Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibility'Autistic students' may experience 'gender queerness' more than others, teacher claims | The National Desk
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'Autistic students' may experience 'gender queerness' more than others, teacher claims

Screenshot of Thursday, October 13, 2022 Arlington Public Schools (APS) board of education meeting. (TND)
Screenshot of Thursday, October 13, 2022 Arlington Public Schools (APS) board of education meeting. (TND)
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A first-year elementary school teacher in Virginia claims she has discovered that students with autism may find themselves experiencing "gender queerness" more than those without.

Carly Hughes, who describes herself as queer, works in the Multi-Intervention Program for Students with Autism (MIPA) at Long Branch Elementary in Arlington.

Wearing a shirt with the slogan "Say Gay" and a hat reading "trans people belong," Hughes attended Thursday's Arlington Public Schools (APS) board of education meeting to speak out against Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's proposed transgender student policy.

Hughes says she graduated in May with a focus on "queer inclusion in public schools," and that her studies showed including transgender students of all ages in all spaces is "best practice." At one point, she worked with a transgender third grader.

I found that autistic students, the population I work with, may experience gender queerness more than other students," she said at the board meeting.

Various studies have been conducted to examine the link between autism and the LGBTQ+ community, with at least nine taking place over the last decade.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) found in 2018 that those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) report higher rates of homosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality. Of the sampled individuals, just over 30% indicated they identify as heterosexual. While also admitting that "little is presently known about the demographics of sexual orientation in ASD," NIH states these findings suggest a need for specialized sex education programs for those with autism.

However, others caution against jumping to those specialized programs.

Dr. Eileen Crehan, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Tufts University, studies sexuality, gender identity and sex education experiences in those with autism. She agrees access to appropriate sex education is important, but she wonders about the timing. While students typically take sex education classes in the early teen years, children with ASD typically develop socially on a different timeline. Therefore, it may not be beneficial for them to be exposed as early.

Crehan also stresses that more, larger studies need to be done to truly determine the rate at which those with ASD identify with the LGBTQ+ community.

The majority of studies recently conducted reveal rates of ASD traits range from 5% to 54% among those with gender dysphoria, and children diagnosed with ASD are more likely to "wish to be of the opposite gender." Both are higher rates than those of the general population. Studies also suggest that the same trend is observed in those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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