'Up to a quarter of youngsters treated in transgender clinics may simply be autistic, according to new research.
Those attending gender identity clinics are many times more likely to show signs of autism than the population at large, doctors found.
Last night, critics said the figures called into serious question the practice of 'affirming' a young person's chosen gender and putting them forward for potentially irreversible medical treatment without a thorough examination of their psychiatric condition.
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely than others to become fixated on an idea – be it true or false – which they can then find almost impossible to drop, warned Stephanie Arie-Davies, founder of the campaign group Transgender Trends.
She said: 'We should not just be cheering on this vulnerable group towards life-changing medical interventions.'
The findings are from a review of academic literature about the prevalence of autism in people attending gender identity clinics, conducted by Australian medics.
The news comes days after former psychologists at the NHS's flagship Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) told Sky News they feared young people were 'being over-diagnosed and then over-medicalised', adding: 'We fear that we have had front-row seats to a medical scandal.'
Writing in the Journal Of Autism And Developmental Disorders, the Australian doctors stated: 'The few studies employing diagnostic criteria for ASD suggest a prevalence of 6-26 per cent in transgender populations.'
This was 'higher than the general population, but no different from individuals attending psychiatric clinics'.'
Read more: A quarter of youngsters being treated at transgender clinics may just be autistic, new research claims
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