A trait of Autism the so called professionals have missed

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sharkattack
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02 Feb 2014, 8:17 pm

The official DSM say people with Autism lack empathy.


I have poured my heart out on this board and I have got nothing back except warmness kindness and good advice that has really helped me in practical ways.

The trait of Autism missed is I think people on the spectrum are really kind helpful people who will go out of their way to be helpful.



Verdandi
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02 Feb 2014, 8:34 pm

Yeah, I know people who thought that autistic people just don't care about other people, but that's not accurate at all.

And yes, autistic people are just as capable of compassion as anyone else.



diniesaur
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02 Feb 2014, 8:44 pm

That's an old misconception, but a few years ago I saw they'd done studies that are showing what we (and those around us) have known all along: we have strong empathy and just don't always know how to express it (and might not pick up on those social cues that tell us what other people are feeling in the first place). I can't remember the link because it was a really long time ago but I think they're starting to finally understand.



Willard
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02 Feb 2014, 8:45 pm

Once again, Empathy is not an emotional ability, it's a social skill.

Empathy is the ability to read nonverbal signals and respond to them appropriately. This is what autistic people lack. To know what others are feeling by the way they are behaving and to know what the proper response is and take that action automatically. Quite honestly, autistic people can be in the same room with a person who is very depressed and needing a hug, without ever noticing until they tell us. Frankly, we tend to be so wrapped up in our own thoughts, we easily miss details like that, just as we miss facial expressions through lack of eye contact. We're not intentionally cruel, just unobservant when it comes to people.

The ability to resonate with someone else's feelings (once you know what those feelings are) is Sympathy. Autistic people are certainly capable of feeling pity or compassion for others who are hurting, once we know that they are hurting. But you can feel deeply for someone's suffering and still be at a complete loss as to what to do to help.

This is a common misunderstanding, only made worse by that stupid "Empath" character on Star Trek NG, which totally blurred the line between the two.

Empathy = Social Skill

Sympathy = Emotional Reaction

Not the same thing.



bleh12345
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02 Feb 2014, 9:11 pm

Willard, the OP is talking about emotional empathy, not cognitive. With emotional empathy, you do not need to "read" a person.

A person with empathy will be able to feel something as if they were the other person. You use your intellect and/or experience to imagine what it is like for the other person. A lot of people feel as if they can't properly experience empathy unless they have gone through the experience themselves. If someone was suicidal, an empathetic person might take their worst feelings and magnify them in order to feel what the other person is feeling. Empathy can also go beyond suffering, and one can feel the anger or happiness as if they were experiencing it from someone's view other than their own.

A person with sympathy will feel a caring feeling, and a need to support someone. They do NOT necessarily feel the same emotion, or even attempt to put themselves in the situation of another person.

I suspect a lot of autistic people are empathetic intellectually, but this doesn't make it any less genuine. The ability to recognize and validate multiple points-of-view, reactions, and emotions will lead to a highly empathetic person. An autistic person might be able to fully understand how a person feels when they don't get their turn in a conversation and not want to make someone feel that way, but won't recognize when someone is upset because said aspie talks for hours without stopping. That would come from a lack of being able to "read" people.

By the way, from how a lot of autistic people describe themselves, it seems almost like mirror-touch synthesia, but with emotions.



Last edited by bleh12345 on 02 Feb 2014, 9:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Verdandi
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02 Feb 2014, 9:18 pm

Willard, I have met numerous people online and off who believe that autistic people are incapable of compassion and caring for other people. I had one therapist act completely surprised when I mentioned having gone to a party, like such a thing was supposed to be completely incomprehensible to me.

Like you've pulled out a good definition there, but that's not the strict definition that's used to stereotype us.



bleh12345
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02 Feb 2014, 9:23 pm

The definition that's used to describe empathy in relation to autistic people is referring to their ability to feel what other people feel, not just react to it.

In other words, it was thought that autistic people have an inability to understand other peoples' perspectives and experiences. This is probably because some autistic people appear "cold", but they just don't know how to express their understanding.

