Attwood shares the positive and negative physical and psychological advantages for teens who find acceptance online.
  • In his group, Professor Attwood explores how the world is perceived by autistic individuals.
  • The ratio of autistic boys to girls is two to one.
  • One in three of those in eating disorder clinics have autism, gender-dysphoria, etc.
  • What it means when diagnoses are changed from autism to ADHD+.
  • Professor Attwood describes an example of when children have characteristics of autism but not the disability.
  • Gender exploration can lead to a change of course and into a new persona.
  • Professor Attwood doesn’t see autism as a psychiatric condition. Psychiatrists may see autism as a treatable condition.
  • People who are bad at emotional regulation become controlling over others.
  • Professor Attwood is bilingual. He speaks neuro-typical speak to neurotypical people and autism-speak to the autistic parent.

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This podcast is sponsored by ReIME and Genspect. Visit https://rethinkime.org/ and https://genspect.org/ to learn more.

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