FAKE NEWS. The claim: Autistic people can’t show empathy According to Journalism.com, 45% of adults in the UK believe they see or read some form of ‘fake news’ every single day. Throw in Covid 19 – and a vaccination – and the already problematic world of autism on the internet becomes a pandemic of misinformation. For World Autism Acceptance Week we’ve decided to fact check three of the most popular autism assertions. The claim: Autistic people can’t show empathy Where does this come from? Empathy is defined as the sensing of other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. Because autism is typically framed as a ‘condition’ or even a ‘disorder’ identified by a series of social communications differences (can’t dos) there are a whole heap of assumptions made about autistic people. On such belief is that those of us who are autistic won’t be able to empathise because autistic people struggle to communicate. Is it true? In short – nope. It’s a bit like two plus kind of two equals nothing close to four. Firstly, A sage journal from May 2020 first published by the DART team (Development Autism Research Technology) from Edinburgh University looked into what we are now calling ‘double empathy’. This was a report following a study into how well people communicate with one another. They studied communication between autistic people, between non autistic and autistic people, and between those who aren’t autistic. To cut the long (but fascinating) story short – those of us who are autistic people can communicate as effectively as non-autistic people, it just depends who we are communicating with. The same applies to non-autistic people. This means that someone who is neurotypical may assume, or even fail to understand, what’s being communicated by an autistic person but that’s not to say that there’s a communication ‘fault’. It may be that the most effective way of communicating for an autistic person is with another autistic person. This is because it can be difficult for an autistic person to see things from a non-autistic perspective sometimes; but equally it’s difficult for a non-autistic person to see things from an autistic person’s perspective. There will be exceptions, of course. But given the right dynamics, then not only is empathy for an autistic person possible, but it also serves to prove what many of us have known for a long time. Some autistic people are MORE empathetic than most. Verdict: Autistic people CAN empathise and claims to the contrary are Fake News!