A lot of autistic people probably do have a lack of empathy in that way, but then they learn to intellectually understand peoples' emotions instead. Once they figure out that two people can have the exact same experience but different reactions, they just need to be taught how to respond to a situation.



Last edited by bleh12345 on 02 Feb 2014, 9:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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02 Feb 2014, 9:24 pm

Willard wrote:
Once again, Empathy is not an emotional ability, it's a social skill.

Empathy is the ability to read nonverbal signals and respond to them appropriately. This is what autistic people lack. To know what others are feeling by the way they are behaving and to know what the proper response is and take that action automatically. Quite honestly, autistic people can be in the same room with a person who is very depressed and needing a hug, without ever noticing until they tell us. Frankly, we tend to be so wrapped up in our own thoughts, we easily miss details like that, just as we miss facial expressions through lack of eye contact. We're not intentionally cruel, just unobservant when it comes to people.


This totally. Its like with my one and only friend who is a super close best friend. Just a few days ago he was feeling really bad about something that happened at school I did not know about and I did not pick up on it at all. My dad asked me what was wrong with him (he was staying over). So my dad could tell but I could not. My dad told me to ask him once we got back in my room. So I did and he told me about it and I felt really bad for him and gave him a hug and comforted him.



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02 Feb 2014, 9:27 pm

I find myself being apathetic about things that people expect me to have more empathy about, but it doesn't mean that I don't have any empathy about all people altogether.


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bleh12345
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02 Feb 2014, 9:36 pm

I just realized something that could be more precise. Empathy is the understanding. However, the ability to relate to someone IS a social skill. Just so no one thinks I'm incorrect here. Autistic people learn to EXPRESS the empathy, distinctly a social skill. Although, like I said, some really don't have much understanding of others' emotions. This can also be taught, though. Both are skills, but only when interacting with others is it considered a "social" skill.



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02 Feb 2014, 9:44 pm

bleh12345 wrote:
The definition that's used to describe empathy in relation to autistic people is referring to their ability to feel what other people feel, not just react to it.

In other words, it was thought that autistic people have an inability to understand other peoples' perspectives and experiences. This is probably because some autistic people appear "cold", but they just don't know how to express their understanding.

A lot of autistic people probably do have a lack of empathy in that way, but then they learn to intellectually understand peoples' emotions instead. Once they figure out that two people can have the exact same experience but different reactions, they just need to be taught how to respond to a situation.


But unfortunately a lot of people use a more vernacular definition of empathy while referring to autism. This includes medical professionals. Not everyone is as strictly factual or accurate in their language use as they should be.



Sethno
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02 Feb 2014, 9:49 pm

sharkattack wrote:
The official DSM say people with Autism lack empathy.


I have poured my heart out on this board and I have got nothing back except warmness kindness and good advice that has really helped me in practical ways.

The trait of Autism missed is I think people on the spectrum are really kind helpful people who will go out of their way to be helpful.


That was one of the indicators that the guy doing my first evaluation wasn't qualified. I already knew enough on my own so that when he said "Autistics regard others as inanimate objects, and don't attribute the same human feelings they feel to others" as part of his claim I wasn't on the spectrum...

Something was obviously wrong.

That, and when he told me about himself "I'm not supposed to drink, but I do". :roll:

diniesaur wrote:
That's an old misconception, but a few years ago I saw they'd done studies that are showing what we (and those around us) have known all along: we have strong empathy and just don't always know how to express it (and might not pick up on those social cues that tell us what other people are feeling in the first place)...


That sounds more like it.


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02 Feb 2014, 11:06 pm

I think autistics empathise with people who have similar problems, but if people have problems totally different for them to fully feel the same way, they may have difficulty in feeling the same empathy.



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02 Feb 2014, 11:20 pm

When I went to get my Asperger’s assessment done the psychologist asked me if I had sympathy for others (meaning did I feel sorry for others). I said No, but I did feel guilt and shame. So, while I lacked sympathy the psychologist acknowledged that I had a lot of compassion and empathy.

