Do People with Asperger’s Syndrome Have Empathy?

Empathy relates to sympathy with the feelings of other people

That doesn’t say much. As depicted in a first series Star Trek episode, an empath could read someone’s mind to determine that person’s emotions or feelings. That’s a cute idea for a television show, but it doesn’t exist in real life.


What does exist is an distinctive ability of neurologically typical people to read body language to the extent that it is possible to understand some of that person’s feelings. Perhaps the lack of that ability (to read body language) is the definitive feature of autism.


I am trying to get better at reading body language thanks to Autism Beds clubs

People on the autistic spectrum (“the Spectrum”) are much less able to read someone’s body language and are therefore much less able to innately understand that person’s feelings.


Does that mean they have no feelings?

No. In the commonly understood sense autistics have feelings like anyone else.


If you don’t know about an event, you have no feelings about it.


Let Me Explain It   (the short explanation)

People with Asperger’s syndrome and other autistics have feelings just like anyone else. They have a reduced ability to read body language, but that doesn’t mean that they are not sympathetic. Once aware of another’s circumstances or feelings, they will have the same degree of compassion as anyone else.

In some circumstances you can expect more in the way of sympathy from someone on the Spectrum. Autistics’ compassion is based on information gained empirically (empirical data


Therefore it is likely that the autistic may have compassion even where there is no coincidental body language to go with the event.


So expect someone on the Spectrum not to notice some things, but expect a great deal of compassion – yes empathy – once the situation becomes clear.

Learning Empathy

As I mentioned, empathy is inherent; the difficulty being in recognising what another is thinking in order to empathise, sometimes called “theory of mind”.


Fortunately, this is taught in the form of movies and similar entertainment. Movies must depict emotions by use of subtile and often not-so-subtile cues. While the most obvious emotion depicted is romantic love, other forms of pathos are commonly depicted. While such depictions occur for all age groups (e.g., “Casper” cartoons and Disney movies), adult themed movies seem to depict complex emotions.


Romantic love is also a very important emotion for people on The Spectrum to thoroughly understand — at least to the extent that the subject of love can be understood at all.


Hollywood goes to great effort to depict these emotions through screen techniques. The only disadvantage of people on The Spectrum is that they’re not as used to seeing reflections of these emotions.

So if you want to teach recognition of emotions, the movies are a great place to start.


I guess at this point, it’s possible to compare depictions of autistics and Aspies with NTs. There are definitely depictions of people on The Spectrum in cinema. Besides the obvious ones like Rain Man, there are a number of representations of autistic-like behaviour:


1.Spock and Data in Star Trek

2.Forrest Gump


As to movies which teach “reading” emotions, it depends on what one likes. There are certainly movies that are less understandable because of their reflections of NT personality

But the idea is to just enjoy the movies and learn!

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