Strategies for Neurotypical People to Develop Empathy for Autistic People

It’s always seemed very unfair to me that autistics have been encouraged to learn to show empathy for and understanding of neurotypicals but the reverse has rarely been the case. When my “Aspie” sons were at school (they were all in mainstream classes) there were many times when I had to explain to their teachers why whichever son it was at the time had reacted in a particular way to whatever situation arose. Sometimes it fell on deaf ears, other times not — and those teachers who made the effort to understand my sons were the ones who had the most positive impact on their learning, both academically and socially, and were also the ones for whom my sons developed the most respect and admiration.

I was very pleased to find and reblog this article from “The Enthusiastic Life”. 🙂

The Enthusiastic Life

Historically, there has been much debate about the extent to which autistic individuals experience empathy. I am using the phrase “autistic individuals” rather than “individuals with autism,” per the recommendation from the Autism Self-Advocacy Network. Recent studies indicate that while autistics may experience and demonstrate empathy in different ways from neurotypicals, they do indeed experience it, sometimes to intense degrees. The debate is well summarized here.

Empathy image credit here

Throughout this discussion, I have observed a curious and glaring omission: what about how and whether neurotypicals empathize with autistics? One of the basic tenets of social skills is reciprocity, an attunement to the back and forth nature of social interactions. If we are examining how well autistics display empathy towards others (the majority of whom are neurotypical), it is only fair to ask how and whether neurotypicals are extending the same courtesy back

In my…

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