I can choose to express sympathy once someone has expressed what exactly has been bothering them, but I sometimes feel a bit resistant simply because the majority of people have not had any sympathy for me. It has always felt like I have had to go out of my way to understand others, but they have never bothered to reciprocate those efforts. However, I now see that they might just have been oblivious to differences (difference in thinking). How are you supposed to give someone something you lack the capacity (knowledge) to give? So, there is a neurological misunderstanding which occurs. Things are overlooked. NTs assumed I thought like them. I do not look any different to them, so why would there be a difference? Why would there be a need to question what you assume is natural and should apply to everyone? NTs assume I have similar needs and ways of expressing those needs. This is a pitfall shared by those on the spectrum. Responses are automatic. We automatically assume everyone else thinks like us, so what we naturally think would comfort us is automatically (unconsciously) applied to NTs. It is not because we lack empathy. We come to believe what we are doing is ‘wrong’ because of the reactions we are given from NTs. We are pushed to learn ‘correct’ responses. And to pause and think about the 'correct' social responses.

There have been times when I have been distraught and it has gone unacknowledged by NTs (our distress signals are different?). I, on the other hand, have been able to pick up through affective and somatic empathy when others have been distressed. At times I have been overwhelmed by this distress. In more recent years my study experience has allowed me to pick up the 'cues' through observation. I might not always know what to say in every situation, but I recognise others distress and may demonstrate this awareness through actions. I may do ‘something’ to try to make the other person feel better instead of using words. Now that I know what NTs need I am able to adapt my responses to satisfy them. Also, there was a point where I didn't know what others (females) wanted from me exactly. I always assumed they wanted me to fix their problems because that is what I would have wanted (I am female). I now know differently. Most NTs are oblivious (ignorant) to our needs, so they don’t reciprocate the effort. We have to emulate NTs to survive and this can be an exhausting process. We have our own unique way of thinking and have to learn the NT way of thinking. I know I will never truly know how a NT person thinks and they will never fully know what it is like to be on spectrum. So, how can they say with certainty what it is we experience or don’t experience? And vice-versa. What I think that NTs are trying to say with all this ‘empathy’ stuff is that we need to learn to be more responsive to their emotional ego. IMO, if they want to hold this expectation they should learn to return the favour (but is that realistically ever going to happen anytime soon? No).

There is no universally accepted definition for empathy or sympathy. Different disciplines have different definitions. And people have a tendency to confuse the two. There are actually quite a few different types of empathy e.g. cognitive (imaginational empathy or perspective taking), affective, emotional (vicarious sharing of emotion) and somatic. Cognitive empathy skills are taught in a lot of counselling courses because a lot of people lack cognitive empathy skills. My supervisor, on cognitive empathy, said that a lot of NTs do not get it right either. Heck, I can share an experience I had on my last day of placement. A manager wrongly assumed that I ‘must’ have felt embarrassed because she understood that I did not like being the centre of attention, and she had just put me on the spot in front of a group of people. I did not feel embarrassed by that experience. In truth, I had missed the social cue and was oblivious to what was wanted of me in that particular situation. I felt quite neutral. So, what did I do? I corrected her and let her know her (not in these words exactly) that her cognitive empathy was off. I honoured how I was feeling instead of allowing someone else to incorrectly assume how I should be feeling in that situation. It has been my experience that NTs will either assertively correct you if you get things wrong or will react in a passive/aggressive manner in response to the 'slight'.

