ASD’s and Empathy?

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Hello my lovely Bloggy friends,

I followed a link on fb today to this post,

The Data Myth,

which was on Autism and Empathy.

I became extremely overwhelmed when reading the following.

We need to be on guard against the Data Myth and the stereotypes it perpetuates. Children with autism may sometimes react differently, but that doesn’t mean they lack human emotions. We need to think about, write about, and treat children with autism with the understanding that they experience a full range of emotions but have trouble processing and communicating them. We need to understand that they are interested in people and want to interact, but that they have sensory or communication issues that make it difficult. We need to challenge the medical community to rise above these stereotypes. And we need to see our kids as already whole and complete children, not as faulty

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The post reminded me of some thoughts I wrote last year.

So I thought I’d share and update with more recent thoughts.

The Blue Peter Cambodia Appeal.

I was about 10 years old, the children’s TV show here in the UK “Blue Peter” had an appeal to raise money for children in Cambodia. They showed an awful amount of footage that made me feel very lucky to have food and a home. It also devastated me to see such under nourished children with flies circling their faces and them having no energy to flick them away. This footage I still remember to this day, and if I focus on it I still cry.

My Mom in her wisdom, decided to use my very visual imagination to get me to part with some of my many toys, that I was extremely attached to. She came into my bedroom with black bin bags and said something like this, “You have far too many toys in this room, everything needs to be sorted and tidied up. There are a lot of starving children in this world, you’ve seen it on Blue Peter. Get rid of some of these toys and I will take them to the charity shop and you will help to save a little child’s life.”

I gave away everything

I couldn’t bear the thought of these little kids having no food. The visuals from Blue Peter were far too much for me.

I only kept 2 toys, my Tiny Tears Doll and my Teddy Boo-Boo. I still have both of them.

Now I have a theory about this lack of empathy thing

It’s only from my understanding and what I have lived, I have read nothing on it…my dyslexia makes that difficult. Personal accounts from others is my best way of learning.

I know that over the years I have had to shut down to my feelings because they are so intense. I can get so overwhelmed by emotion that I can barely function. I know that when I love a person they become as important as myself. My children are more important and I would die for them.

Because I have visual reruns of things that either hurt me or confuse me, I end up rehearsing and chatting and analysing, this can be quite tiring. I will have so many conversations going around in my head. I have managed to stay in touch with my feelings, emotions and show empathy by being careful what I feed my brain with. Being careful not to overload myself. I know now what will replay in my constant thought loops and which things to avoid. I can also praise up the less noisy loops and help myself to do the things that are hard to do.

I think that the lack of empathy thing is just a shut down mechanism of self protection because emotion is so intense…it will overload the system and cause sensory difficulties and eventually complete shutdown. But this is just a whole load of Lisa Lingo from my babbling thought loops.

I just know that when I gave my toys away it was because I cared deeply for children I would never meet, and I was willing to go without my faithful friends so they would live. I don’t believe that I lack empathy and I don’t believe other Aspies do either. But this is just my understanding.

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Recently I was told by a professional

“I have taken you out of your comfort zone Lisa, but you will adapt!”

I was struggling to comprehend the changes to what I was doing, the environment I was placed in and the NEW people I was having to interact with. I tried my best to explain the overwhelm of sensory and emotions I was dealing with on top of everything else I am trying to process lately, that this person knows about.

Yes I was way out of my comfort zone and barely staying afloat.

All I wanted to do was run, hide and be in a safe place. My emotions were at full capacity, my sensory was switched on to the max and I felt that NO ONE was listening, NO ONE understood and most of all NO ONE cared.

I am no longer in that situation now, I know my limits and they were pushed too far. I also know that if I only had to cope with an environmental change with familiar people I would have been ok. Or if I had to cope with new people in a familiar environment and routine that also would have been ok. However this was new environment, new people and new routine all in one go.

I felt totally overwhelmed by this and was not really processing what was going on. I felt I was letting down those around me. I hate feeling like I let people down and this will not leave my head. I had no choice but to leave this situation and sort out the other things in my life that are causing me complications.

This quote is from The Data Myth post

Children with autism have empathy. They may behave differently. They may communicate differently. They may need more time to process the event and the emotions. They may even experience emotions too intensely.

Those high functioning on the spectrum

Don’t grow out of being Autistic, we just learn how to hide it REALLY well. We have to, because most people in this world don’t understand empathy and our ways are seen as different, odd, unacceptable and over-emotional.

Love and hugs.

Lisa. xx 🙂

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17 thoughts on “ASD’s and Empathy?

  1. Wow Lisa! This is a great post. So heartfelt.
    I can really relate to what you say here. We feel way too much, not too little.
    Well, I shouldn’t say “too” much, because I certainly wouldn’t trade my empathy for apathy!
    But it is overwhelming at times, isn’t it.
    I am so glad you realized that you needed to get out of that situation that placed you too far “out of your comfort zone”. We need to take good care of ourselves.
    Thanks for speaking up on this. Eventually the scientists and the media will get it 🙂
    Love and hugs,
    Bruce 🙂

    • Hello lovely Bruce,
      You know Bruce I didn’t realise that NT’s don’t feel the physical pain of emotion.
      It was only through my close friendship with Fi that I was able to express this and understand that our sensory system causes the overload.
      Maybe one day people will understand why Autistic kids curl up in a ball in the supermarket, or sit rocking in a corner at a party.
      Also, why so many adult Aspies are aloof, or seem to not care.
      We can hope and pray my friend.
      Love and hugs. xx 🙂

  2. The very fact that you gave away ALL of your toys shows that you have more empathy than most, Lisa. I don’t know of anyone else who was so generous because of a Blue Peter appeal. I’m ashamed to say, I wasn’t.

