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Autism and Empathy

A comment was made the other night that got me thinking about people with autism and empathy and caring. It was pointed out that I knew just when someone needed a hug and it was interesting because I had autism. That got me thinking about a common misconception about autism - that people with autism are void of empathy or caring. It simply isn't true.

For example, my daughter, Cara, is limited in her communication skills, but she demonstrates empathy and caring. When someone is crying, she responds by trying to comfort them with words (scripted at times, but appropriate) and will even pat people on the shoulder in a comforting gesture. The last time she and I had a fight, afterwards she apologized and wanted to "make up". There is no doubt she is a caring individual.

And then, there is me. I have autism and I am an empath. I feel other people's pain acutely - sometimes even more than my own pain. The more I care about someone and the closer I am to them, the more I feel their pain. And I care deeply for people, especially for my girls and husband. I have cried over someone else's pain because it hurts me so badly.

I think one of the reasons people don't see people with autism as empathic and caring is because it is so hard for many of us to communicate it. Just because you can't say it, doesn't mean you don't feel it. There is a lot trapped inside many of us that just can't get out. I even wonder if people with autism are more empathic in ways because of what they have to go through every day of their lives.

Moral of the story is, don't assume someone with autism isn't empathic - even if they can't say it.

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