Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Study: Lacking Empathy or Hypersensitivity to Experience

Photo courtesy seventhvoice
When reading an article this morning, I had a huge 'ah-ha!' moment.  You know, the one where you smack yourself on the forehead for not seeing it yourself?  As parents, educators, and specialists, we are overwhelmed on a daily basis of trying to deeply delve into each small detail of our children.  Sometimes, we only need to scratch the surface in order to catch a glimpse into the hearts of these vulnerable children.  Today, that glimpse will show us about empathy.

Although I can understand why some may believe that those with autism or Asperger's have a noticeable lack of empathy, it seems that the opposite is true.  My 7 year old son, Brady, experiences autism, and I can tell you for a fact that he knows when I'm not myself.  He will sit with me, pat my back and give his mama a big hug.  Yet, there are other times that he may laugh when he sees another child crying. 

This is definitely not the socially acceptable reaction when seeing another person crying.  However, a person on the autism spectrum may be completely overwhelmed by emotion and empathy when seeing that crying child.  When faced with an emotional situation, some children with autism may laugh, some may cry, and others may stare stone-faced or even walk/run away if they feel uncomfortable.  They can experience a flood of feelings or physical sensations (sight, smell, touch, sound) that often pass the rest of us by. 

Some of the gems found from the original article:
A ground-breaking study suggests people with autism-spectrum disorders such as Asperger’s do not lack empathy – rather, they feel others’ emotions too intensely to cope.
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.

Please take a look at this entire article, which led me to my 'ah-ha!' moment this morning and explains the subject in much more detail:

Please let us know what you think.

Leslie is herself a very hypersensitive empathetic person.  In fact, when she sees someone crying in person, it is hard for her not to tear up herself.

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