Autism and the Double Empathy Problem

Autism and the double empathy problem: Implications for development and mental health


This article proposes a link between autistic people being misperceived by the neurotypical majority and their being at risk of poor mental health and well‐being. We present a transactional account of development in which the misperceptions (and consequent behaviour) of the neurotypical majority influences the perceptions and behaviour of autistic people such that they become increasingly separate and indeed isolated from mainstream society. This jeopardizes their mental health and prevents autistic people from developing to full potential. The situation is not only problematical for the development of autistic people but is also to the detriment of wider society, in so far as autistic people are effectively prevented from contributing fully. This account assumes that some (not necessarily all) autistic people yearn to be included, to be productive and to be useful. It thus directly opposes accounts that view autism as an extreme case of diminished social motivation.

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