Intersecting Identities: Unpacking Gender Bias to Support Neurodiversity in Early Childhood Education and Beyond

Nationwide, protections for transgender students in public schools have been a hotly debated topic. In 2023 alone**, politicians have introduced 138 bills across 31 states aimed at restricting the rights of transgender students. Despite there being federal protections in place under Title IX prohibiting this type of discrimination, it is the constant lived experience of every transgender and non-binary student in our public schools. Politics and controversy aside, the reality is transgender students exist, and they exist in our classrooms as young as age 2. Additionally, research increasingly shows neurodiverse people are more likely to be gender diverse, and vice versa. As educators aiming for inclusive practices in our classrooms, we cannot support and teach acceptance of neurodiversity without supporting and teaching acceptance of gender diversity. 

In this presentation, we will present data from ongoing research at the University of Washington about the intersection of autism, neurodiversity, and gender diversity. We will lean on years of experience supporting gender-diverse learners in early childhood classrooms, as well as our experiences as neurodiverse trans educators and researchers, to lead case study discussions, where session participants can start to unpack the impacts of their own gender bias on students. Finally, participants will leave the session with an action plan to support and protect gender-diverse students, and a heightened awareness of why it isn't possible to teach or preach inclusion without working to better understand and support gender diversity.  

**as of February 13, 2023

1. Understand the developmental stages of gender in young children 
2. Develop an understanding about the intersection of neurodiversity and gender identity  
3. Reflect on and identify internal gender bias 
4. Create action steps that apply to participants' specific work    


Audience: Early Learning Providers

Meet the instructor:

Jessica Flaherty is a Research Assistant for the Professional Development and Training team at the Haring Center for Inclusive Education. She received her M.Ed. from Nicholl’s State University and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Washington. 

Jessica is currently working as a research assistant and practicum supervisor in the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) graduate program at the UW College of Education. Her current research focuses on the intersectional experience of gender and neuro-diversity, the unique barriers and needs within this space, the ways clinicians come to know and value those needs, and the implications on the field as a whole. She recently received an AIR-P grant for a study titled Exploring the Space Where Gender and Neuro Diversity Meet, which aims to center and amplify the voices of individuals who live and experience this intersectional identity via focus group methodology.  

Prior to joining the Haring Center, Jessica worked as a behavior analyst in an early intervention center in New Orleans, Louisiana where she provided services in the clinic, home, and school settings. This work quickly shaped her values and aspirations, prioritizing collaborative relationships with clients and families and providing services that are tailored to specific lives, values, and contexts. 

Em Dandridge is an education specialist for the Professional Development and Training team at the Haring Center for Inclusive Education. He received both their Bachelor of Art’s degree in Psychology and Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Washington. They have a Washington State teaching credential with dual endorsements in Early Childhood General Education and Special Education.

Em’s work focuses on training, coaching, and consultation to teachers and other professionals in early learning classrooms on evidence-based inclusive practices, with an emphasis on celebrating neurodiversity. They have specific knowledge in Preschool Inclusion, Early Childhood Special Education, Part C Early Supports, Teaming and Collaboration, Neurodiversity, and Gender Diversity. Em has presented at conferences on topics such as Neurodiversity and The Social Model of Disability, Supporting Gender Diverse Learners in ECE, and the intersection of Neurodiversity and Gender.

Prior to joining the Haring Center, Em worked as an early support practitioner at Kindering Center, where he provided home visit-based parent coaching on play and early communication skills to foster cognitive and speech development in children birth to age three with developmental delays. Their previous work highlights 15 years of teaching experience with early childhood education, including inclusive model infant, toddler, preschool, and kindergarten classrooms at the Experimental Education Unit and Northwest Center.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the Haring Center Professional Development and Training team at