This might not be the experience of all on the spectrum, but I find that I have always had hypersensitivity. This is particularly true of my response to negative emotions. In fact, the AS female profile states that females are often over-empathic rather than lacking in empathy. I know at certain points in my life when things became too much (I couldn’t cope with the sensory input) I became very self-focused and had apathy towards others. People were painful (or caused pain), so all my 'care' went to animals and nature. Once I worked through my issues (stressors) things became easier to manage and my 'empathy' returned. I was no longer in survival mode. I was able to spend time to intellectually develop the skills and knowledge that I ‘naturally’ lacked. I am now able to maintain very steady (not natural because I sometimes over-stare) eye contact, I am able to observe peoples non-verbal behaviours because I am not self-focused and hiding in my own world, and I am able to pick up on all sorts of things NTs miss. I am present to the world around me. Self-focus is nothing to shame (toxic-shame) yourself about, as many NTs do this too - particularly those who have gone through trauma (complex and PTSD kind). I know a lot of my shame issues stemmed from me taking what others said at face-value. I trusted what others said as truth. For some reason I thought they knew better (dependency issues, not developing trust in self, probably contributed to this) and this created a lot of self-doubt. Being constantly criticised by others distorted my thinking too. And I lost sight of my innate values for a time because I was pushed to operate according to a different set of 'rules'. So, shame developed from those experiences and I believed myself to be 'defective' (wrong), as opposed to just being neurologically different. To break out of all that distorted thinking I challenged all the rules I had adopted throughout life.

Addit: Articles on shame:
http://robertmasters.com/writings/shame ... -exposure/
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/int ... us-emotion
http://www.counselingcenter.illinois.ed ... rom-shame/
http://www.psychsight.com/ar-shame.html


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Last edited by Sare on 03 Feb 2014, 3:15 am, edited 4 times in total.

crubs
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02 Feb 2014, 11:39 pm

Willard wrote:
Once again, Empathy is not an emotional ability, it's a social skill.

Empathy is the ability to read nonverbal signals and respond to them appropriately. This is what autistic people lack. To know what others are feeling by the way they are behaving and to know what the proper response is and take that action automatically. Quite honestly, autistic people can be in the same room with a person who is very depressed and needing a hug, without ever noticing until they tell us. Frankly, we tend to be so wrapped up in our own thoughts, we easily miss details like that, just as we miss facial expressions through lack of eye contact. We're not intentionally cruel, just unobservant when it comes to people.

The ability to resonate with someone else's feelings (once you know what those feelings are) is Sympathy. Autistic people are certainly capable of feeling pity or compassion for others who are hurting, once we know that they are hurting. But you can feel deeply for someone's suffering and still be at a complete loss as to what to do to help.

This is a common misunderstanding, only made worse by that stupid "Empath" character on Star Trek NG, which totally blurred the line between the two.

Empathy = Social Skill

Sympathy = Emotional Reaction

Not the same thing.


Wrong.
http://dictionary.reference.com/help/fa ... e/d23.html
Quote:
Both empathy and sympathy are feelings concerning other people. Sympathy is literally 'feeling with' - compassion for or commiseration with another person. Empathy, by contrast, is literally 'feeling into' - the ability to project one's personality into another person and more fully understand that person. Sympathy derives from Latin and Greek words meaning 'having a fellow feeling'. The term empathy originated in psychology (translation of a German term, c. 1903) and has now come to mean the ability to imagine or project oneself into another person's position and experience all the sensations involved in that position. You feel empathy when you've "been there", and sympathy when you haven't. Examples: We felt sympathy for the team members who tried hard but were not appreciated. / We felt empathy for children with asthma because their parents won't remove pets from the household.


A guy and a girl watch a skateboarding video. The skateboarder lands on a rail crotch-first. The guy experiences empathy, the girl experiences sympathy.

By your definition, psychopaths are some of the world's most empathetic people. They know what a person feels and can act more appropriately than a normal person, but they don't feel what that other person feels, and they don't care. Interestingly, I've seen online psychopath communities that throw around the word "empath" the same way aspies throw around "neurotypical". Any mental health professional will assure you that psychopaths feel little to no empathy.

I think part of the reason aspies are measured as having reduced empathy is because empathy is often measured with an NT bias. We don't read NTs well, just as NTs don't read us well. I read one study that studied aspie empathy on a dynamic level and found that instead of being reduced, it (for the most part) worked differently.



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03 Feb 2014, 1:29 am

some autistic specialists are very aware of this

mine is,

i asked him about it and he said "i have teens in here all the time and i can see why people would think theres no empathy because usually an autistic person or someone with aspegers cant read a situation well enough to provoke empathy."


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