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Old 11-18-17, 05:27 PM
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Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

Theory finds that individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome don’t lack empathy – in fact if anything they empathize too much (blog post by Seventh Voice)

http://www.addforums.com/forums/pict...ictureid=12595

"“A ground-breaking theory suggests people with autism-spectrum disorders such as Asperger’s do not lack empathy – rather, they feel others’ emotions too intensely to cope.”

“People with Asperger’s syndrome, a high functioning form of autism, are often stereotyped as distant loners or robotic geeks. But what if what looks like coldness to the outside world is a response to being overwhelmed by emotion – an excess of empathy, not a lack of it?

This idea resonates with many people suffering from autism-spectrum disorders and their families. It also jibes with the “intense world” theory, a new way of thinking about the nature of autism.

As posited by Henry and Kamila Markram of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the theory suggests that the fundamental problem in autism-spectrum disorders is not a social deficiency but, rather, a hypersensitivity to experience, which includes an overwhelming fear response.

“I can walk into a room and feel what everyone is feeling,” Kamila Markram says. “The problem is that it all comes in faster than I can process it. There are those who say autistic people don’t feel enough. We’re saying exactly the opposite: They feel too much.”

Virtually all people with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, report various types of over-sensitivity and intense fear. The Markrams argue that social difficulties of those with autism spectrum disorders stem from trying to cope with a world where someone has turned the volume on all the senses and feelings up past 10.

If hearing your parents’ voices while sitting in your crib felt like listening to Lou Reed‘s Metal Machine Music on acid, you, too, might prefer to curl in a corner and rock.

But, of course, this sort of withdrawal and self-soothing behaviour – repetitive movements; echoing words or actions; failing to make eye contact – interferes with social development. Without the experience other kids get through ordinary social interactions, children on the spectrum never learn to understand subtle signals.

Phil Schwarz, vice-president of the Asperger’s Association of New England adds, “I think most people with ASD feel emotional empathy and care about the welfare of others very deeply.”

So, why do so many people see a lack of empathy as a defining characteristic of autism spectrum disorder?

The problem starts with the complexity of empathy itself. One aspect is simply the ability to see the world from the perspective of another. Another is more emotional – the ability to imagine what the other is feeling and care about their pain as a result.

Autistic children tend to develop the first part of empathy – which is called “theory of mind” – later than other kids. This was established in a classic experiment. Children are asked to watch two puppets, Sally and Anne. Sally takes a marble and places it in a basket, then leaves the stage. While she’s gone, Anne takes the marble out and puts it in a box. The children are then asked: Where will Sally look first for her marble when she returns?

Most 4-year-olds know Sally didn’t see Anne move the marble, so they get it right. By 10 or 11, children with developmental disabilities who have verbal IQs equivalent to 3-year-olds also get it right. But 80 per cent of autistic children age 10 to 11 guess that Sally will look in the box, because they know that’s where the marble is and they don’t realize other people don’t share all of their knowledge.

Of course, if you don’t realize others are seeing and feeling different things, you might well act less caring toward them.

It takes autistic children far longer than children without autism to realize other people have different experiences and perspectives – and the timing of this development varies greatly. But that doesn’t mean, once people with autism spectrum disorder do become aware of other people’s experience, that they don’t care or want to connect.

Schwarz, of the New England Asperger’s association, says all the autistic adults he knows over the age of 18 have a better sense of what others know than the Sally/Anne test suggests.

When it comes to not understanding the inner state of minds too different from our own, most people also do a lousy job, Schwarz says. “But the non-autistic majority gets a free pass because, if they assume that the other person’s mind works like their own, they have a much better chance of being right.”

Thus, when, for example, a child with Asperger’s talks incessantly about his intense interests, he isn’t deliberately dominating the conversation so much as simply failing to consider that there may be a difference between his interests and those of his peers.

In terms of the caring aspect of empathy, a lively discussion that would seem to support Markrams’ theory appeared on the website for people with autism spectrum disorder called WrongPlanet.net, after a mother wrote to ask whether her empathetic but socially immature daughter could possibly have Asperger’s.

“If anything, I struggle with having too much empathy,” one person says. “If someone else is upset, I am upset. There were times during school when other people were misbehaving and, if the teacher scolded them, I felt like they were scolding me.”

Said another, “I am clueless when it comes to reading subtle cues but I am very empathic. I can walk into a room and feel what everyone is feeling and I think this is actually quite common in AS/autism. The problem is that it all comes in faster than I can process it.”

Studies have found that when people are overwhelmed by empathetic feelings, they tend to pull back. When someone else’s pain affects you deeply, it can be hard to reach out rather than turn away.

