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Old 12-29-17, 03:48 PM
Artiste Artiste is offline
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Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

"My view of Asperger's (I don't know about the rest of the spectrum) is that it is a condition where the person has an inability to pick out the important parts of the sensory information they receive, so they take everything in at the same level, which can be very overwhelming given that their brains are probably structured like normal ones for the most part, just without the part that filters sensory information correctly. As a neurotypical my brain just tries to process the important parts of what's happening, but I believe people with Asperger's cannot do this. That is why people with Asperger's cannot look at faces easily (too much emotional information, and it feels too intimate in a way), why they have excellent recall of some situations in their past (my partner can remember and describe events like he's looking at a photograph or a movie, to a level of detail that I cannot manage), why they find noise overwhelming, and why they cannot understand implied meanings of things that are said to them.

I know my partner is a gentle and loving person, even so he sometimes says things that sound hurtful to me without meaning to. It is impossible for him to use implied meaning in what he says, because his brain prevents him from being able to learn it as he doesn't process it from other people when they are talking to him - also, when I say things to him he takes them as if I was someone with Asperger's saying it to him, and obviously I take what he says as if it was someone with a neurotypical brain saying it to me! I think that is where the communication issues between us arise from.

We both have ADHD though, which I think is why we felt a connection to one another when we first met. I also think his ADHD interacts with the Asperger's in interesting ways. It makes him more spontaneous and silly than he would otherwise be with just Asperger's, but it can also be negative in that his Asperger's prevents him from picking up the importance of things I say that are emotionally-based, and then because his Aspie-brain has registered it as "not important", his ADHD-brain fails to act upon it! That can be very difficult sometimes, but I love him so I try to be as understanding as possible, and as direct as possible when I tell him that he hasn't done something he should have in these sort of situations.

I'd be interested to know what other people think of what I've just said, so please respond and let me know (if you have Asperger's, I would like you to try to be as nice as you can if you disagree). "

I haven't been here for a while, as I've been on a 14 month waiting list to go back to a psychiatrist for ADHD testing (still waiting). But I was diagnosed with high functioning autism/aspergers as a teen and strongly suspect I have a form of ADHD also for reasons I've described in other posts. Although until I get tested, I can only guess. So my response is from that basis.

What you said about your partner was interesting to hear from my perspective. I rarely hear about NT-ASD relationships actually working, so it's great to know there are some people out there who find a way to make it a success. My own experience dating NT men hasn't been great, but the two guys I dated with autism were near perfect matches for me (unfortunately I was too young to appreciate it at the time). Mainly due to such big differences in NT vs ASD communication methods and our competing needs in a relationship. I tend to hear a lot of the problem stories, so reading your description of your relationship was very positive.

You are right that we do feel empathy. I was far too empathic as a child, and 'absorbed' whatever emotions people displayed around me. There was zero filter between what they were feeling and my own emotions and it was overwhelming. I learned at a young age to build a giant 'wall' around myself to stop that happening, which is why I think I come across as cold or robotic at times (although it can still cause problems if I know the person really well and care about them - that 'wall' doesn't work if I am too close to them). Remaining detached is a coping mechanism that allows me to function in regular society. It's cute when a little kid runs over to a depressed looking stranger and hugs them. If you do that as a 30 year old, you get (at minimum) a slap!

Your description of autism sounds fairly accurate (I guess - I can never really know how a neurotypical person thinks). We take in every tiny detail at the same level and it takes a while to filter through to the important bits (important for us and then important for other people - the two categories are very different). If more than one person talks near me (even on TV), their conversations all blend into one like white noise. If I'm given a task, my entire focus is on that task and I can't really do anything else. All of my thoughts and memories are in visual format like a running movie that I can zoom in and out of. My brain is always crammed with information, so I miss additional new information at times and need a lot of 'blank space' (empty, silent, alone time) to filter through it all and catch up. I work in IT, so I refer to that as 'defragmentation time'. To use the computer analogy, if I don't get enough alone time then my system slows down and eventually overheats. I also find language difficult (specifically the nuances in semantics). If someone tells me something then I take every word at surface value. I assume they are being 100% accurate in the words they are choosing. I won't 'fill in' any gaps, 'read between the lines' or replace any mistakes with correct information/words as an NT person might do and it is a bit jarring when I manage to notice those mistakes (I believe this might be due to a difference in memory recall). When I speak, I try to be very specific in the words I use, so I assume everyone else does and have to remember this isn't always the case. Which can also seem robotic or cold at times, as it causes a delay when I try to chat with NT people for too long. I lived and worked abroad when I was younger and it feels much like trying to translate a new language that I only understood some of. I could pick out the words after practice, but a lot of the deeper meaning was lost by the time they transformed to English in my head. Accuracy is incredibly important to me, whereas emotional semantics tend to be more important in NT communication methods and that emotional layer isn't 'native' to me. An example of this that causes regular misunderstanding is when someone approaches me with a problem. I will automatically offer a practical solution, as that is how I would want someone to respond to me. Whereas, a lot of the time an NT person will want a purely emotional response instead. It is hard to get the right balance. I am assuming your partner has the same difficulties and it is great that you are aware of your differences and have found solutions to this.
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