September 25th, 2020
After a motivating collaboration with UCL (Laura Hull and Felicity Sedgewick) and two mental health organizations INTER-PSY (Els Blijd-Hoogewys) and Rivierduinen (Lex Stockmann), and of course with several brilliant students involved (who by now all moved on to a PhD or professional training; Anne Bülow, Danique Willems, Rachel O’Connor), our paper on empathic responses of autistic young people is now online in Autism (open access here).
The study looked at various ways that young people expressed empathy to an experimenter who hurt her finger. Our systematic observations indicated that while autistic (pre-)adolescents did not visibly express quite as much affective empathy as the non-autistic young people, they did comfort the experimenter just as often. Yet, boys were more likely to comfort the experimenter by helping practically: “Can I get you a bandage?”, whereas girls (non-autistic, but especially the autistic) responded more emotionally supportive: “Oh, that must hurt!”. Are the autistic girls strongly emotionally invested here, or is this perhaps a reflection of the extra effort they put into their social interactions?