Myth: People on the autism spectrum lack empathy.
I was asked a question about the myths associated with the autism spectrum during the live interview I recently attended. The first myth mentioned was ”autistic people lack empathy.” I have brought this up because this myth hurts me. In fact, this myth breaks my heart just as much as the sporadic fat jokes I have received throughout my school years.
Here’s something to show that there’s empathy hidden somewhere in many autistic individuals.
One day, I was at work. There were too many people on staff, so my boss had me do some deep cleaning around the mess hall. It was breakfast time and the soldiers were in line getting their meals. I have greeted a fellow veteran, who happens to enjoy my customer service and enthusiasm. I continued on with my work duties. Suddenly, he approached me again and stated ”you look beautiful without the mask.” I was absolutely flattered. Of course I blushed. Meanwhile, one of my co workers heard him and laughed, but it didn’t sound genuine. I sensed disappointment and a hint of jealousy. Suddenly I felt very uneasy.
After saying thank you to him and wishing him a good day, I felt for my co worker. She was quiet after this happened. She’s usually very outgoing and very social with the soldiers. I on the other hand only greet them and wish them a good day. I missed her outgoing personality.
I understand that it wasn’t my fault and I completely understand that I can not help what others say. I just understand what it feels like to see other women receive compliments from the opposite sex and feeling invisible. I could only imagine how she felt, giving that she’s much older than I am. I hope and pray to God that she understands that I was not trying to steal her thunder.
At age 34, I began putting myself in the shoes of those who bullied me in my childhood. The thoughts were, ”what was going through their minds when they were tormenting me? What went so wrong in their lives that they have decided to channel their anger on someone they deem inferior to them?
I am not saying what my bullies did was justifiable. I am not excusing their actions. I am just saying that a bully would not seek a victim and torment them for no personal reason. Something must have happened in their lives that causes them to bully. For that, I feel sorry for my bullies. Even though I am the one bearing the scars, it’s them I feel for.
So you see? People on the autism spectrum do in fact have empathy. As you can see, I sure as heck do! There are just those of us who have a much harder time processing that empathy. It’s trapped in their bodies and they have no idea how to properly show that empathy verbally or through their actions.
You would be surprised by how much information autistic people can internalize. The last thing we need to hear is ”they lack empathy.” Place yourself in our shoes. Close your eyes and imagine being surrounded by a bunch of people and having trouble keeping up with a conversation. Imagine wanting to begin a conversation and having no idea what to discuss. How would you feel?
That’s exactly how I feel on a daily basis. Society is a world of confusion for many of us. If there are those of us who have a communication disorder like I do, then you can only imagine how hard it is to express our empathetic side.
I write this to say this: Never judge a book by its cover. Because you never know what’s inside of that book until you read it. God bless you all!