Insisting Autistics have Empathy When You Don't Know the Definition of Empathy
This post is a response to someone who asked what I thought about the post titled "Autism, Empathy and Boston". This is a post from a blog that I value written by a person whom I find valuable. It is beyond the scope of this post to get into much detail about autism and empathy, but I hope my point is made and those with interest in topics briefly described here can engage in further conversation in comments to the post or otherwise.
"Autism, Empathy and Boston" starts with this:
- She has empathy, though she is autistic and it is often said that autistics have difficulty with empathy.
- She suspects many or most autistics have empathy.
- The "lack of empathy is in the realm of psycopathy".
But she doesn't know how to define empathy. Aye, there's the rub.
In Autism, Empathy and Boston, Eileen Parker gives examples of several concepts. Some of what she describes is cognitive empathy, some is emotional empathy, some is sympathy, some is just her own fear and distress that does not fall into any of those categories. Many professionals say that people with autism have difficulty with empathy. And people with autism (and often their parents) insist, sometimes angrily, that they are very empathetic. Both are correct.
The simple dictionary definition of empathy is usually sufficient for casual discourse. But this definition is not sufficient for the interplay between professionals and autistics on this topic. For understanding on this level, it is vital for autistic people (and their parents) to have a deeper understanding of the clinical use of the term "empathy". For this purpose, the concept of empathy is thought of in (at least) two different aspects, cognitive empathy and emotional empathy.
Empathy and the Brain
Eileen Parker: Good Blog, Good Company, Good Person
Definition of COZY
Eileen's blog is very informative and I enjoy reading it. She usually comes to the topic of autism and sensory processing issues from an emotional...feeling...perspective. I usually come to the topic of autism and sensory processing issues from a cognitive...rational...perspective. Two different and valuable perspectives that complement each other.
So lest you think I am disparaging Eileen Parker by writing this blog post, I state without reservation that she helps me stay balanced. She helps me understand some things that I have difficulty figuring out on my own because of my weak cognitive empathy skills. I value her perspective and I value her.