Autism and empathy

Before my life as a stay-at-home mom/writer/taxi driver, I was the director of an autism center. I had the privilege of watching countless children and teens on the spectrum come in and out of our doors every day. One of my favorite teens was a boy with Asperger’s. He was broad and tall for his age and could converse with you over a thousand topics without ever changing the expression on his face. I was always fascinated by his mind and what must be going on in there at lightening speed.

During our first week of social skills class he was paired with a boy who had autism and was also deaf. We all wondered how this would go. His comments were sometimes brutally honest and his patience was not always overflowing. I cringed thinking about the meltdown that might ensue over his new partner. The first week passed without incident but also without any interaction between he and his new partner so we brain-stormed ways to get the two to communicate before week two arrived.

As the second week of class began I greeted my favorite Aspie when he appeared at my office and asked him about the book he was carrying under his arm to class. I assumed it was his latest historical find or the statistics of something else he loved.

It was a book on sign language.

According to his mother, my big, tall, very serious friend had insisted on taking this book out from the library immediately after his social skills class the week before. If we were going to partner him with someone who could not hear he was going to find a way to speak to him.

And he did.

So often people assume that individuals with autism do not show empathy but I have always thought this is far from true. How do the people with autism in your life show they care about others?

About Jessica

Jessica is a 30-something mom to five, four in her arms and one in her heart. On any given day you will find her taxi-ing a teenager, mopping up the latest "art project" and trying to remember when she turned the crock pot on… all the while, looking for the closest Starbucks drive thru. Jessica Watson can also be found at her personal blog Four Plus an Angel, on twitter (@jessbwatson) and on Pinterest.

9 thoughts on “Autism and empathy

  1. This is remarkable! It’s also something that I experience with my Aspie.
    Just because you might not SEE something on the outside doesn’t mean that there’s not something going on in the heart and mind of a person on the spectrum. Thanks so much for sharing this story.

    • I think this story was the perfect example for me of all our kids are capable of. There are not many kids who don’t have autism that would go to these lengths to help another.

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