I stumbled upon this piece when browsing facebook. It’s quite long, but talks about some fascinating research (I had heard of “autistic symptoms in rats” in studies, but didn’t know what that was supposed to look like). I was of course interested to reach the parts on empathy, such as:
Indeed, research on typical children and adults finds that too much distress can dampen ordinary empathy as well. When someone else’s pain becomes too unbearable to witness, even typical people withdraw and try to soothe themselves first rather than helping—exactly like autistic people. It’s just that autistic people become distressed more easily, and so their reactions appear atypical.
That’s the paradox about autism and empathy. The problem may not be that autistic people can’t understand typical people’s points of view—but that typical people can’t imagine autism.
I’m watching a training through the system my company uses, and I got so excited by this part that my hand started flapping. It just fit so well with yesterday’s post on empathy that I couldn’t help but get excited and share it. The lecture is called “Psychological Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders,” given by clinical psychologist W. Bradley Goeltz, PsyD.
I’ve had kids with Asperger’s and we’ll be talking about another kid with Asperger’s – and they get it. The can assume the perspective of somebody else who thinks like they do. It’s still a conscious process – it’s not intuitive – but man they got it. And the thing is, my Theory of Mind for somebody with an autistic spectrum diagnosis is not very well developed and it is definitely a conscious effort to assume that perspective. It’s not intuitive. . . .
“I understand, I’m empathic.” All of us who are in the helping professions, well we’re in it because we’re empathic. That’s great as long as you’re accurate. But empathy, in order to be empathy has to be accurate. If you can’t relate, if you can’t get inside that kid’s mind and think cognitively or at least appreciate how they think, empathy is a really tough task.
He also talks about how professionals haven’t been required to work to be empathic to the autistic kids; they expect the kids to have to adapt.
I tried to find more information about him and this lecture to give proper credit, since what I’m watching isn’t available without an account; I found a link to purchase the lecture – http://www.cequick.com/Psychological-Assessment-of-ASD.aspx