Session I: Mental Health, Sex, and Gender Considerations in Autism

Tuesday, January 19, 2021 – 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm EST
Drs. Stephanie H. Ameis & Meng-Chuan Lai

Autistic individuals are more likely to experience heightened mental health challenges across the life span than individuals in the general population. In addition, the diagnosis and differential diagnosis of autism and co-occurring psychiatric conditions are significantly influenced by sex and gender related factors, although these factors have not received adequate research attention, as yet. In this presentation, we will discuss important mental health considerations to improving the well-being of autistic individuals across developmental stages, sex and gender considerations, and current evidence-base and promising new avenues of intervention and support.

Learning Objectives

1. Identifying mental health challenges commonly experienced by people on the autism spectrum.
2. Understanding sex and gender related considerations in the diagnosis and care for autistic people.
3. Exploring evidence-based and emerging mental health treatment and sex/gender-informed support strategies for people on the autism spectrum.


Dr. Stephanie Ameis is the Associate Director of the Cundill Centre for Child and Youth Depression, a Clinician-Scientist within the Brain Health Imaging Centre, the McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health and the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). She is appointed to the Child and Youth Mental Health Collaborative at CAMH, University of Toronto and SickKids and is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. She works clinically as a child and youth psychiatrist at CAMH.

Dr. Ameis’s research spans across: (1) neuroimaging research, studying biological mechanisms related to clinical symptoms, social cognition, neurocognition and behavior across transdiagnostic samples including children, youth and young adults with a variety of mental health challenges, to (2) interventional research, focused on studying novel interventions to treat mental health symptoms in youth, and on to (3) implementation science and knowledge translation to improve uptake of research findings in her work with the Cundill Centre for Child and Youth Depression. Dr. Ameis has a particular interest in developing evidence-based interventions to address depression and suicidal thinking in autistic youth.

Dr. Meng-Chuan Lai 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. He is an Assistant 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, and is an Adjunct Attending Psychiatrist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the National Taiwan University.

As a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Sex and Gender Science Chair, Dr. Lai’s work focuses on multi-level (biological, cognitive, behavioural, social) research and clinical services to improve mental health and wellbeing of individuals with autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD), across sexes and genders. His research delineates how sex- and gender-related factors act as risk, protective, and modulating mechanisms for the (1) behavioural presentation and adaptation, (2) clinical recognition and diagnosis, (3) neurobiology and etiologies, of autism and co-occurring neurodevelopmental and psychiatric conditions. A particular focus is on female and gender-diverse people with autism and the complex relations between NDD, sex differentiation, gender socialization, and mental health.

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