Double Empathy

The Double Empathy Problem has been getting a lot of buzz in the actually autistic community. Coined by Dr. Damian Milton, this study essentially revealed that we autistic people speak our own interpersonal language. When two autistic people communicate with one another, all the social “eccentricities” that medically define us are completely understandable between each other.

While it is well known that autistic people struggle to understand neurotypical people’s social norms and cues (often mislabeled as a lack of empathy on our part), it turns out that NTs also struggle to follow with autistic peoples social norms. Even more, people with autism have learned to recognize NT norms more than allistic people have learned to understand (or empathize) with the autistic social language.

What does this mean for us as autistic people? Every time we wonder whether or not it is valid to request that allistic people take the time to understand our perspective, we can remember the Double Empathy Problem. For every moment we are asked and expected to assimilate for our allistic loved ones, we can reasonably ask the same in return.

By educating our close companions in the Double Empathy Problem, we have research on our side. We can show them that our miscommunications are two-sided. It’s time to stop blaming people with autism for misunderstandings. It’s time to advocate for inclusion, especially in our personal relational circles.

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