Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Spectrum of Empathy

Please don't let anyone tell you that children on the Autistic Spectrum are incapable of empathy.  Ever.

While it is true that some of their behavior would indicate that they are unable to get into others' heads and understand their pain and sorrow, their frustration and upsets, it simply isn't so.  It's been my experience that these are some of the most sensitive souls, feeling to the 'N'th degree what the rest of us feel.  It is this over-feeling that often blocks from view another's version of the story.  But that doesn't mean they are incapable of doing so.

My beautifully ASDed boy reaches out in all the right moments.

When we were alone and my husband was in basic training and I had my first miscarriage, Big Brother was only 10 months old.  And as I sat crying on the couch, wondering how my dear husband was going to take the news from his commander, my sweet son used his newfound skills to walk over to me and wipe my tears away.  He buried his face in my neck and just held me.  It was one of the most profound connections of my life.

When he was six and we had cable tv for the first time and his little eyes witnessed the "save the children in Africa" commercials, he wept.  "We have to help them, mama," he cried to me.  "They don't have food.  They're dying."  He cried himself to sleep for many weeks remembering the pain of those far away children.

And this last week or so, every morning I have found him staring at the calendar on my refrigerator.  When I have prompted him to get the move on and finish getting ready for school, he has turned to me with true sorrow in his eyes and said, "I hate September.  It's such a sad month."

Last night as I picked him up from his french horn lessons he was forlorn and distant.  When I asked him what was wrong he said, "Tomorrow is coming."  And again I realized just how sensitive and feeling my boy is.

He was only two months old on September 11, 2001.  I remember vividly hearing the news of the attacks on the Twin Towers over the radio as I dropped my husband off for work, went to walk with a friend at BYU-I and drove to my mother-in-laws house to do our laundry.  I held my precious baby in my arms, clung to his innocence as my in-laws and I watched in horror as the towers fell.  We experienced no personal loss.  I didn't know anyone that died that day.  But the impact has followed our family.  My husband joined the Air Force two months after 9/11.  We spent nearly 11 years in the active duty service to our country because of the feelings those event stirred in our hearts.

I remember when Big Brother first asked me about it.  He was in second grade and going to a U.S. military/DOD school in England.  They had an assembly to commemorate the day.  A special moment of silence for those that lost their lives.  Gave all the children little American flags.  September has never been the same for Big Brother since.

Don't let anyone tell you children on the Autistic Spectrum are incapable of empathy.  Ever.

Know that my 12 year old feels your sorrows, he mourns with you and today he is fervently praying in your behalf.

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