    You really are a lovely, lovely person.

    • Thank you Tilly, I still can’t watch film of children/people/animals suffering in any way.
      My visual memory in extremely intense, and it causes an overlay of visual images like projections over everyday life.
      It can be like being in the same room and I absorb and mimic emotion.
      This is both good and bad because watching a good movie is a wonderful experience and photos I can bring to life in my head and feel I’m part of them.
      But anything negative in any way will cause my emotions to overload me and my sensory is so intense I shutdown a blubbering mess.
      For a while, 4 years actually, when I lost my faith. I switched myself off to this by not caring about anything but me and mine.
      It was a very lonely existence, but less painful.
      BUT….it’s not who I am.
      I had no choice but to give my toys away Tilly, by that age I knew I wouldn’t sleep, eat or function if I didn’t.
      Yes it was empathy, but also self preservation.
      Thank you for your comment it really made me think.
      Love and hugs.
      Lisa. xx 🙂

  3. I wished those who said our kids and autistic adults have no or limited empathy would come and live with my family for a few hours. They’d see that my son has more empathy, compassion and heart than anyone I know. Because he has a hard time showing it does not mean he lacks. Quite the opposite. I think he feels too much and shuts down when it becomes too overwhelming.

    xxoo–y

    • Hello Lizbeth, you are such a great Mom to see this. I know you are right about your son because that is exactly what I have to do.
      I then have to pray about it and trust that God cares more than I do and I feel for a reason.
      Now I am an adult I go to my shutdowns knowing that I have to pray my way out of them.
      This gives me the strength and love to keep caring and not cut myself off.
      Love and hugs. xx 🙂

  4. Oh, my goodness. That was amazing!! You articulated it so well. I had tears in my eyes. These are things that I can use to help understand our Stephanie sometimes. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts!

  5. Lisa,
    Your posts always touch my heart. I can picture you as a young girl giving your toys away. I wish I could give that little girl a hug. I too know those on the autism spectrum have empathy, but it is still hard to get that point across to the general population.

    • Thanks Sue,
      Part of it (I think) is because those on the spectrum who are able to express are usually not that emotional.
      Also, those who are emotional find it hard to find words to express.
      My Dad is non verbal out of the family home. He has a lot of compassion and empathy but can only express it in what looks, to others, like anger.
      Because my Mom was NT, I learnt to understand both of them in different ways.
      My Dad always looks like he doesn’t care and never really seems interested in showing he cares.
      At home though, where he can be himself his upset will come out in any form he has to express, he doesn’t have words so his movements and actions will express for him. Also he will sing so we can tell what moods he’s in and what he is thinking about by the types of songs he sings.
      My brother too is like this, and at the moment he is switched off to caring and makes out he hates the world.
      This is his only way of coping, he is overloaded by life, if he thinks about others at the moment he becomes dysfunctional.
      I hope this makes sense, I think I have babbled a bit.
      I know you get me though…giggle.
      Love and hugs. xx 🙂

  6. Lisa, I just love your posts. This is exactly what I see with Dash, and I was going to write a post on it, too! He asked me if I jumped out the window like he did, since I was so sore (from the rheumatoid arthritis). He totally could “feel” how I felt and put it into terms and ideas he could understand and process. When I finally write that post, may I reference your post here?

    • Merri, you are one of my closest friends.
      You don’t have to ask me if you can use one of my posts, you noodle.
      OF COURSE YOU CAN!!!
      I LOVE Dash he is so clever, I bet you are so proud of him.
      You are such a great Mom though, what more should we expect.
      Love you my lovely friend, and please don’t jump out of any windows.
      You’re not feeling well and you’ve not long given birth.
      Love you so much. xxx 🙂

  7. I have known you and your Siblings from the year dot. I am no expert on autism I just know that I have always thought the opposite of my Family, not that they lack empathy or feelings but that they are, as you say, overloaded. Whatever situation is going on around them can become too much and then they can take on the responsibility of putting it right, which is too much for anyone. I now understand that this is why sometimes, you cannot discuss particular happenings as the overload would cause pain and shut-down. I hate stereotyping and I can therefore understand why some Processionals do not like labelling, as humankind has a habit of stereotyping. It is the same with Mental Health. I have dear friends who have Schizophrenia, warm, intelligent and caring people. But once people hear the word Schizophrenia, Jekyll & Hyde thoughts come to mind. It is true that some who suffer this are a danger to themselves and others but most are not. We are all different. I have a loving caring Family and I wouldn’t change any one of you. I feel a song coming on. “I love you just the way you are” Love you xxxx

  8. Pingback: ASD, who do you see? | Alienhippy's Blog

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