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Gender and Autism Program

Contact number | 301-765-5432

Some young people are autistic (or more broadly neurodiverse) and gender-diverse. They may express questions regarding aspects of their gender identity, or experience themselves as a gender different than their sex assigned at birth (e.g., transgender, nonbinary). We do not yet understand why autism and gender differences often occur together, but we do know that this co-occurrence can be complex to navigate for young people and their families. The Gender and Autism (and Related Neurodiversity) Program helps neurodiverse gender-diverse youth and their families through our clinical services and clinical research initiatives.

Choosing Children’s National for Gender and Autism Care 

The Gender and Autism (and Related Neurodiversity) Program team at Children’s National Hospital supports gender-diverse and gender-exploring autistic youth — or youth with suspected autism — through evaluation, consultation and a specialized ongoing support program. We approach this work from the following perspectives:

  • Each young person’s gender journey is individual
  • There are many possible outcomes that can unfold over time
  • A young person’s neurodiversity may be a key component in the gender discernment and self-advocacy process

Our focus is on helping young people with autism spectrum-related differences, such as with flexible thinking, future thinking, self-awareness and self-advocacy, while at the same time supporting their need for gender exploration.

Some young people who come to our clinic have a well-characterized autism spectrum diagnosis, while other families come to see us for both autism diagnostic clarification and gender-related consultation.

What to Expect from Your Visits with Our Team

Typically, your visits with us will begin with an evaluation. This evaluation will address factors related to autism/neurodiversity, gender development and the potential intersection of the two. The evaluation will include interviews, questionnaires and other measures. The evaluation process is usually completed over 2-3 visits, the first of which may be several hours long. We work to match our evaluations to the specific needs of each young person and their family, and we aim for the process to be affirming and uplifting for everyone involved.

Based on what we learn from the evaluation, we will then work with you to develop a plan for supports, which typically includes some ongoing assessment over time, as well as participation in our youth (and separate parent) programs. In some cases, other referrals within our program may be discussed.

Contact Us

To inquire about our services, or to schedule an appointment, call the Division of Neuropsychology at 301-765-5432 and select the option for the “Autism Clinic.” Then let the scheduling specialist know that you are calling for the Gender and Autism Program.

For any questions about navigating care within our program, or for general questions about the Gender and Autism Program, you may call our Gender Program Family Navigator, Shane Henise, at 202-476-5744. Let him know you are calling about the Gender and Autism Program.

Gender and Autism Program Team

  • John Strang

    John Strang
    Director, Gender and Autism Program

  • David Call

    David Call
    Medical Director, Gender Development Program

  • Dr. Laura Willing

    Laura Willing
    Co-Director, Anxiety Disorders Program
    DCMAP Children's National Hospital Site Lead
    Associate Program Director, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship
    Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

  • Abigail Brandt

    Abigail Brandt
    Speech-Language Pathologist

  • Colleen Morgan

    Colleen Morgan
    Speech-Language Pathologist

  • Shane Henise

    Shane Henise
    Family Navigator, Gender Program