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Old 12-30-17, 04:15 AM
Hazel87 Hazel87 is offline
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Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

We do have empathy. The problem is really more of a misunderstanding of words and meaning and the use of words. Also a misinterpretation of what it means to score low on the Empathy Quotient test.

In everyday life, we use empathy interchangeably with words like compassion, sympathy, etc so if someone lacks empathy, we imagine they must be a careless person who lacks compassion for others the way a sociopath does.

However, the word "empathy" as a reference to psychological functioning is completely different than compassion or sympathy. It refers to ones ability to recognize and interpret emotions in others, and the ability to mentally put themselves in the other persons shoes, imagining the situation as if it was happening to them and how they would feel, even if they haven't experienced it themselves. Sometimes they might have difficulty predicting or understanding how certain behaviours or events will make others feel. They might struggle to interpret body language and facial expressions, emotions in other people.

A lot of people on the autism spectrum and even a lot of people with only ADHD struggle with empathy, but that doesn't mean they struggle with compassion or sympathy. It simply means that they struggle to varying degrees with interpreting emotions in others or imagining themselves as experiencing something from another person's perspective. That isn't low empathy in how we typically envision it or use the word in everyday language.

Most people on the autism spectrum, and probably a vast amount of people with ADHD, tend to score pretty low on the EQ. Most people, even neurotypical, tend to score a lot lower than they expect though, because they have a misinformed idea of what empathy actually is. The empathy quotient test is primarily made up of questions like "I find it hard to know what to do in a social situation T or F?" or "I can easily spot when someone in a group is uncomfortable T or F?" I think there are at the most TWO questions on the entire thing about whether or not you enjoy people suffering or don't care if people are harmed etc. It's primarily a measure of ability to interpret others emotions and behaviours.

You can have impairments in empathy but still have ENORMOUS compassion and sympathy for others.

I know that I have some "impairment" in empathy. I've known this since I was young, but I couldn't understand it and didn't have the proper diagnosis yet to even begin to understand it. I knew I wasn't a sociopath or something because I loved people so much and I adored animals, the thought of anyone getting hurt was awful etc. I still knew that there were so many times when empathy wasn't registering the same way for me as it was for other people around me though and it always confused me. Really, the main issue was what they call "theory of mind". I feel enormous compassion and sympathy for others, and my empathy has improved a lot being an adult now but I definitely still process empathy differently than others do. It's difficult to put into words but I guess the best way I could describe it is to say that for me, it's more of an intellectual process, especially if it's something I haven't experienced myself. It's more like a quick process of "Oh, my baby cousin just fell and hurt herself! She's crying loudly and looks upset, so she must be in pain or scared. That's so sad, I need to comfort her (not all autistics would know how to do this though)" instead of just instinctively being able to put myself into her experience and perspective and feeling her emotions with her.

I honestly despise the whole "Autistic people don't have empathy" ****. I wish they'd use a different term than empathy, or add more context.
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