Posts Tagged :


May 2021 blog feature image transgender flag graphic with moon phases
When It’s Not A Phase 495 400 cj

When It’s Not A Phase

May 2021 blog feature image transgender flag graphic with moon phases

When It’s Not A Phase

Parents of transgender children are often asked, “When did you suspect?” The answer to that question varies as no two kids are alike. But a common theme often emerges: there wasn’t one single instance, but rather dozens of small signs that added up to “suspecting.”

Some examples of “signs” that parents have noticed is the insistence on stereotypical “girl” or “boy” clothing, hair styles, and toys that do not correlate to the child’s biological gender at birth. Many parents share that when their child is told they cannot wear the clothes they prefer, or not allowed to play with certain toys, their child expresses intense sadness. But when allowed to express themselves in the clothing and hairstyles of their choosing, their child is filled with joy. The collection of these signs point to an unwavering truth: their child knows their gender identity.

It is important to acknowledge when a child is asserting things about themselves that are a part of their identity. For some parents this can be overwhelming and confusing.

Researchers at the University of Washington found that gender identity (the concept of knowing whether one’s self is male, female, or non-binary) is as strong in transgender  kids, including those who are neurodiverse, as it is among typically developing children. An interesting component of this study is that transgender children’s gender development mirrors that of neurotypical and neurodiverse children, and that they can start to identify with clothes and toys in line with their authentic gender from a rather young age.

Gender – defined

 An infant does not know what it means to be a boy or girl. They discover the meaning of these words from their parents, older children, and the people in their lives. Young children also receive a lot of messages from their culture and the media: boys wear blue clothes and like sports, and girls wear pink and like to play with dolls. But a person’s actual gender does not exist in the binary terms of boy/girl and male/female. Rather, gender is more of a spectrum with people expressing and identifying with degrees of masculinity and femininity. Feeling comfortable with our own gender identity and expression is vital to the way we see ourselves and how we engage with the world.

A transgender person identifies along this spectrum, but also identifies as a gender different from the one biologically assigned based on genitalia. A child is deemed to be transgender by behavior and expression that is consistent, insistent, and persistent about their identity. A transgender child will typically insist over the course of many years that they are not the gender they were assigned at birth.

For transgender kids, family and commuinity support is essential to establish comfort in their true sense of self. Research has shown that when a young person receives affirmative support from parents, grandparents, family members, teachers, and peers, there is greatly improved mental health and well-being. It is important to point out that the research shows that transgender young people are at a greater risk of suicide as a result of rejection and bullying. The reality is, support for a transgender child can make all of the difference to insuring that your child is thriving.

Parenting a Transgender Child

Parents of transgender children go through a transition process along with their child, and that transition carries with it a lot of emotions. A parent may feel genuinely happy and excited for their child as they embark on this new journey, but there may also be feelings of confusion, sadness, anger, and loss. When a child tells their parents that they are not the gender they were biologically born with, a parent can feel frightened and unsure about what the future may hold for their child. Parents of transgender children should remind themselves that all feelings about this experience are valid.

Experts suggest that parents be kind to themselves but also work through their emotions away from their child and perhaps with the care of a mental health professional. Each family member may react differently and come to acceptance at different times. Talking about this experience with a therapist can be helpful. The Kaleidoscope Program provides therapeutic services for neurotypical and neurodiverse transgender children, and their parents. Our therapists have expertise with supporting neurotypical and neurodiverse transgender children and their families, and can provide guidance and tools to assist with the transition.

It may not be a phase.

While many children and teens go through “phases” such as dying their hair black, or being obsessed with a celebrity, this is very different than being transgender. It can be very hurtful for a transgender child if a parent dismisses their thoughts and behavior as a phase. Many transgender children rely on their parents and family members for support and acceptance, as they may not experience acceptance in environments outside of the home.

Parents can show support for their transgender child in a number of ways. To begin, parents should try to make a true effort to use the names and pronouns that align with their child’s gender identity. Further, parents can advocate for their child at their school to make sure there are systems in place that will support and protect their child such as gender neutral bathrooms and locker room spaces. And most importantly, assure your child that they have your unconditional love and support – always.

Thank you Bryan for your insight and guidance. If you are interested in joining our Kaleidoscope Parent Group or have questions about the group, please email.

