This won’t work with my son. Yelling doesn’t work. Neither does “the look”.
Like many on the autism spectrum he doesn’t always “get emotions”. It does NOT mean he doesn’t have them or can’t feel empathy for others. It means he sometimes has trouble interpreting emotions in other people and that he expresses his own emotions (including empathy) in a way that may not be socially acceptable.
Those attributing the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary School to Asperger’s and Autism need to learn the facts. Here are a few articles to either inform yourself or help you inform others:
- Psychology Today, excellent differentiation between correlation and causation
- NY Times, op-ed piece including good explanations of what autism is
- Autism Speaks, definitions and explanations of autism and its causes
I won’t speak for other people. I will only tell you what I have seen and continue to see on a daily basis.
He is hardly emotionless. If anything he is the opposite. Emotions seem to be intensified for him. When he is happy he often laughs so hard he gets the hiccups. When he is angry or frustrated or sad he can seem like a character in a silent movie that overly emotes so the audience can understand the emotion. Unfortunately, he isn’t silent during those times. Boy, that kid has a set of lungs when he wants to.
A year ago I would have said he has no clue when I am angry or happy or sad. After some intensive training he is starting to figure it out. His tutor is working with him, often using a wonderful program Playtime with Zeebu, to look at people and decipher their emotions from their facial cues. Is the mouth up or down, is the person crying, etc.? He loves the Emotions Game so much that he sat there playing it for a half hour while I cut his hair. Getting his hair cut is a MAJOR trauma for him, but that is another autism subject for another day. He can now look at pictures in books or on tv and figure out what they are feeling and he often includes emotions in his play with us. “Daddy be happy open.” “Mommy be sad with three tears on the cheek.”
Also, he overly expresses his empathy for others. If Thomas or one of the other trains gets in a wreck, if people are coming down a water ride screaming, if any character on tv (George, Cat in the Hat) goes down a slide seemigly out of control he becomes hysterical. Tears, screaming and head banging. He is worried about them and doesn’t know how to express himself in a socially acceptable manner. Inappropriate response, but definately empathetic.
I contend this is not unique to those on the spectrum. Have you ever felt your parents/spouse/friends just don’t understand you? Are you the parents/spouse/friend that has been accused of “not getting it.”? Has someone accidentally cut you off in traffic or said something you disagree with politically and you have condemned them as an idiot (or worse)? Where’s your empathy?
We are all guilty of being oblivious to the feelings of others as well as being overly emotional. Those on the autism spectrum are usually more so.
It doesn’t make us or them potential killers.