“The boy whose brain could unlock autism,” by Maia Szalavitz
I stumbled upon this piece when browsing facebook. It’s quite long, but talks about some fascinating research (I had heard of “autistic symptoms in rats” in studies, but didn’t know what that was supposed to look like). I was of course interested to reach the parts on empathy, such as:
Indeed, research on typical children and adults finds that too much distress can dampen ordinary empathy as well. When someone else’s pain becomes too unbearable to witness, even typical people withdraw and try to soothe themselves first rather than helping—exactly like autistic people. It’s just that autistic people become distressed more easily, and so their reactions appear atypical.
That’s the paradox about autism and empathy. The problem may not be that autistic people can’t understand typical people’s points of view—but that typical people can’t imagine autism.