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