There are two theories that were discussed in the Independent, regarding the sex differences and the extreme male brain theory of autism. The theories were tested and studied by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by using almost 700,000 people in the UK to test these theories.
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, which is basically, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Which can be difficult for any person but can be particularly challenging for an autistic individual. Empathizing-systemizing theory of typical sex differences states that females will score higher on tests of empathy than males. However, males will score higher on tests of systemizing than females. This is one of the reasons why there has been such a misunderstanding in the autism community, especially regarding males.
The Extreme Male Brain Theory of autism seems to be another prominent theory that people like to discuss. It extends the empathizing-systemizing theory and explains that autistic people will, show a shift towards “masculinized” scores on measures of empathy and systemizing. This means that they will score below average on empathy tests, but score at least average, or even above average, on systemizing tests.
There are many misinterpretations from the results of these two theories. Many people think that the results meant that people with autism have a lack of empathy, but that is not the case at all. Empathy has two major parts: cognitive empathy (being able to recognize what someone else is thinking or feeling) and affective empathy (having an appropriate emotional response to what someone else is thinking or feeling).
The Independent presented evidence that was uncovered from doing many studies which revealed the first aspect of empathy – also known as “theory of mind,” which individuals with autism on an average struggle with. As a result, people with autism are not uncaring or cruel but are simply confused by other people. They don’t intend to hurt others, but rather they avoid others.
People on the autism spectrum may miss the cues in someone’s facial expression or vocal intonation about how that person is feeling. They may also have trouble putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, to imagine their thoughts. However, when they are told that someone else is suffering, it upsets them and they are moved to want to help that person. Keep in mind that this is true, but can be different for every person with autism.
Girls are not typically diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as much as boys, which can they get little attention and understanding. There is a 3:1 male to female ratio when it comes to an autism diagnosis. Autism symptoms are very often understated in females than in males, which is why it is so common to just ignore those obvious signs. Take a look at the incredible Susan Boyle; she auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent in 2009 and since then has gained 200 million video views and released seven albums, with I Dreamed a Dream becoming the fastest selling U.K debut of all time. The Makers stated that it was not until Susan was 51 when she got diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, which is a form of autism. Even though she went through obstacles that she was unaware of for a long time, she managed to become one of the most successful singers of all time.
People on the autism spectrum have been constantly misunderstood when it comes to empathy and the idea of a hyper-male individual. We would like everyone to remember that every person on the autism spectrum is very different than another person on the spectrum, some individuals can just express themselves better than others. Whether you have a disability or not please recognize that you can succeed at anything you put your mind to.