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Interesting thought (ASD related)

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I heard a brief snippet on the radio today (sorry I have no source for this). It was from an adult with autism. The context was the perception that people with autism lack empathy and interest in social contact. This man said that as a child, direct one-on-one communication with people was too intense for him, so he shut down. Far from lacking empathy, he craved social contact, and felt too deeply others moods. He said the intensity of direct eye contact was similar to how he felt from other sensory overload. He said it was like sticking his hand into a fire: he simply could not do it; it was too painful.  I am remembering my YoungSon's response to being in a bowling alley when he was about 10. The crashing noises, loud music, bright lights - he just couldn't take it, and went nearly catatonic. Then major meltdown. I mean of epic proportions. He has avoided bowling alleys ever since. If social interactions created the same intensity of feeling, I can see why avoidance would be a typical and appropriate reaction.


This makes so much sense to me. YoungSon keeps a huge emotional distance from everyone but me. With me, he is hyper-tuned to my moods and emotions. If I get teary at a sappy TV commercial, he gets honestly upset. He hates running into anyone he knows (in town, at the shops, whatever), because they not only may greet him in the moment, they might say something to him at school the next day. Even these "minor" social interactions are stressful for him. It isn't that he needs to learn the social conventions for how to handle this interaction - he really does know. But the intensity is just too much.


Does anyone else relate to this paradigm? For years, I have wanted to argue that my boy with autism indeed DID feel empathy. I just didn't know how to explain it.

post #2 of 8

I think a lot of these "assumptions" about kids within the autism spectrum are plain wrong. It's like this aspergers equals no social interaction thing. I think a lot of asperger kids do like interaction, they are just not very good at it :) 


I ask myself the question, how do these "experts" know anyway? Mostly, they did not even ask someone who actually feels this way, ever. 


There is a lot to be done, understandingwise ...

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

Still thinking about this...


To me, it explains why YoungSon has difficulty answering direct questions, even when he knows the answer. He can be talking intelligently about a subject (World War II is a current interest), and if I ask for clarification on a point, he often has a hard time expressing it. Even if he just said it. Likewise, in an evaluation when he was 7 (they let me be with him for that one), he answered many questions, "I know it, but I can't say it". The psychologist had to mark a zero for those answers, so his official IQ was 72. But even the psychologist who did not know him admitted that this was clearly not accurate. I am thinking the intensity of a direct question is a variation on overload for YoungSon. Interesting thoughts for today.

post #4 of 8
Interesting thoughts... I noticed a lot of kids tend to like to look at things or people out of the sides of their eyes...maybe anything more direct is like having a giant spotlight put on you. A lot of times the empathy or affection is there, but it's shown in a way that is unique to the individual-- perhaps too subtle for a casual observer.
post #5 of 8

My 15 yr old with ASD tells me that looking me in the eyes is too intense. He told me that its like "you can see straight into my soul". His words. My other son tells me that its distracting. He can't hear what I say if he's looking at me as well as he can if he is fidgeting with something in his lap. Its hard for me though when he does that because I really don't feel like he is listening at all. I read a post recently by a man with HFA who said to teach your kids to look people straight in the nose. Fools 90% of people 80% of the time. My teen has been trying it and really likes it and is sort of amused at how well it works. He just needs to stop announcing that is what he is doing. Subtlety is not his strong suit LOL. 

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
I love this! I don't do much direct eye contact myself, and will be giving it a try. "Look me in the nose" is funny in any case.
post #7 of 8

I am constantly telling DD to look at me when I'm telling her something. It drives me crazy how she avoids eye-contact! Silly me. We just recently got the diagnosis, so I am realizing that things like this (that used to annoy the heck out of me and made me think she was just being a stubborn brat) are a part of ASD. I think I might tell her about looking people in the nose, though. Funny how important eye-contact is to me.

post #8 of 8

One of my DDs was dx'd as PDD_NOS because her social skills were too high. She has poor eye contact.


We have done a lot of social skills work with her because she enjoys people and has strong language skills, but does not always read social cues/interpret body language well.Now that she is older, she will say she can't look and listen (eye contact) but one or the other.


I believe it is tied to 'intensity' and emotional regulation in what she is thinking/feeling/hearing.

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