Gender, Sexuality, and Reproductive Health


The Gender, Sexuality, and Reproductive Health node seeks to improve sexual and reproductive healthcare and outcomes for autistic people, with a focus on autistic women and sexual and gender minorities (SGM; e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual) across the lifespan.


Autistic people often have complex medical and educational support needs that may affect puberty, sexuality development, autonomy, and personal identity. This means they may require adapted or specialized sexual and reproductive health services. Service access disparities continue in adulthood, as multiple studies show autistic women are less likely to receive basic sexual and reproductive health care compared to non-autistic women. Further, a substantial proportion of autistic adolescents and adults are sexual and gender minority. Our research node will systematically address service gaps and health disparities for autistic individuals regarding sexuality education, sexual violence prevention, reproductive health and pregnancy, and sexual and gender minority health. Specific research priorities include developing sexual health curricula for autistic individuals, promoting sexual health education among individuals and families, understanding intersectional identity issues, and promoting self-determination.

Gender, sexuality, and reproductive health node leader

Lisa Croen, PhD

Research Scientist III, Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California; Director, Autism Research Program, Kaiser Permanente Northern California

Dr. Croen has been a Research Scientist at the Division of Research, at Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) since 2000, and is the Director of the KPNC Autism Research Program. She has over 20 years of experience working in collaborative multi-site settings and directing research focused on ASD and other  neurodevelopmental disorders. A major focus of her research has been on identifying perinatal risk factors, exploring the development of co-occurring physical and mental health conditions over the life course, understanding patterns and disparities in detection, diagnosis, and utilization of health services, and evaluating interventions. She has a particular interest in the health status and healthcare utilization of transition-age autistic youth and adults. She is currently a member of two multidisciplinary workgroups addressing the design and implementation of clinical services and care paths across the lifespan for KPNC members with developmental disabilities: the Regional ASD and DD Integration of Care Leadership (RADICAL) Group and the Global Approach to Transition Experience (GATE) Committee. She has previous experience evaluating physical and mental health status and health care utilization and costs among children, transition-age youth and adults with ASD. Dr. Croen has published extensively in all of these areas.

Gender, sexuality, and reproductive health node leader

Maria Massolo, PhD

Practice Leader Consulting, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research; Sr. Manager, Autism Research Program

Dr. Massolo was born and raised in Argentina where she was a politically active student during the military dictatorship of the mid-1970s.  She emigrated to the United States in her early 20s, where she completed her education in the California public university system.  After obtaining her doctorate in cultural anthropology at UC Berkeley, Dr. Massolo became an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Latin American Studies at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, where she taught courses on gender and sexuality, qualitative methods, Latinx anthropology, and the cultural body. Leaving academia for a more applied field, Dr. Massolo moved to medical research at Kaiser Permanente, where for the past thirteen years she has managed and implemented studies at the Autism Research Program in collaboration with Dr. Croen. Dr. Massolo’s ethnographic training and expertise in qualitative methods qualified her to direct and implement several studies involving interview and focus group participation.  Her research interests include intersectionality and social determinants of health, as well as health access for vulnerable, marginalized and diverse populations, particularly Latinx communities.  Dr. Massolo has co-authored papers on methods, healthcare delivery, autism in adults, physician knowledge of autism, and is currently working on a manuscript about healthcare transition from pediatrics to adult care, based on interviews with autistic individuals, healthcare providers, and caregivers. From her struggles for social and political change in Argentina, to her work as an educator, and currently as a researcher, Dr. Massolo brings her passion for equality to her work.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under award UT2MC39440, the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health. The information, content, and/or conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS, or the US Government.