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PostEmpathy and Autism (John Heelan, UK) (John Eipper, USA, 10/17/06 4:47 pm)
John Heelan writes: Sadly, two of my younger grandchildren (boys) are profoundly autistic. Happily they are very healthy and do not suffer from any of the main illnesses often associated with autism. Neither speaks, or is likely to speak, although their voice-producing mechanisms are intact (one of them, who appears to have a considerable IQ, parroted, once only, a phrase repeated by his classmates in his special education school much to the surprise of his teachers!). The parents communicate with these two children by pictures. There is really not a lot known about either what causes autism or what is really is- other than a developmental absence or delay. Of course, currently there is no cure for autism, despite the many "snake oil" treatments that sometimes relieve its symptoms.
As a usual feature of profound autism is the inability to interpret facial expressions or pick up behavioural nuances of others. Indicated by body language etc. My two autistic grandchildren do not (cannot) display any empathy- if one is distressed, the other ignores that distress- although their elder sibling is empathetic.
Perhaps the above is more anecdotal evidence that empathy is a learned response resulting from social conditioning within the family?
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