In this post, Emily Willingham (@EJWillingham on Twitter) writes about her 11-year-old son’s reaction to the news of the 14 Dec. shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, USA. Her son is an Aspie (has Asperger’s syndrome or is a high-functioning autistic, depending on which DSM you use).
Like my husband (also an Aspie), Willingham’s son is empathic and sensitive, and from what I can tell, kind and gentle and caring about others as well. Sometimes I have to peel back a layer or two of social awkwardness or non-verbal pauses to perceive this. Do NOT hear “loner” or here. Rather, as Willingham writes, “Non-autistic people also seem to struggle with reading the nonverbal communication of autistic people.” That’s what I mean. It’s we NT’s (neurotypicals) who might be considered to be lacking in empathy where Aspies and others on the spectrum are concerned.
Summarizing Willingham’s post won’t do it justice, so I’m just extracting a paragraph here, and I recommend you go to her blog to read the whole post.
He knows about the Dec. 14 shootings in Connecticut. When he learned about them, his first response was to turn away in the chair where he was sitting, drooping his head over the back. He stayed that way for many long minutes, quiet and still. When he turned around again, my child who rarely, rarely cries, had tears in his eyes. And then, his first urgent concern: That we break from homeschooling and go get his brother, our youngest son and in first grade, from school … now. And as we drove to the school to pick up his brother, whom I badly wanted to see and hug and hear, my oldest, autistic son voiced what I’d already decided: “Let’s not tell him what happened. That’s not something he needs to know. It would make him too anxious and scared.” Perspective-taking and empathy, you see.
Thanks, Emily, for sharing your wonderful son with us.