There are few academic studies that combine empirical research with the lived experiences of children with disabilities. Understanding how disability, autonomy and gender identity development interconnect with each other deserves attention, especially for people who work with children with disabilities, because learning about such dynamics could have an important positive impact on their clients’ treatment. The aim of this research was to understand the development of gender identity in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and how this might influence their autonomy in shaping their own sense of gender. Using a mixed-methods approach in two parts, this study worked with 15 children with ASD in Germany to observe how children perceive their gender identity. In the first part, the children answered a gender identity questionnaire. In the second part, they were asked to draw two pictures: a self-portrait of themselves in their favorite outfit, and a drawing of their family. Additionally, after each drawing, the children were briefly interviewed for a better clarification on the drawings. The questionnaire, the drawings, and the interviews suggested that the children’s gender identity was very normative, especially for girls, meaning that they adhered to ideal standards of masculinity and femininity that reinforces a binary gender system. However, the results also showed that there was little pressure from family members to conform to such ideals. The measures of this study are not perfect but indicate that future research on this topic is vital, not only for educators, but also for Psychology and Disability Studies.


Clayton, Susan

Second Advisor

Craven, Christa


Psychology; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Arts and Humanities | Social and Behavioral Sciences


gender identity, children, disability, autism spectrum disorder, development, autonomy, art therapy, drawings, Germany

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2019 Anna S. Vogt