January 17, 2019

I empathize very strongly whenever I hear the sound of a crying child, especially a wailing baby. It seems to me like a very reasonable reaction to the frequent frustrations of daily life, and it feels like they’re speaking on my behalf with sounds that aren’t socially acceptable for me to make.

I believe that deeply feeling what others feel (affective empathy) is one of the greatest gifts autistic people have to offer the world. If people say we lack empathy, it’s either because we haven’t been able to read how they feel from their body language (cognitive empathy), or we aren’t communicating our reactions in ways that they understand (expressive empathy).

When others are in pain (physical or emotional) and I feel it too, it comforts me to remember that empathy for others is a beautiful thing, because it moves me to help. The same emotion that feels like weakness may someday alert me to someone’s deep need. This hopefulness and purpose makes it easier for me to bear someone’s pain in moments when I can do nothing to help.

I also try to remind myself that whatever they’re going through, it will get better. They will survive. And so will I, on days when I feel the same way.

This post was inspired by a question on my “ask me anything” thread: facebook.com/534206893738169

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.