For people with autism spectrum disorder, these empathetic feelings might be so intense that they withdraw in a way that appears cold or uncaring.

“These children are really not unemotional. They do want to interact – it’s just difficult for them,” Markram says. “It’s quite sad, because these are quite capable people. But the world is just too intense, so they have to withdraw.”

Last edited by namazu; 11-18-17 at 05:41 PM.. Reason: Print-friendlified link to blog and gave article title. Please see ADDF guidelines re: links to other sites.
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Old 11-18-17, 06:03 PM
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Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

Of course we have empathy. If anything, we're more emotional than the typical person. We're labelled narcissists by narcissists who are too arrogant to realize that it's them, not us.

I'm not lacking emotion, i'm surrounded by a world that lacks emotion.
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Old 11-18-17, 06:10 PM
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Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

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Originally Posted by Fraser_0762 View Post
Of course we have empathy. If anything, we're more emotional than the typical person. We're labelled narcissists by narcissists who are too arrogant to realize that it's them, not us.

I'm not lacking emotion, i'm surrounded by a world that lacks emotion.


I completely agree with you!!!
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Old 11-18-17, 09:14 PM
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Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

are people still saying people with autism lack emotion or physical empathy?

wow, i hate when people talk about things they have no idea about

i know people with autism (and adhd for that matter) have trouble seeing another persons perspective, which is a part of empathy, but we all have emotions (adhd and autism, im sure there are others without)

im not autistic, but i also get overwhelmed by others emotions, ive seen different writings about it (emotional contagion issues, poor boundaries, porous boundaries )

i at times have trouble telling if the emotion is the other persons, or my own , it has lead me to avoid emotions in general, and situations that evoke them
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Old 11-18-17, 09:55 PM
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Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

Unfortunately, I think it's still a pretty common belief that people with Autism lack empathy. Once something becomes common belief, it's so difficult to stop the rumors from circulating and get people to accept the truth.

I'm also highly sensitive to other people's emotions and absorb them. I recently read something that listed the traits of an empath and realized that I have most of those traits. Many of the traits sound like symptoms of ADHD and possibly Autism. I don't think I'm on the Autism spectrum, but I have wondered at times.
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Old 11-18-17, 09:56 PM
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Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

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Unfortunately, I think it's still a pretty common belief that people with Autism lack empathy. Once something becomes common belief, it's so difficult to stop the rumors from circulating and get people to accept the truth.

I'm also highly sensitive to other people's emotions and absorb them. I recently read something that listed the traits of an empath and realized that I have most of those traits. Many of the traits sound like symptoms of ADHD and possibly Autism. I don't think I'm on the Autism spectrum, but I have wondered at times.

That is why I posted this research, to show people, that it isn't true
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Old 11-19-17, 07:49 AM
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Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

I think buying into the idea that people on the spectrum have no empathy or have a social disconnect is akin to misinformation. How they take in and relate to people might be hard for people to understand but not because it isnt there.
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Old 11-19-17, 10:26 PM
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Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

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Originally Posted by sarahsweets View Post
I think buying into the idea that people on the spectrum have no empathy or have a social disconnect is akin to misinformation. How they take in and relate to people might be hard for people to understand but not because it isnt there.

I completely agree. This specific research was the basis for my thesis required for my PhD in Developmental Psychology
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Old 11-25-17, 08:09 AM
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Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

Thanks for posting that research!!





Quote:
Originally Posted by wonderboy View Post
Theory finds that individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome don’t lack empathy – in fact if anything they empathize too much (blog post by Seventh Voice)

http://www.addforums.com/forums/pict...ictureid=12595

"“A ground-breaking theory suggests people with autism-spectrum disorders such as Asperger’s do not lack empathy – rather, they feel others’ emotions too intensely to cope.”

“People with Asperger’s syndrome, a high functioning form of autism, are often stereotyped as distant loners or robotic geeks. But what if what looks like coldness to the outside world is a response to being overwhelmed by emotion – an excess of empathy, not a lack of it?

This idea resonates with many people suffering from autism-spectrum disorders and their families. It also jibes with the “intense world” theory, a new way of thinking about the nature of autism.

As posited by Henry and Kamila Markram of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the theory suggests that the fundamental problem in autism-spectrum disorders is not a social deficiency but, rather, a hypersensitivity to experience, which includes an overwhelming fear response.

“I can walk into a room and feel what everyone is feeling,” Kamila Markram says. “The problem is that it all comes in faster than I can process it. There are those who say autistic people don’t feel enough. We’re saying exactly the opposite: They feel too much.”

Virtually all people with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, report various types of over-sensitivity and intense fear. The Markrams argue that social difficulties of those with autism spectrum disorders stem from trying to cope with a world where someone has turned the volume on all the senses and feelings up past 10.

