Episode 82

Published on:

12th Aug 2022

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

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.


  • Website: 



  • Dr. Attwood’s Books on Amazon: 



  • Events: 


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.

Wider Lens Renewal Retreat – Arizona 2022: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wider-lens-renewal-retreats-arizona-2022-tickets-368655377157 

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

For more about our show: https://linktr.ee/WiderLensPod

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About the Podcast

Gender: A Wider Lens Podcast
Two therapists explore the expanding concept of "gender" from a psychological depth perspective.
Gender dysphoria has become a minefield for public discussion, with many afraid to express their views or question the narrative. Our mission is to examine this important and complex topic from a range of perspectives, but always through a psychological lens. By openly considering and examining gender identity, transition, and the transgender umbrella, we hope to give all interested parties permission to engage these fascinating topics with less fear and more honesty. Interviews and discussions will involve clinicians, medical professionals, academics, transgender people, parents, detransitioners and other interesting individuals whose lives have been touched by the concept of gender.

Conversations between two practicing therapists give listeners an opportunity to contemplate gender from a depth perspective not currently taken up in most of today’s accessible debates. As a result of their work with gender dysphoric therapy clients as well as their personal divergent experiences with gender, Stella and Sasha hold a refreshing and informed perspective.

Is gender identity a facilitation of development and expression of creativity, or can it be a defense against painful existential realities of living in a human body? What can we discover about masculinity, femininity, identity, gender performance, and sexuality when we peer beneath the surface and dive into a deeper psychological exploration? What is the relationship between body, mind, identity, culture, and psyche?

This podcast engages listeners in an intimate and fascinating behind-the-scenes inquiry about a topic as taboo as it is salient today.

* We are sponsored by ReIME and Genspect.
Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics (ReIME) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving long term care for gender variant individuals. To learn more, visit https://rethinkime.org/

Genspect is an international alliance of parent and professional groups whose aim is to advocate for parents of gender-questioning children and young people. Parents are concerned that their kids are not receiving appropriate treatment and support; many do not feel free to speak out about their concerns.
To learn more, visit https://genspect.org/
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About your hosts

Stella O'Malley

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Stella O’Malley is a psychotherapist and author who works in private practice in Ireland. Her work focuses on parenting, family dynamics and working with teenagers.

Much of Stella’s counselling and writing focuses on mental health and the importance of well-being and she is a regular contributor to the media. She is also the resident psychotherapist for the current TV series, Raised by the Village, a family programme that helps troubled teenagers reconnect with themselves and their families.

Stella's first book, Cotton Wool Kids, was released in 2015 while Bully-Proof Kids: Practical tools to help kids grow up confident, resilient and strong was released in 2017. Stella’s latest book Fragile, was released in 2019 and focuses on overcoming anxiety and stress.

Stella was the presenter of the documentary Trans - Kids: It’s Time To Talk broadcast on Channel 4 in November 2018 and she contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People.

The Jungian analyst, Lisa Marchiano, and Stella launched Secrets of the Motherworld in September 2019, offering thoughtful exploration of the most intimate aspects of motherhood in a bid to help mothers feel less alone.

Stella is a Clinical Advisor for the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners. She is also the lead facilitator for the Gender Dysphoria Support Network.

Stella holds a B.A. in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a M.A. in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Sasha Ayad

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Sasha Ayad is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works in private practice, and has treated adolescents for over 10 years. Her work focuses on teens and young adults struggling with issues of gender dysphoria and gender identity.

She became interested in the sharp rise in teenagers who declare a trans identity for the first time during adolescence. She discovered, through working with hundreds of families, that many teens were developing gender dysphoria only after adopting a transgender identity. She questions the practice of medical transition for children and teenagers, and her clinical work focuses on developmentally appropriate, least-invasive-first talk therapy.

Sasha is also a founding member and Clinical Advisor in the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners.

Sasha’s previous work experience includes:
- School counselor for middle and high school students at a charter school for underserved communities

- Behavioral therapy with children on the autism spectrum

- Individual and group counseling for women and children impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence

- Developed and ran the first counseling program at a large state supported living facility for adults with intellectual disability

Sasha holds a B.S. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology.