Chapter 2 begins by describing the features of reciprocal interactions between non-autistic individuals, including co-regulation, building on what the other person says, sharing experiences, showing curiosity about others, and seeing the world from another person’s perspective. Autistic people can have different ways of interacting in any of these domains, struggling with skills such as how to greet people, expressing curiosity about others, sharing experiences, maintaining back-and-forth flow during interactions, seeing a comment or situation from another person’s point of view, and/or misunderstanding other people’s intentions.
Readers will learn about empathic disequilibrium and the different types of empathy – cognitive, affective, and compassionate. The authors explain that autistic girls and women are more likely to follow the implicit non-autistic norms of reciprocity by explicitly thinking through every interaction, even those that seem simple to non-autistics. This camouflaging (a.k.a. masking) is exhausting and stressful. Navigating race, gender, and ethnic/societal/cultural expectations renders it even more so because the social rules around communication, turn-taking, interrupting, and humor are culturally bound. The authors also discuss the difficulty of navigating romantic interests and dating, with particular attention to the impact of being a person of color.