Empathy is a word fraught with complications for those of us in the autism community. Supposedly, people on the autism spectrum lack empathy. This is a myth that my kids disprove every. single. day. In fact, often times my daughter’s ability to empathize is too powerful, and she has a hard time letting go of other people’s pain.
She does often miss social cues, however, which can certainly make people think she isn’t empathetic. She struggles to read facial expressions, and often her own expressions don’t match her emotions. Frequently, she appears to be angry, when in actuality she’s feeling thoughtful and trying to process information. She knows this about herself. She’s working on it.
At the same time, I find myself constantly hoping for empathy from others — like when my daughter is being a little different than her peers, or when I have to take my son with me into public ladies’ restrooms.
The video below, created by the internationally-renowned hospital and research center Cleveland Clinic, asks viewers to put themselves into another’s shoes for a moment. If you could see what they see, hear what they hear, and feel what they feel, would you treat them any differently? This isn’t a video about autism or special needs. It’s about humanity, and understanding that everyone has a story.
My friend Marj, who writes about parenting two children on the autism spectrum at The Domestic Goddess, shared this video with me on Facebook, with the comment, “a reminder that we should treat everyone with empathy and respect, because you never know what you cannot see.”
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