April Blog 2021 young woman leaning on a white couch wearing a rainbow knitted sweater
The Overlapping Spectrums of ASD and LGBTQIA+ 495 401 cj

The Overlapping Spectrums of ASD and LGBTQIA+

The Overlapping Spectrums of ASD and LGBTQIA+

April is Autism Awareness Month, a time to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism, and to provide continued support, kindness, and compassion for the autism community. This year, the Autism community is making a shift in their language to now declare April as Autism Acceptance Month. The hope is to ignite change through improved support as well as opportunities in all areas of life including education and employment.

The concept of acceptance is the foundation of the Kaleidoscope program. Our mission is to provide services for young people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum of Sexual Orientation, Gender, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression. April is an important month for our program as we celebrate our clients who are on both the autism and LGBTQIA+ spectrums.

Several studies suggest that autistic men are more likely than autistic women to identify as heterosexual. In one Dutch study, only 57 percent of autistic women reported being straight as compared to 82 percent of autistic men. The women were more likely to be attracted to both sexes, and also to neither sex.

Research shows that a higher percentage of autistic people identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer than the general population. “Most of the data that we’re seeing is that the rate for autistic people who identify as LGBTQIA+  is two to three times higher,” says clinical psychologist Eileen T. Crehan, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Tufts University. But larger studies need to be done before the true rate is known, she says.

We also know that gender, like autism, exists on a spectrum. The two spectrums, gender and autism, are now considered to frequently overlap. A recent study revealed that gender identity (a person’s internal sense of their own gender) and sexuality are more varied among autistic people than in the general population, and autism is more common among people who do not identify as their assigned sex at birth. Research shows that children with autism are 7.6 times more likely to express gender variance. Clinicians and researchers have noted a trend over the last twenty-five years with increasing numbers of children who are seeking professional care related to gender identity who also identify as autistic or having autistic traits.

Overall, autism appears to be more prevalent among gender-diverse people. A larger percentage of autistic people reported their gender as being something other than strictly male or female, compared to other people. Examples of gender identities included in that study were “genderqueer” and “other.”

Gender diverse is defined as an identity beyond the binary (male/female) framework. A 2018 Australian survey of transgender teens and young adults found that 22.5% had been diagnosed with autism. Research suggests that people who have an autism diagnosis or autism traits are more likely to be transgender than the general population. One study found the rate to be two to three times higher in people who have autism.

For some autistic LGBTQIA+ young people, there is a sense of isolation and of not belonging. Belongingness, as defined by Dr. Kenneth Pelletier, at the Stanford Center for Research and Disease Prevention, is “a sense of belonging that is a basic human need – as basic as food and shelter.” Dr. Pelleetier continues, “Social support may be one of the critical elements distinguishing those who remain healthy from those will become ill.”

Our Kaleidoscope team understands that our autistic LGBTQIA+ clients may find some aspects of “belongingness” challenging due to deficits in social communication and difficulty initiating social interactions. Our hope is that our social support groups can be a resource for those who seek to belong in a community. Our online LGBTQIA+ social support groups, Pride Club for teens and Coffee Chat for young adults, offer a sense of empowerment and increased self-esteem for young LGBTQIA+ people, due to a kind, inclusive environment  with non-judgemental peers.

Research proves that accepting behaviors by peers and adults such as respect, support and kindness, can positively impact autistic LGBTQIA+ young people as evidenced by higher self-esteem, better overall health, and a belief that they can be healthy, happy adults.

Cheers to a happy Autism Acceptance Month for all of our wonderful ASD and LGBTQIA+ clients!

Thank you Bryan for your insight and guidance. If you are interested in joining our Kaleidoscope Parent Group or have questions about the group, please email.

The Value of Parent Support Groups 495 400 cj

The Value of Parent Support Groups

The Value of Parent Support Groups

Growing up is rarely a smooth and easy journey. This is especially true when you are figuring out who you are, and trying to affirm and assert your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Parents of LGBTQIA+ children and teens may also find their child’s maturation a challenging time. But family support and acceptance is vital to the physical and emotional health of young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

Joining a parent support group is a wonderful resource for parents of LGBTQIA+ children as it can be comforting to talk with fellow parents who are on the same journey. Kaleidoscope offers an ongoing, bi-monthly support group for parents and caregivers of LGBTQIA+ young people.

I am the proud parent of a gay son and a member of Kaleidoscope’s parent group. I find our meetings to be uplifting and inspiring. Recently I had a conversation with our group leader, Kaleidoscope Therapist Bryan Scheihing, and we talked about the importance of group support:

Hi Bryan, Can You Describe The Dynamics Of A Parent Support Group?

