Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Autism - Support Across the Spectrum Autism - Support Across the Spectrum

Empathy and ASD

Posted by on Jul. 1, 2012 at 1:31 AM
  • 27 Replies

This is one of my "future" concerns for my son...

Its not real high on the radar right now b/c he is 3 1/2. Well it is b/c sometimes he initiates communication by being passive aggressive -- pokes you in the eye, steps on your foot.

What he wants to say / do is interact w/ you but doesn't know how to start.

I think this is b/c ASD kids like my kid struggles w/ empathy.

Does your kiddo struggle w/ empathy? If so, how have you dealt with it?

by on Jul. 1, 2012 at 1:31 AM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies (1-10):
happy2b101
by on Jul. 1, 2012 at 1:42 AM
1 mom liked this

I don't have any good answers because we are struggling with the same thing but our OT says that it really is sensory seeking behavior when they poke at you. It's not that he doesn't care if he hurts you.  He just is seeking sensory input. 

Leobaby2007
by on Jul. 1, 2012 at 1:57 AM
2 moms liked this

 My son initiates communication with us and other adults- like his teachers or therapists, but not with his same ages peers. He's empathetic with me- if he sees me crying, which is a lot (I'm not proud of this- believe me), he tells me "Mommy, don't cry- it's going to be OK" and will hand me a tissue and rubs my arm or back. I don't know that he shows empathy in a peer related setting. I've never seen it happen- yet.

I've heard the ability to relate to adults rather than children is somewhat common in children with autism.

I remember he used to poke me a lot when he was less verbal.

kajira
by Emma on Jul. 1, 2012 at 2:36 AM
1 mom liked this

My son and I don't have empathy the way most people do... I have to make an effort to care about others. I generally do. I can sympathize, I can try to relate, or I can just simply care even if I can't understand how they feel.


But, choosing to care is a choice.

Wendy300
by on Jul. 1, 2012 at 6:55 AM
1 mom liked this

This has been an issue and concern of mine with my daughter, Her lack of empathy at times causes her to come across cold, uncaring and mean. Other times she seems to show some empathy.. I think the way Kajira put it.... If she chooses to care.... I dont get it really. I am epileptic and I had a seizure about 6 weeks ago, when I come to myself enough to realize what is going on but not enough to really move or do anything about it.. my 6 yr old daughter is very upset and concerned for me.. My 17 yr old pdd nos daughter is mad because I cant take her do what she wants to do and is in a melt down yelling and cursing me. I even begin to cry and begged her to stop and help calm her sister and she wouldnt. And still she shows little to no remorse for this incident. To me this is scary.

Kittie26
by on Jul. 1, 2012 at 7:40 AM

Poking in the eye and stepping on the foot aren't passive aggressive -- they're aggressive. Terminology aside, Aly isn't like that so I don't have much advice for you. I believe there are a lot of social stories out there about approrpriate interaction though that you could use to work with him on what is appropriate and what is not.

LIMom1105
by Silver Member on Jul. 1, 2012 at 10:32 AM
1 mom liked this
My son does have empathy at times. Other times, he does not. I don't always understand why, but I think a lot has to do with how a situation affects him. If he saw another child hit me, he would probably be upset and ask if I was hurt. But he will hit me if he's upset enough. Social stories help. One thing we have been saying lately "is this a Sid or Andy thing to do?" he loves Toy Story and he can't stand the Sid character. This stops him in his tracks and he thinks about it, usually gets the answer right.

My son sees only himself and his needs most of the time. He's 4, but not sure this is going to improve much, only time will tell. So my answer is yes and no re: empathy.
momtoscott
by on Jul. 1, 2012 at 12:47 PM
1 mom liked this

 For my son, empathy with other people, especially kids his own age, has developed over time.  It's been very slow.  It has been only in the last couple of years, 7th-8th grade, where DS has talked to me about the way his friends feel and his worries when one of them is sad or stressed.   His counselor at school has remarked on this as well.  Sometimes it gets DS into trouble as he tries to be too protective of a friend or can't understand the difference between friendly teasing and mean bullying. 

The ideas that other people ARE people, and that we can and should understand and try to protect their feelings, are complicated and overwhelming.  It can take time to get there.  There are plenty of NT people I know who I'd call empathy-deficient, also!  It varies from person to person. 

I have spent a lot of time over the years trying to notice any strong feeling my son seems to be having and then trying to associate it with the word for that emotion.  Also talking to him about feelings in general, my own and other people's. 

HFBMOM
by Julie on Jul. 1, 2012 at 1:30 PM
1 mom liked this

My son is like this too. He has told me a couple of time about sticking up for a friend at school, especially in the lunch line which seems to me to be a dangerous place ;) 7th grade has really been a huge developemental period for him, both physically and emotionally. He's told me more about his school days this year than ever before. He also took care of some of my needs this past week while I've been sick (he made toast and heated a can of soup in the microwave for himself and me - usually he waits to be served, but I couldn't do it, so it was feed himself or starve...)

I also have worked hard over the years to identify emotions for both my kids. I love relating behaviors to Sid & Andy from Toy Story! We talk about happy faces and sad faces. There are a couple of books abou emotions that I used to read while I was helping in my DD's preschool. I don't remember the names, but I'm sure they can be searched.