If hearing your parents’ voices while sitting in your crib felt like listening to Lou Reed‘s Metal Machine Music on acid, you, too, might prefer to curl in a corner and rock.

But, of course, this sort of withdrawal and self-soothing behaviour – repetitive movements; echoing words or actions; failing to make eye contact – interferes with social development. Without the experience other kids get through ordinary social interactions, children on the spectrum never learn to understand subtle signals.

Phil Schwarz, vice-president of the Asperger’s Association of New England adds, “I think most people with ASD feel emotional empathy and care about the welfare of others very deeply.”

So, why do so many people see a lack of empathy as a defining characteristic of autism spectrum disorder?

The problem starts with the complexity of empathy itself. One aspect is simply the ability to see the world from the perspective of another. Another is more emotional – the ability to imagine what the other is feeling and care about their pain as a result.

Autistic children tend to develop the first part of empathy – which is called “theory of mind” – later than other kids. This was established in a classic experiment. Children are asked to watch two puppets, Sally and Anne. Sally takes a marble and places it in a basket, then leaves the stage. While she’s gone, Anne takes the marble out and puts it in a box. The children are then asked: Where will Sally look first for her marble when she returns?

Most 4-year-olds know Sally didn’t see Anne move the marble, so they get it right. By 10 or 11, children with developmental disabilities who have verbal IQs equivalent to 3-year-olds also get it right. But 80 per cent of autistic children age 10 to 11 guess that Sally will look in the box, because they know that’s where the marble is and they don’t realize other people don’t share all of their knowledge.

Of course, if you don’t realize others are seeing and feeling different things, you might well act less caring toward them.

It takes autistic children far longer than children without autism to realize other people have different experiences and perspectives – and the timing of this development varies greatly. But that doesn’t mean, once people with autism spectrum disorder do become aware of other people’s experience, that they don’t care or want to connect.

Schwarz, of the New England Asperger’s association, says all the autistic adults he knows over the age of 18 have a better sense of what others know than the Sally/Anne test suggests.

When it comes to not understanding the inner state of minds too different from our own, most people also do a lousy job, Schwarz says. “But the non-autistic majority gets a free pass because, if they assume that the other person’s mind works like their own, they have a much better chance of being right.”

Thus, when, for example, a child with Asperger’s talks incessantly about his intense interests, he isn’t deliberately dominating the conversation so much as simply failing to consider that there may be a difference between his interests and those of his peers.

In terms of the caring aspect of empathy, a lively discussion that would seem to support Markrams’ theory appeared on the website for people with autism spectrum disorder called WrongPlanet.net, after a mother wrote to ask whether her empathetic but socially immature daughter could possibly have Asperger’s.

“If anything, I struggle with having too much empathy,” one person says. “If someone else is upset, I am upset. There were times during school when other people were misbehaving and, if the teacher scolded them, I felt like they were scolding me.”

Said another, “I am clueless when it comes to reading subtle cues but I am very empathic. I can walk into a room and feel what everyone is feeling and I think this is actually quite common in AS/autism. The problem is that it all comes in faster than I can process it.”

Studies have found that when people are overwhelmed by empathetic feelings, they tend to pull back. When someone else’s pain affects you deeply, it can be hard to reach out rather than turn away.

For people with autism spectrum disorder, these empathetic feelings might be so intense that they withdraw in a way that appears cold or uncaring.

“These children are really not unemotional. They do want to interact – it’s just difficult for them,” Markram says. “It’s quite sad, because these are quite capable people. But the world is just too intense, so they have to withdraw.”
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Old 12-07-17, 09:11 AM
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Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

My partner has Asperger's Syndrome, and I know he does feel empathy because when I have told him about people in my life passing away, he feels sad for me. He even cried when I was crying about my Uncle passing away.

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).
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Old 12-17-17, 04:10 AM
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Thumbs up Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

Hi Hubble
I want to answer as I think I might help with a bit of my experience.
So first a bit about myself for perspective, I'm 45, Software Developer, two teenage children with a partner for +20 years, I was only diagnosed with ASD at 42 but have had all kinds of issues before then, they just weren't diagnosing ASD in adults until recently.
I have taken the Empathy Quotient test Empathy Quotient test and got less than 5.

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My partner has Asperger's Syndrome, and I know he does feel empathy because when I have told him about people in my life passing away, he feels sad for me. He even cried when I was crying about my Uncle passing away.
I'm the same I feel deeply the pain that others have and it makes me hurt with them and I really want to help them get better.

