Looking at Autism through the Eyes of One

what its like to have autism Perhaps you’re familiar with these phrases that describe empathy: “Put yourself in his shoes” or “Until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, you won’t understand”. If we’ve never experienced it, we can’t fully comprehend the feelings and emotions of another person.

Recently, in a Huffington Post article, Dr. Jordan Schaul, a board member and chief science officer for Zoo Nation revealed what it’s like to be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s entitled, I Can’t Fake it Until I Make It – I’m Autistic. Please take the time to read it. It sheds light on the autistic perspective. In the process, I hope it helps us be more empathetic, patient and understanding of those we meet, no matter what they’re dealing with.

Upon being diagnosed at the age of 40, Dr. Schaul’s first response was anger – anger at family, friends and professionals for not recognizing it sooner. (Earlier diagnosis was Attention Deficit Disorder.) He was also relieved to finally have an explanation for why he felt he didn’t fit in, why he felt exhausted and stressed at social interactions.

I’ve done extensive research on empathy and autism so he quoted me as a clinician and autism expert for the article. I said, “Empathy explains it all when it comes to Asperger’s Syndrome. Regardless of where an individual falls on the autism spectrum, lack of empathy is the defining characteristic. Empathy is that ineffable skill of reading between the lines, knowing where the other person is coming from, sizing up the context and speaking in a way that respectfully cares for the feelings of others. Without empathy the autistic person is left in an isolated and disconnected world. They may feel compassion, sympathy and love without a clear way to express it to others with a few simple words or a look. “High Functioning Autism” is such a misnomer. What good is it to be brilliant, talented, well-educated or good looking, if you can’t connect with others in a way that makes them feel acknowledged and cared for… and want to love you back?”

Rather than talk about someone’s lack of social skills, why not talk with them and see if you can help them discover the reasons for it. If you suspect autism, please consult with a mental health professional who specializes in Asperger’s Syndrome to make sure you arrive at the proper diagnosis. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

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