by Carrie Cooling

image by smlp.co.uk

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

It’s been long believed that people with Asperger’s Syndrome don’t have empathy. There are numerous articles that have stated this and, more recently, some that counter this claim.

As someone with Asperger’s, I can assure you that I most definitely experience empathy. Every Aspie I know experiences empathy. It is my belief, and that of my Aspie friends and colleagues, that we experience others’ emotions to a much greater degree than a non-autistic individual.

When my husband comes into a room, Mateo and I hold our breath. Tim is a very emotional, high-energy individual, and we feel it very, very intensely. It’s often overwhelming and, depending on the level of sensory input, I try to hide for a few minutes. However, I often find myself pushing my limits just to make sure everyone else’s needs have been met, because having familial responsibilities means I don’t always have the luxury of centering myself at that exact moment.

When I’m being sympathetic to someone’s plight, I will be very factual and non-emotional in my response. Please don’t mistake this for not having empathy. I respond that way because I feel their emotions very deeply and, if I don’t control them within myself, I run the risk of being drawn into their emotional state. I can’t afford to do that because doing so will affect my entire day, probably the next one, and possibly the whole week.

We do feel empathy. It’s okay to teach your child appropriate responses to someone in an emotional state, but please don’t think we aren’t empathetic.

About the Author: Carrie Cooling is a mom with Asperger’s Syndrome. She has three children: one diagnosed with Asperger’s, one with borderline Asperger’s, and one who is heteristic. (For a definition of heteristic, see her blog post here.) Empathy first appeared on her blog, Parenting with Asperger’s Syndrome, and is reprinted here by permission.



2 thoughts on “Empathy

  1. Jean Carroll says:

    I so love hearing from people who are on the spectrum. My little boy (autie kid,mega gorgeous)shoved his cousin yesterday, and when I made him apologise he rubbed his cousin on the tummy. I had to hold back the tears XXX

  2. Jayn says:

    “I respond that way because I feel their emotions very deeply and, if I don’t control them within myself, I run the risk of being drawn into their emotional state.”

    I’ve been a little resentful of this at times (usually because I have my own BS to deal with) because of having to fight the emotional response. Because I want to help, and that requires staying emotionally distant, but that’s really hard to do without avoiding the person in question, and that’s just a recipe for a self-inflicted guilt trip. Damn conscience…

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