Friday, August 29, 2008

Empathy and Autism - part 2

A while ago, I posted about Empathy and Autism. Trish's comment on that post got me thinking that perhaps in my effort to make a point (that people with autism are capable of feeling and showing empathy), I may have given a rather one-sided view of things. It's taken me a while to circle back on this one, but in the interest of full disclosure, I thought I'd offer a glimpse into the other side of the story -- examples of when my sons have tormented those around them empathy has eluded my sons...

* Recently, Cuddlebug stubbed his toe and started crying, loudly. Bearhug started screaming at him to stop crying because it was hurting his ears. I told BH that CB had hurt himself and that was why he was crying, and that if it was him, he'd cry too. His reply -- "No I wouldn't, I'm brave." ugh. I told him CB was brave too, but that even brave people cry sometimes.

* As toddlers, they bit each other constantly for a period of several months. Supposedly if kids are on the receiving end of bites, they learn that it hurts and they'll stop. Not so in their case, they just kept on -- I'm talking arms, legs, and backs covered with numerous toddler-mouth-sized circular bruises, sometimes enough to draw blood. Neither of them seemed to make the connection between "when he does this to me, it hurts, so maybe I shouldn't do it to him anymore." Even now, sometimes when they get upset they can attack each other pretty harshly (not biting, but not far from it either). Getting in the middle is insane not advised.

* No matter how many times or different ways I try to tell him, Little Bitty either doesn't understand or doesn't care that it hurts when he constantly rolls on me. He does it all the time, climbs on my lap and rolls around, rolls on top of me repeatedly when I'm trying to sleep (I put him in his bed but he always finds his way back to ours). The deep pressure feels good to him, but after a while makes me want to run for the hills find a good hiding place invest in body armor. At least he finally stopped head-butting me all the time - ouch!

So the reality is that like everyone else, my sons don't always show empathy for others. It's something we continue to work on. I believe my original point still stands, but now you have a more well-rounded view. :)


Tripacerchick on August 30, 2008 at 12:13 AM said...

I don't know if you saw or not, but I sent you an invite to be an author on my book blog. I sent it to your gmail address this time, hoping it works.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing some reality with us! :) I'm trying to teach Daniel that the dog doesn't like it when he head butts her. Or other various annoying things he does to her. Like trying to rearrange her facial features to be other animals. Poor thing! We'll keep working on it!

lonestar818 on August 30, 2008 at 10:51 PM said...

Julie - my youngest gets pretty rough with our cat sometimes too. Thankfully the cat is pretty good about it, and we have a little cat bed set up for him on top of the fridge for when he needs some space where no one can bother him!

Trish on August 31, 2008 at 8:56 AM said...

It's such a process, isn't it? And such a fluid concept - I mean, I really want my own way all the time, too, but I am just socialized enough to realize that it's not always possible. :)

Thanks for letting me know you wrote more about this (I have been a bit out of the loop the last couple of weeks!)


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I'm a mom of three boys on the autism spectrum, 11-yr-old identical twins and a 7-yr-old. My husband is a SAHD.


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