1st August 2020
Since starting my blog, I have been welcomed with open arms into the online autistic community. I have had an overwhelming amount of support from parents of children on the spectrum, and from people on the spectrum themselves. I have been offered support, and also, I have been asked for advice from people who believe they are on the spectrum. My inbox has 17 messages already, and this is growing every day. This demonstrates to me how talking about your own experiences can really make an impact. Not only do I get to help others, but I also get to relate, and communicate with others who are just like me. Having this community has made me feel so accepted (minus a few people). The amount of support people are willing to offer is amazing and I couldn’t be prouder to be apart of such an accepting, warm community.
I also find this completely obliterates the stereotype of autistic people as cold and unempathetic. We do feel emotion, we do crave friendships and relationships. People on the spectrum struggle with cognitive empathy, so when we feel empathy we don’t know why, but we still feel it. For example, if someone close to me is upset, it is likely I will also be upset. I won’t always understand why they are upset but I still feel upset in response to them. This is because there are two types of empathy: ‘cognitive empathy’ and ‘emotional/affective empathy ‘. Verywell Mind distinguishes the difference:
- Taking another person’s perspective
- Imagining what it’s like in another person’s shoes
- Understanding someone’s feelings
- Sharing an emotional experience
- Feeling distress in response to someone’s pain
- Experiencing a willingness to help someone
Someone on the autistic spectrum who would have been previously diagnosed with Aspergers (which isn’t actually diagnosed anymore, autism is just diagnosed as ‘autism’ instead of different types), is more likely to have emotional empathy but not cognitive empathy. There are others on the spectrum who will lack both. So, giving an umbrella statement that autistic people are not empathetic is completely untrue. I have found an immense amount of empathy and kindness within the autistic society and I am very grateful for this. So, I hope that I have diminished that stereotype.
If anyone on the autistic spectrum ever feels alone, I would definitely recommend talking with the autistic community it helps to discuss it with people who understand. This doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t speak to neurotypicals, because by speaking to everyone (not just autistic people) it raises awareness and breaks down stereotypes. So, my overall advice is to talk, to anyone and everyone especially if you are struggling.