If You’ve Met One Autistic Person, Then You’ve Met One Autistic Person

by Jillsmo

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.


6 thoughts on “If You’ve Met One Autistic Person, Then You’ve Met One Autistic Person

  1. That is so great! 5 minutes one day, 10 minutes the next.

    Whenever my son sees another child cry, he immediately wants to get tissue for them.

  2. Dawn says:

    Child 1 is awesome. that is all.

    ok–yer pretty awesome too. 😉

  3. Ashmire says:

    Very true. Unfortunately, I know far too many people who would say it’s not real empathy because he was only excited about what’s on the screen and not upset by his brother’s distress…and then if he got upset with his brother’s distress would say he’s not being empathetic with mom’s need for help. There’s just no way to win with preconcieved notions! Anyway, glad there are nice, sane, open-minded parents like you in the world.

  4. Bob Castleman says:

    I hate it when I read things about a lack of empathy. I have empathy coming out the wazoo. The problem is that I cannot regularly and consistently interpret emotional information in real time. My empathy is often delayed because I can’t process things in time.

    I’m HFA/Aspreger’s, if you didn’t figure that out …

  5. My youngest hates when people are hurt and crying. Before he was verbal he would hit people if they were hurt. Now he is able to say (with out prompting) “Why are you crying? Are you ok?”

    Our kids know more than people think. They are pretty awesome 🙂

  6. Angel says:

    My oldest does stuff like that all the time. When one of us is really upset he tries to show us something he things is cool to make us feel better. At times it can be very frustrating – I mean – when I am crying because my Grandma died I really don’t want to hear about this particular car’s engine – but when you know him you know he is doing it because hearing about a car engine makes him feel better so he is telling us in hopes that it will make us feel better. It is those things that get mis-interpreted. Most people wouldn’t react that way so it is seen as him just talking about his interests at inappropriate times – but when you know him you know that isn’t the case.

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