I’ve seen many blog posts and arguments and protestations from the autism community regarding empathy. Many of them boiled down to “yes, we have empathy!” stated in a most emphatic fashion. I will confess, I didn’t really understand them. Not so much the content, as the need for such posts in the first place. I mean, I knew that there are people out there saying less-than-flattering things about ASDs and empathy, but I also knew that I struggle with certain forms of empathy (since “empathy” is an incredibly broad word with lots of different meanings).
Then I read this blog post.
Now I get it.
I have never actually read anything by Simon Baron-Cohen. I knew he was someone who said less-than-nice (or true) things about those of us on the autism spectrum. What I did not know was just how bad it was. Just how awful the things he says are, and by extension, just how harmful he is as a so-called “expert” on autism, as someone people listen to and take seriously.
He isn’t saying that we struggle with empathy. He says that we do not have any empathy, nor can we develop it. Plus, now I get to add him to the list of those that other us, and who say that being different makes us wrong. Similar to my puzzle complaint, now we also have that if I pull away from other people it’s because I lack empathy. Yet if they pull away from me, it’s because I’m wrong somehow. Similar behaviors from two different groups, but both get to be my fault because I am the one who is different.
For the record, I am tired of being othered.
In any case, I’ve decided that Simon Baron-Cohen needs to be added to my reading list. I think it will be useful to me to have a better understanding of the dialogue out there about aspergers and autism, including the harmful voices.