The myth of an empathy deficit in autism is now so well ingrained, that for an autistic volunteer to report they do not lack empathy is either to question the views of the large majority of medical and scientific professionals, or even to deny their diagnosis. As such, they may report empathy deficits even when they frequently experience empathic feelings. The questions in such measures are also often vague and imprecise: it is unclear to whom, or to what group, you should compare yourself; and how to know whether you are quick to notice things. In addition, several questions rely on another’s perception of your competence. When these others are neurotypical individuals who often fail to recognise the emotional and mental states of autistic individuals (Edey et al., 2016; Sheppard, Pillai, Wong, Ropar, & Mitchell, 2016), it is clear to see how such measures may provide information which is of limited value.
there are also many theories about autism, including the notion that autistics lack empathy . . . When you have sensory dysfunction, you are overly tuned to the environment, which includes all the emotions of the people you are interacting with – even the unspoken emotions on their part. The result can be an emotional roller-coaster ride for me as I try to deal with all this bombardment of information in addition to their words. Neurotypical people may assume that we autistics are incapable of empathy, when in fact, we just happen to express it differently. Reactions by way of our facial expressions and body language may not match what society is used to and expects.
These accounts point to a potentially fruitful seam of research, investigating how the sensory profile of autistic people mediates their experience of their own and others’ emotions.
But, someone realised there was a way to say that there is Big Money in ‘fixing’ us so we’re not autistic any more. And Big Business likes Big Money.
So, the myths started. About cost, about danger, about tragedy. Who wouldn’t pay a fortune to fix a tragedy? Also, about disability. It’s a fault, a deficit, something’s gone ‘wrong’, you’ll be told. Except it isn’t, any more than being gay is a fault and a deficit and an opportunity to cure. Groups tried that, too. Remember that being gay was in the mental health books, and people made a fortune out of ‘gay cure therapies’. Now those are being banned after the gay people said how much damage those therapies did. Guess what some autism ‘therapies’ are based on? Same techniques. But now used on people who can’t say that it hurts, or aren’t believed when they say it hurts.
Meantime, we have made society so bad for autistic people and the scaremongering so effective that our quality of life is often really awful. That’s not ‘autism’ that did that.
Instead, if you must hand over money, ensure that actual autistic specialists receive it. Or our allies. People who understand how to actually help your child, because we were once pretty much the same as your child. And we have spent decades in this trade, learning things that help.
Autistic people are not lab rats who exist so that shareholders can make money.
I updated “Neurodiversity in the SpEd Classroom” with selections from “This Video Demonstrates What It’s Like to Be an Autistic Adult Who Isn’t Being Heard | The Autism Site Blog” and a video embed of “Rethinking Autism: Autism Support Group – YouTube”.
More children than ever before are being diagnosed with autism. But what about the adults? Some of these individuals have never been diagnosed but have always known they were a bit “different.” Others were diagnosed but did not have the same degree of societal acceptance or the same number of resources available to help them cope with a neurotypical world.
Now this group of adults is the demographic that best understands what people with autism need, whether or not they know how to articulate it in a way the rest of society is able to grasp. But what these men and women have to say about autism is important. These people need to be heard!
The video below encourages adults with autism to get involved in the discussion and asks others to be cognizant of the needs of people with autism and invite them into the conversation. The neurotypical community needs adults with autism to lend their voices and experiences to help make the future brighter for the next generation!
Check out this powerful video!
I also embedded a couple tweets. See this thread for reactions to the video from #ActuallyAutistic folks:
This captures my sentiment: