Disclaimer: Anything written here is not to be considered medical advice or to treat or diagnose any medical condition. I do not claim to be an expert on anything except myself and my own experiences. Any tips written in this blog are available for anyone to try. It may or may not work since everyone on the spectrum is different. It may inspire someone to try something similar or spark a completely new idea. Any experiences written in this blog are my own, and may or may not be similar to anyone else who also happens to be on the Autism Spectrum.
Sometimes it is said that people on the Autism Spectrum do not have empathy. This is, for the most part, inaccurate. I believe it comes from the observation of someone on the spectrum when that person does not react as emotional as a neurotypical.
Some have average empathy. Some have less, and some have more. Some have feelings but do not know how to translate them. Some do not wish to, or are unable to express their emotions.
For me, I have a smaller pallet of emotions than the average person. My lows are higher and my highs are lower. I seem to experience the basic emotions (happy, sad, etc) but don’t seem to feel the complicated ones. I’ve never hated anyone or have felt conflicting emotions for one person. Some people love and hate someone. I can’t relate. I’ve never screamed when seeing a celebrity or been angry enough to throw a brick at someone.
I do have empathy, but it is different from emotional empathy. Since my intellectual side takes over for my limited emotions, I seem to have intellectual empathy. Here is an example of the difference.
Let’s say a neurotypical witnesses a young woman walking down the street and is carrying a paper bag full of groceries. She trips and falls while dropping her bag. She skins her knee, rips her skirt, and breaks half the items in her bag. A neurotypical might feel emotional empathy for her, which might include feeling embarrassed for her. The NT might feel sorry for her and may remember a time when it has happened in their life.
For me, I think what she might be feeling. I think that she feels embarrassed that she fell. I think she is in pain from her skinned knee and she feels anger for getting hurt. I then process the logistics of the situation. She has to wrap the bag tighter to get it home. She then has to go through the bag to salvage what isn’t broken. She has to throw away what is broken and go back to the store later to rebuy what she needs. She has to tend to her skinned knee and repair or replace her skirt. She’ll then probably blog or Facebook about it.
After her fall, I would try to help her up and ask if she’s okay. This is because, logically, I know that it’s the right thing to do. I’ve noticed sometimes that not everyone does. I previously thought that emotional empathy means someone will care more and try to help more. This isn’t always the case. They may care, but not want to help. They may want to help, but be scared.
My friends think I have more empathy because I attempt to help out more whenever I can. It isn’t due to emotional empathy. Admittedly, I’ve been trained well. I do like the way I am because I have been able to help in situations in which emotional empathy may otherwise have delayed me. I once had to treat a head wound for a coworker. It was not serious, but there was a lot of blood (which can be common with head wounds). This freaked out others, but I was able to keep calm and get it done.
The point I’d like to get across is that if you (or someone you care about) are not emotionally empathetic, don’t worry. The intellectual side can take over. This area can be trained, and can be trained to be even more empathetic than others.