I wonder how many times in my life I will see ‘that’ myth presented about Âûtistic people. Perpetrated by media, by ignorance, by people that want to hurt others, and of course people just repeating what they heard. It’s presented by all these and others too, by people that have read incorrect and inaccurate information, by it being presented in screen media. Even at this very moment as I sit I see it presented in a popular British crime show.
If I am talking about Âûtistic people and myths, of course I could be talking about any number of different myths. It could be the savant myth, the intellectually disabled myth, the functioning label myths, the verbal communication myth, the social skills myth. As you can see there are many myths that are perpetuated upon Âûtistic people.
The myth I am talking about right now though is not any of those myths, it’s the myth of empathy, or to be more precise lack of empathy. This myth goes along the lines of Âûtistic people have no empathy, they are incapable of empathy, they are incapable of showing empathy. It could be any one or all of those descriptions. It is well and truly perpetuated all over the place. It’s a bit like the old furphy of Âûtistics can’t lie.
It is nothing more than a complete load of bullshit.
Empathy is defined as:
empathynoun em·pa·thy \ˈem-pə-thē\plural em·pa·thies
Medical Definition of EMPATHY1
: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it2
: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for empathySource: Meriam-Webster
If I am to speak from my own experience in regard to empathy, I can only say that I am in fact a deeply empathic person. In fact, I believe Âûtistic people in general are too. We in fact feel empathy very deeply. We connect very deeply with the emotional stimuli that surround and bombard us. The sensory, the non verbal, the very feeling of the room. Personally I find this occurs to me to a very large degree, and in fact I sense this deeply even in terms of viewing on screen media. I often find myself deeply impacted by the emotion portrayed on film to a point that I am often left with tears running down my face and discover I am the only one in the room to be in that state. This is most commonly an emotional response and connection with the characters being portrayed.
It is then, my view that Âûtistic are deeply empathetic and feel empathy very intensely, to the point it can in fact be overloading and be a catalyst in triggering the descent to meltdown or shutdown.
However, it is also fair to say that it is not quite that simple and it would be foolish to not acknowledge that whilst I am able to experience and feel empathy very deeply and strongly, that I do in fact have difficulty in expressing that empathy in appropriate ways. I suspect that this is the case for many Âûtistics too.
The thing is that the so-called professionals in Autism don’t seem to actually want to take the time to find out how things impact us at all, but to simply focus on what they see as the outward behaviour, or lack of expression and the silly things like that.
Yes, I have difficulty in expressing empathy and the like and, in fact, even really knowing what is an appropriate response to that in a given situation. This I believe is also made even more difficult because in an already highly charged emotional situation sensory input can cloud and impact the situation even more so.
To give an example of this. I woke the other morning to discover a friend had passed away. This was a very difficult and deeply felt experience, yet my outward expression was not very demonstrative. The friend in question was someone I knew through a local running group and so we shared many mutual contacts. It was arranged that at the local parkrun event held yesterday that a small memorial would be held. With a level of trepidation I committed to be there for this occasion, even though it has been several months since being at this local weekly event.
I say it was with trepidation because with already experiencing a challenge in knowing how to express my empathy regarding this situation, I was aware that there was a high chance that a lot of demonstrative expression of loss, confusion, pain and grief would be present. In addition to this was my own sense of sensory input. Knowing that their was likely to be a lot of hugging and the like was that extra layer that I was concerned could in fact bring me undone.
I bring this up because it is relevant to my own personal experiences over the last few days, but also because it is one of those myths that is used on occasion as a way of dismissal and silencing of Âûtistic people, by playing the ‘lack of empathy’, or the ‘can’t show empathy’, or ‘has no capacity for empathy’ card.
In tandem with my own experiences over these last few days, I have seen my friend, a relentless campaigner against the abuse of Âûtistic people through quackery and dangerous and poisonous treatments tarred with this brush as a way to try to silence and sideline her. Amanda Mary Jewell of Mother Nature and You has relentlessly attacked through a large volume of twitter tweets, Facebook posts, blogs and Youtube videos Fiona O’Leary by playing the empathy card. Using the empathy card to assert that in fact Fiona is unable to understand, reason, or in fact have anything important to say because she is diseased with Aspergers Syndrome and unable to have empathy and understanding.
Let’s not forget of course, that this horrible Amanda Mary the former porn star, is a purveyor of poisonous bleach treatments, unregulated and unauthorised treatments, promotes and supports the use of Kerri Rivera’s CD Bleach Enema protocol, and has recently run away to the Island of Dominica. Not only this she promotes herself as a “Senior Cancer Researcher” of 15 years experience, and proclaims pseudo science quackery and conspiracy theories about vaccinations and mainstream medicine in general.
The sheer outrageousness of this is ridiculous. On the one hand we have a campaigner for Âûtistic people against dangerous treatments perpetrated against many children. Who apparently has no empathy.
On the other we have Amanda Mary Jewell. – Former porn star, so called cancer researcher and purveyor of poison. Who apparently is endowed with all the required empathy a human needs.
It seems a bit arse about to me.
If any one in this situation is lacking Empathy, it sure as hell is not Fiona O’Leary.