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My view of Asperger's (I don't know about the rest of the spectrum) ...
It is now all the same spectrum, Asperger is no more the DSM V has it all as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and your partner would today be considered as Mild ASD. The ICD used here in the UK is set to change in line with the DSM in the next edition ICD 11. This links to NAS page that explains in more detail.

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... 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.
Yes exactly, excellently put!
I'm always trying to follow the NT (neurotypical) view, trying to guess what they will find important and I get better at practice and age. Still, it is a challenge to guess as there is very often something completely different that stands out to me as the most important. Usually what stands out to me is the pragmatic and logical, example abstract conversation:
  • me: guys we need to first do xyz in order to enable abc (the pragmatic what needs to happen).
  • NT: eye roll, Vimes, We are discussing big boss opinion and colleague feelings and politics.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hubble View Post
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.
I'm certain he is gentle and loving and doesn't intend to hurt it is good that you see that.
For me it is very much the case, I can't hurt willingly, or rather I find it really hard and it pains me. Sometimes you do need to give bad news which causes pain and I hate needing to do that.
That said, as the EQ test reveals and others keep telling me is that I just don't always pick up on social cues that I should and I often miss that something is hurting someone or I'm expected to take a hint or 10. I just don't until too late or out of context or not at all. Some of it can be learnt but not all, and because I'm also impulsive and have strong emotions, due to ADD, then when I enter a conversation that I'm passionate about or have strong opinions in then my training is in a part of my brain that my ADD brain cannot access because my amygdala and left brain are running the show. So due to my ADD the controller in my brain is overwhelmed or not up to the task, it should be routing everything to my right brain in equal measures as the left and towards the frontal lobes that can put things into perspective, connect it to the "bigger picture", and acknowledge the messages from the amygdala but limit their effects.
So the effect is that my reasoning and responses can be very painfully logical to others and driven by the most primal instinctive emotions that I'm not even aware of. I'm also Alexythimic which means I'm not necessarily aware of my emotions. This also means that I can easily lose my cool and so I either avoid interactions where I know I will find it difficult to keep control or try to set exit points were I can disengage and leave if I find emotions are rising and simply leave until I regain control.

I don't find this to be an issue when talking to many with ASD, (not all it is a spectrum), because they are speaking my language and so I don't get triggered in this way.
Yes you are right there is a communication issue, to a certain degree you are speaking two different languages that happen to use the same vocabulary.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hubble View Post
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 expect it is hard for you to guess or conjecture how he understands what you are saying. That is expected and if you work together then with time and patience (yes I know this is the ADHD forum so perhaps patience is not in abundance ) and some practice you can become just as intuitively close as any NT couple. Even if I may say; I believe when you do start to connect intuitively then that connection will be stronger deeper and more persistent than for your average NT couples because we ASD tend to be really good at maintaining and nurturing the elements in our lives that have become an integral part of it and we don't like to change... You will find with time that you can predict his actions and responses with uncanny accuracy, and complete his sentences and know he will be there for you.
You will always need to prompt him and nudge him and such but no relationship is perfect.

For me, it is easier because my partner also has right brain damage through a stroke or similar at birth so we don't have this communication issue.

Having children is likely to be your next question, as in will he be able to be a good father. I can't answer that but we have done alright I think.
  • 15-year-old daughter, has some signs of the same difficulties but very mild and is doing really well in school with grades in the 7 -8 out of nine and set to take maths, computer science and Art in her A-levels. She is very creative and a good artistic eye and she has a nice group of similarly minded friends that do well at school etc.
  • 13-year-old son, likes math computers and is very friendly and caring also has grades in the 7-8 out of 9. He has also some of the symptoms but very mild and is a bit hyper and has rather hyper friends

Apparently, we are the coolest parents because of how much we engage in the game culture, we are both avid computer game players and over Christmas, I'm the Dungeon Master for them in Dungeons and Dragons game if you know what that is

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hubble View Post
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 thought your post was very good and insightful and I do agree with you. I hope my answers help.

Last edited by Greyhound1; 12-17-17 at 12:29 PM.. Reason: D&D link
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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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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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Old 12-30-17, 07:01 AM
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Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

I guess I always assumed that people on the spectrum DO have empathy and compassion, just have a hard time expressing it sometimes?
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Old 01-05-18, 10:58 AM
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Re: Empathy: I believe People with ASD -DO- HAVE EMPATHY

I admit that empathy is a major issue of mine. Even though I feel my ADHD diagnosis is more pertinent than my previous label of ASD, I often lack emotion for other people's successes, misfortune or sorrow and I can be remarkably self-centered, too.

Those on the spectrum allegedly have a very poor 'theory of mind', where they cannot regulate their emotions appropriately and ordinarily have low emotional and social IQs.
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