A support group helps participants cope with common challenges that they are facing or have faced. Kaleidoscope’s support group is a safe space for parents to connect with one another, share their experiences, give and receive support, and learn about resources.

How Can A Support Group Help Parents Prepare For Mental Health Challenges Their Child May Face?

Attending our support group can help parents gain skills that will allow them to feel prepared if their child develops mental health challenges related to their LGBTQIA+ identity. Conversations regarding potential challenges, adversity, and safety concerns are instructive for parents and allow them to help their child develop the “emotional armor” they need to withstand negative messaging and recognize that the real problem lies with those perpetuating the message.

Our parent group is also a source of information so that parents can learn how to help their LGBTQIA+ child develop a strong sense of self-esteem which can serve as a protective factor to help reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse behaviors. In addition, parents in our group learn about opportunities available to their child to help find peers to connect with and how to access resources within the LGBTQIA+ community.

What Advice Do You Give To Parents Who Feel Stressed, Confused, Or Surprised By Their Child’s Coming Out?

That these are normal reactions! At Kaleidoscope, we always assume that parents are coming from a good place and want what is best for their children. For many parents, acceptance of their child is just a natural response. For other parents, acceptance is a journey. There are parents for whom their initial reaction may be that they won’t be able to accept their LGBTQIA+ child’s identity. In those times, it may be helpful to think no matter how difficult it may be for a parent to learn about their child’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity, it was much, much more difficult for a young person to come out to their parents. Our group is a safe space for parents to share their feelings about their child’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity with other parents on the same journey without fear of judgement.

How Can The Support Group Help Parents Who Love And Support Their LGBTQIA+ Child But Are Feeling A Sense Of Grief That The Life They Had Imagined For Their Child May Not Come To Be?

The support group can help parents realize that grieving is a process; it is not linear and it takes time to adjust. Talking with other parents who may have had similar initial reactions can be comforting. Sharing feelings can provide an opportunity for self-exploration of one’s own biases and fears. Sometimes a parent’s grief stems from the fear that their child may not get to experience certain aspects of life as a result of their gender identification and/or sexual orientation. For example, many parents who initially mourned their LGBTQIA+ child’s coming out as meaning their child would not have children of their own, now find themselves being proud grandparents! Often parents will say that hearing another parent in the group describe how they moved from grief to acceptance to fully embracing their LGBTQIA+ child is a source of solace and hope.

Sometimes In Our Group Discussions, A Parent Will Share That They Feel That They Have Done Something Wrong That Caused Their Child To Identify As LGBTQIA+. How Does Our Group Support Parents Who Feel This Way?

Our group is an opportunity to talk about how identifying as LGBTQIA+ is not a choice or a reaction to anything, but a recognition of who one is in regard to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. (Note the word orientation is used rather than preference to demonstrate that this is how one naturally is and not somehow choosing to be.) The choice that’s involved is whether or not to authentically express this orientation and identity to others.

Our group is a safe space where parents can share their worries and provides an opportunity to ask questions and to get clarity on LGBTQIA+ concepts that may be misunderstood. We talk openly in the group that it is a heteronormative bias that something has “gone wrong” when someone is LGBTQIA+. Every human being has a sexual orientation and gender identity. The fact that some orientations and identities are different from others does not make them wrong – it just makes them different. And that’s perfectly okay.

Our Group Is For Parents Of Neurotypical And Neurodivergent LGBTQIA+ Children. Have You Found That Parenting A LGBTQIA+ Child Is Similar For Both Cohorts?

Although each child with autism has a unique experience, LGBTQIA+ young people that are also on the autism spectrum may face more complex challenges than their neurotypical peers. It’s important to listen to these young people and consider the potential influence of certain factors, such as theory of mind deficits, social challenges, sensory sensitivity, and more, while also recognizing that youth with autism have as much of a right to identify and express who they are as neurotypical young people.

What Would You Say To A Parent That Wants To Attend Our Support Group But Feels A Bit Nervous About It. What Can They Expect?

I would tell them: You are not alone. Not in your experience of having a LGBTQIA+ child, not in your concern for wanting to support them, and not in your experience of feeling anxious about engaging with other parents. Culturally, many of us were raised to keep such “family issues” to ourselves, which only perpetuates stigma. The purpose of the group is to support you in your experience. You will not be shamed or judged for your feelings. You will be welcomed.

Thank you Bryan for your insight and guidance. If you are interested in joining our Kaleidoscope Parent Group or have questions about the group, please email.