Neighborhood Publication: Double empathy over time, 38 methods to camouflage, measuring stimming’s mind results | Spectrum

Illustration by Laurène Boglio

Hello and welcome to this week’s community newsletter! I am your host, Chelsey B. Coombs, the engagement editor of Spectrum.

This week we start with a thread from Yu-Lun Chen on Autism’s Twitter account. Chen is a PhD student and associate faculty member in Occupational Therapy at New York University in New York City.

New #OpenAccess paper from @YuLunChen_OT & @ Kpk3P examining the role of neurotype match in peer interactions in inclusive education

A thread ????:

– Autism Journal (@journalautism) June 29, 2021

Chen unpacked a paper based on her dissertation that looked at peer-to-peer interactions between autistic and non-autistic students over a period of five months. Previous research suggests that two people with different life experiences may have difficulty interacting with each other, which is described as a “double empathy problem”. In the new work, autistic and non-autistic people were actually more likely to interact with those who matched their neurotype – a preference that increased over time. And these same group interactions were more about “sharing thoughts and experiences than asking for help or items.”

“These results suggest that peer interaction is determined not only by a student’s diagnosis of autism, but also by a combination of student and peer neurotypes,” the authors write.

Autistic students interacted with their autistic peers in similar patterns as non-autistic students interacted with their non-autistic classmates. Hence, autism may not be a personal social impairment, but rather a communication challenge between individuals.

– Autism Journal (@journalautism) June 29, 2021

Noah Sasson, Associate Professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas, called the paper “really impressive.”

This is a really impressive piece of paper! It examines natural peer interactions between autistic and non-autistic adolescents over a period of 5 months. The interactions within the neurotype increased over time and were more relational and involved more sharing of experience than the interactions between the neurotypes.

– Noah Sasson (@Noahsasson) June 25, 2021

The next tweet comes from Laura Crane, Associate Professor of Psychology and Human Development at University College London and Assistant Director of the Center for Research in Autism and Education in the UK. She and her colleagues checked autistic people’s self-reports of camouflage or masking to hide their autistic features.

New @journalautism article directed by @DrJuliaCook (with @WillClinPsy @lauralhull @lauraeabourne and me): Self-reported cloaking behavior used by autistic adults during everyday social interactions #openaccess

– Laura Crane (@LauraMayCrane) June 28, 2021

The study identified 38 different camouflage behaviors and received high praise on social media. Lily Levy, a mental health clinic for children and adolescents in the UK, said she was “sure this will be my newspaper of 2021”.

That might be a brave call with half the year left, but I’m sure this will be my newspaper of the year for 2021.

– Lily Levy #BLM (@lilyhannahlevy) June 28, 2021

Ann Memmott, a collaborator and “Expert by Experience” with the National Development Team for Inclusion in the UK, wrote that it was a “[very] a useful list of some of the ways we hide our autistic people and comments on why we need to or choose to do so. “ Nice new research on autistic people camouflaging / masking themselves and why. A useful list of some of the ways we hide our autistic people and comments on why we need to or choose to do it. Exhausting, to be honest.

– Ann Memmott PGC ???? (@AnnMemmott) June 30, 2021

Our thesis is by Audrey Brumback, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at the University of Texas at Austin, and Meredith McCarty, a graduate student at the university.

I’m also excited to share my first first author paper in collaboration with @BrumbackLab!

– Meredith McCarty (@Neuro_Meredith) June 14, 2021

The couple examined stereotypes or stereotypical repetitive movements in autism, also known as stimming. Stimming can alter brain rhythms to improve both sensory processing and alertness, they say, and they suggest ways to look into this experimentally – something that hasn’t been done, although autistic people have said that stimming is their sensory processing improved.

“We hope that by understanding the anatomy and physiology of motor stereotypes, we can stigmatize them less and develop ways to use their benefits to help people with and without autism,” the authors write.

Thank you, @Neuro_Meredith! It’s been a great honor to work with you on this. I hope it helps us de-stigmatize #stimming about #autism and help us think in new and different ways about how our brains are wired.

– Audrey C. Brumback, MD, PhD (@BrumbackLab) June 15, 2021

That’s it for this week’s Spectrum Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social contributions in the field of autism research, feel free to email me at We meet next week!


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