Yes, absolutely. Some Aspies very, very deeply feel the feelings of others. But our response to the empathy we feel might be different from what you would expect from a neurotypical person. Remembering that Aspies are all different people and that it’s dangerous to generalize, I’ll give an example.
A good number of men I’ve known seem to have an automatic expectation that I, as a woman, will automatically understand what they’re feeling inside even if they’re not expressing it overtly, such as saying “I feel sad.” (Heaven forbid!) So even if neurotypical women are capable of seeing a certain look in a man’s eye and are socialized to do something about the meaning it conveys, I may not understand that look at all, for starters.
But let’s say the guy is being a bit more clear – he’s not talking much, he’s sitting with his head in his hands, perhaps he’s going so far as to allow tears in his eyes. Then I can read it (but not all Aspies could), but what I do about it may not be what he needs. Honestly, I know there are some kinds of petting actions and lovey-dovey words that might be helpful, but I am generally confused about them and they never occur to me spontaneously. So what’s my go-to response? Ask him directly what the problem is, immediately analyze the situation he presents, and come up with a wonderful solution to the problem. There. Done.
Except, not done. He actually wanted his feelings validated in some way. I have taught myself to (if I remember) say something like, “I guess you’re feeling pretty sad about that.” But that kind of response always feels really fake to me. I will have had to work very hard to put that together, and by the time I’ve said it, it feels flat, like when you have to explain a joke to someone.
Then we’re in a classic standoff. He needed to know he was loved and understood, and I showed my love and understanding by putting my wondrous brain into action to solve his problem. Isn’t that good enough? No, because he didn’t want his problem solved as much as he wanted me to do sweet cozy things that show I care about his feelings.
And that’s just one example. The take-away here: just because an Aspie doesn’t respond in a neurotypical way to the emotions of others doesn’t mean they don’t empathize. Some Aspies may be able to do no more than nod and walk off and feel depressed for you. Or they may do something to try to distract you from your feelings so you don’t feel bad any more, like show you the latest project they’re involved with. While those solutions may sound lame, the Aspie is nevertheless affected by the other person’s feelings and is experiencing or creating a response to them. I hope this gives you food for thought and fodder for a good conversation with whoever in your life inspired your question.