Quoting momtoscott:

 For my son, empathy with other people, especially kids his own age, has developed over time.  It's been very slow.  It has been only in the last couple of years, 7th-8th grade, where DS has talked to me about the way his friends feel and his worries when one of them is sad or stressed.   His counselor at school has remarked on this as well.  Sometimes it gets DS into trouble as he tries to be too protective of a friend or can't understand the difference between friendly teasing and mean bullying. 

The ideas that other people ARE people, and that we can and should understand and try to protect their feelings, are complicated and overwhelming.  It can take time to get there.  There are plenty of NT people I know who I'd call empathy-deficient, also!  It varies from person to person. 

I have spent a lot of time over the years trying to notice any strong feeling my son seems to be having and then trying to associate it with the word for that emotion.  Also talking to him about feelings in general, my own and other people's. 


03071012
by Bronze Member on Jul. 1, 2012 at 1:37 PM
1 mom liked this
I feel empathy for people, but differently. I can understand why you feel the way you do, but I don't feel what you are feeling. I also react differently to situations that don't directly involve me (and even when they do) but involve people close to me (but outside my immediate family). For example, my close friend's son died from SIDS when R was 4, just a few days shy of 5 months old. I felt sad for them, but I never cried. When we moved from one base to the next, friends who we said goodbye to were crying, I wasn't. I never felt the need to. Sure I was sad to leave my friends, but I just didn't show it outwardly. It is the same with most other emotions. I get asked a lot if I am ok because I look upset. I am just fine, but because indon't smile much or really express myself, people think I am upset. I have a feeling R will struggle with this too. She smiles a lot and gets excited, but she's pretty expressionless otherwise.

I have always thought there was something wrong with me because I don't feel things the way other people do.

The more I am learning about autism and becoming more aware of what it is, the more I am thinking I might be. I probably won't seek out a diagnosis. My family thinks it is bull that R is diagnosed, if I were to seek it out they'd really think I was crazy.
kajira
by Emma on Jul. 1, 2012 at 1:39 PM
1 mom liked this

Hmmm.... What I think is interesting is the way you guys are describing empathy, isn't how empathy is defined (to me.) 

I can understand people are upset, and I make the choice to "ask" them what they are feeling and what I can do to help.... but I don't "feel" what they feel, just because they are upset.. (empathy?)

I can acknowledge their feelings, and try to resolve the problem, but it's logical, not overly emotional.

When my husbands dad died, it really freaked me out because he cried, I didn't know how to make it better, I kept asking him over and over again, tell me exactly what you want from me, right this second, because I don't know what to do. ^.^

I wanted to do something - I could see he was upset, I cared, I choose to care because he matters to me... if some random stranger was crying, I probably wouldn't acknowledge them, or even notice though... outside of my family unit, I struggle trying to care about stuff I don't understand... most people just expect you to "get" it - and unless their emotions are spelled out for me with logical reasons, I struggle to grasp it as a concept.

The big things, I can get. loss of a pet or a family member, struggles with infertility, a car accident, something scary like someone threatening to hurt them... etc etc. I still don't fully empathize with their emotions, but I can sympathize and at least get it as a concept.

But, "feeling what others feel" based on the story, or mirroring their emotions isn't something I can do.

We are working on at least being able to acknowledge situations in a family unit. My son is capable of asking if someone's upset if they seem distressed, but only cares if it applies to him. If his sister's upset and it's not about him, he doesn't care. So, we have to teach him logical reasons why he should care, so he will at least put effort into his family unit, even if he struggles to do it with strangers. (that's my goal for him! LOL)

Quoting HFBMOM:

My son is like this too. He has told me a couple of time about sticking up for a friend at school, especially in the lunch line which seems to me to be a dangerous place ;) 7th grade has really been a huge developemental period for him, both physically and emotionally. He's told me more about his school days this year than ever before. He also took care of some of my needs this past week while I've been sick (he made toast and heated a can of soup in the microwave for himself and me - usually he waits to be served, but I couldn't do it, so it was feed himself or starve...)

I also have worked hard over the years to identify emotions for both my kids. I love relating behaviors to Sid & Andy from Toy Story! We talk about happy faces and sad faces. There are a couple of books abou emotions that I used to read while I was helping in my DD's preschool. I don't remember the names, but I'm sure they can be searched.


Quoting momtoscott:

 For my son, empathy with other people, especially kids his own age, has developed over time.  It's been very slow.  It has been only in the last couple of years, 7th-8th grade, where DS has talked to me about the way his friends feel and his worries when one of them is sad or stressed.   His counselor at school has remarked on this as well.  Sometimes it gets DS into trouble as he tries to be too protective of a friend or can't understand the difference between friendly teasing and mean bullying. 

The ideas that other people ARE people, and that we can and should understand and try to protect their feelings, are complicated and overwhelming.  It can take time to get there.  There are plenty of NT people I know who I'd call empathy-deficient, also!  It varies from person to person. 

I have spent a lot of time over the years trying to notice any strong feeling my son seems to be having and then trying to associate it with the word for that emotion.  Also talking to him about feelings in general, my own and other people's. 



Living with Autism - The quirky kitty.

Our autistic Family - A Dad's point of view on living with Autism

Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

close Join now to connect to
other members!
Connect with Facebook or Sign Up Using Email

Already Joined? LOG IN