, 14 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
Can #autistic people feel empathy? The answer is, it seems, an overwhelming yes. So how come there is such an enduring myth that we lack this key human skill? It's thread time. /1
Lack of empathy is often seen by the neurotypical community as *the* big indicator of autism. Thus, popular ideas of autism veer towards 'robots', 'cyborgs' and 'psychopaths'. No wonder there are so many problems when actual autistic people dare to be autistic in public /2
I frequently see #autistic people questioned about their autism because they understood empathy. Of course we understand empathy. We feel it too. /3
In fact, talk to any #autistic individuals and you'll generally find that they talk of feeling too much empathy, of being too empathetic. So whats going on here? /4
Trouble is there's a big difference between feeling empathy, as in being desperately upset that another human is upset, and knowing how to show that empathy. Once again, the deficit model of autism comes into play. /5
Basically, because autistic people have atypical responses to others' emotions, the assumption seems to have been made that there was a deficit of empathy - that no feeling of empathy was there,rather than a realisation that the deficit was in societal norms. /6
Basically, because autistic people didn't behave in the expected way to emotional stimuli, a conclusion was hastily leapt to because neurotypicality is assumed to be the only correct way of experiencing the world. Thus autism is deficient. /7
As is so often the case, we approach the idea of empathy from only one set of rules - the neurotypical social norm play book. Any deviation from this and chances are your experience will be labeled 'deviant' or 'incomplete' than than, say, different. /8
Whilst the behaviour that non-autistic people show when 'empathising' can often appear to autistic folk as genuinely bizarre and pointless - or am I alone in this? /9
So we feel the empathy, but don't know how to show it as the demands of neurotypical people to show it in a way they are happy with are so alien to us (or so it seems to me). So I guess we eventually default to not showing it. /10
But that's not the same as not feeling it, nor is it a reasonable logical jump from this point to suggest that our lack of appropriate neurotypical reaction to emotion means we feel nothing. It's insulting as hell. /11
I think it could be filtered down to "autistic people struggle to show *sympathy* to non-autistic people". This fits in with how autism works and is far less unpleasant. /12
And this in itself is no deficit. Its just different emotional languages clashing, with too little in common. The solution to this is reasonable expectations and compromise, not a pathologisation of the trait. /13
But historically autistic people haven't held any power to try to fight the case that we are simply different, not lesser. Maybe that'll change. /end
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