Ep. 118: Understanding the Intersection Between Autism and LGBTQIA+ with Dr. Laurie Stephens

Jan 31, 2023 | 0 comments

Many topics of the Diverse Thinking Different Learning Podcast come from parents and individuals who provide services to children. Today’s topic has come up more than once and our guest is able to shed some light on the intersection between autism and LGBTQIA+.

Dr. Laurie Stephens joins today to share the research on this overlap and what she sees herself as the Senior Director of Autism and Clinical Programs for The Help Group. Through her work with The Help Group, she has also developed an affirming community called Kaleidoscope which is offered in person and online. And she explains how we can better understand and support multi-minority status individuals with their own self-acceptance, their education, and their mental health.


Show Notes:

[1:55] – There’s no universal agreement on terms used, but it is important that the majority of the autistic community prefer identity-first language.

[4:03] – Many psychologists are seeing a trend in autistic adolescents.

[5:10] – There is recent research that shows the overlap of autism and identifying as gender diverse.

[6:39] – Something important to note is that because of the stigma surrounding LGBTQIA+, that the number of individuals is likely under-reported.

[8:21] – Dr. Stephens explains the differences between gender fluid, non-binary, and transgender.

[9:26] – Autistic individuals are less likely to be concerned with social norms and societal pressure.

[10:58] – Autistic people are advocating for society to accept their autism and neurodiversity which also leads to advocating for their gender diversity.

[12:01] – This population is oftentimes multi-minority status.

[13:29] – There are common mental health concerns that overlap in minority groups that are compounded when individuals are a part of more than one. 

[14:40] – Dr. Stephens describes some of the common misconceptions about autism.

[16:22] – Society needs to expand its view rather than autistic people masking to fit in.

[18:07] – Many adults are seeking an autism diagnosis later in life and many of those individuals identify as gender diverse. 

[19:21] – Females tend to be under diagnosed and most people ignore the autistic presentation in them. 

[21:05] – It’s important for mental health providers to be educated and trained to help autistic people. It’s not about treating their autism.

[22:51] – Dr. Stephens describes how she helps parents who come to her with the concern that they don’t know how to support their child.

[24:28] – Dr. Stephens began a program called Kaleidoscope.

[26:50] – Just one affirming person in your life can reduce suicidality by 60%.

[28:02] – The Help Group’s Kaleidoscope program is local to California, but all the social services and advocacy programs are offered online.


About Our Guest:

Dr. Laurie Stephens is a developmental psychologist who currently serves as the Senior Director of Autism and Clinical Programs for The Help Group. Dr. Stephens has been passionate about finding innovative and effective ways to work with autistic children, teens, young adults, and their families and communities since 1990. Among her accomplishments are having created Young Learners Preschool for Autism, founding the first post-doctoral fellowship in autism at The Help Group, starting the early diagnosis state-run autism clinic in New York, and creating a social skills curriculum for camps, schools, and clinics. She is a highly regarded public speaker and has spoken throughout the US, Canada, Japan, the UK, and Finland to name a few places. 

Prior to her current role with The Help Group, Dr. Stephens worked as the Director of Clinical Services at Education Spectrum, where she provided individual and group therapy, social skills classes, and psycho-educational and diagnostic testing. During this time, Dr. Stephens developed an interest in the overlap between gender diversity and ASD. She noted that many of her autistic clients were coming out as transgender, gender fluid, and non-binary. Dr. Stephens became passionate about finding the most effective ways to help these multi-minority status individuals find and accept their authentic selves while finding an affirming community. 

After 12 years of direct clinical service, Dr. Stephens returned to The Help Group to help them develop Kaleidoscope, the first of its kind LGBTQ+ program for children, teens, and adults who are also neurodivergent. She and her colleagues have established a specialty diagnostic clinic for transgender and non-binary folk who suspect they may also have ASD, the first of its kind on the west coast.


Connect with Dr. Stephens:

About The Help Group’s Kaleidoscope Program:

Kaleidoscope supports LGBTQIA+/Questioning youth, young adults, and their families in building healthy relationships, strong social connections, and critically needed life skills. Through high quality, innovative programming, using the latest research and evidence-based programs, our mission is to help each person realize their unique potential and thrive!

To learn more about Kaleidoscope please visit www.kaleidoscopelgbtq.org or email kaleidoscope@thehelpgroup.org

Links and Related Resources:


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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.