When discussing autistic people, “professionals” often say that a common trait is a lack of empathy. I have always held the belief that this is complete horseshit and that my child with autism has more empathy than your average typical adult. I know this, because I know my kid, but others might not notice it because he’s bad at verbally communicating his feelings: a much more common trait among autistic people. A typical person expects a certain emotional reaction to specific circumstances and, when they don’t get that from the autistic person, they will assume that it’s because that person lacks empathy, when the truth is that they’re just bad at telling or showing you how they’re feeling.
I’ve talked before about how Child 2 is the best possible “social skills” teacher for Child 1, and everyday I see Child 1 becoming more and more verbal about his feelings and opinions. Have I mentioned that’s awesome? Because that’s awesome.
Last night Child 2 was having a hissy fit about something or other, I don’t even remember what it was about, does it matter? He’s very dramatic. And loud. Did I mention loud? Because he’s loud. At the time Child 1 was in his room on his computer, an activity that they often share, usually against Child 1’s objections. As Child 2 is crying and carrying on, I hear Child 1 yell to him from the other room “HEY! CHILD 2! COME HERE AND LOOK AT THIS!”
Child 2 continues to cry and whine, and so Child 1 tries again: “CHILD 2! COME HERE AND CHECK THIS OUT! IT’S REALLY COOL!” This gets his attention, and Child 2 stops his tantrum and goes into the room to see what’s going on. Within seconds they are both laughing at whatever it is they’re looking at on the screen.
That has never happened before; Child 1 has never invited Child 2 to come and share his personal space. Usually what happens is that I’ll hear “MAMA! Make Child 2 leave me alone,” and I did hear that about 5 minutes later, but not before the tantrum was ended and Child 2 was laughing and feeling better. Child 1 intentionally went outside his comfort zone in order to make his brother feel better, if even just for a minute or two.
Lack of empathy, huh? I don’t think so….
About the Author: Jillsmo is the mother of two sons, one of whom has a diagnosis of autistic disorder. This piece first appeared on her blog, Yeah. Good Times., and is reprinted here by permission.