Meng-Chuan Lai, MD, PhD, is a staff psychiatrist, clinician scientist and O’Brien Scholar within the Child and Youth Mental Health Collaborative at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Hospital for Sick Children, and University of Toronto (Canada). He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, and Graduate Faculty at the Institute of Medical Science and Department of Psychology, University of Toronto. He is an Honorary Visiting Fellow at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge (UK), and an Adjunct Attending Psychiatrist at the National Taiwan University Hospital (Taiwan). As a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Sex and Gender Science Chair, Dr. Lai’s work focuses on improving mental health and wellbeing of neurodivergent individuals across sexes and genders. His research delineates how sex- and gender-related factors act as risk, protective, and modulating mechanisms for the behavioural presentation and adaptation, clinical recognition and diagnosis, and neurobiology of autism and co-occurring mental health conditions.
Recognising autism in girls and women: Lessons learnt and work to do
There is increasing awareness and research into the influences of sex-related and gender-related factors on the behavioural presentation and recognition of autism. This accumulated knowledge comes from the generous sharing of lived experiences of autistic people, psychological and clinical studies, and epidemiological as well as health and education service investigations. With the new knowledge and enhanced awareness, autism is increasingly recognized and diagnosed in girls and women (as well as in gender diverse individuals), which hopefully will lead to better service and support. In this talk I will summarize this rapidly evolving field across the areas of clinical conceptualisation, behavioural presentation, developmental changes, and contextual recognition biases. I will also discuss about practical implications, current knowledge gaps, and future research and practice directions to improve the wellbeing of autistic girls and women.