New Theory Might Change the Way We Understand Asperger’s Syndrome


Asperger’s Syndrome is a developmental disorder on the Autism Spectrum that impacts communication and social interaction. People with Asperger’s often struggle with reading non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expressions. They can have obsessive interests and have difficulty maintaining friendships. They are often alone and can seem withdrawn, distant or even aloof, making it seem like they lack empathy for others. But is it true? Do they really lack empathy or is something else going on?

A new theory has been circulating in the Autism world and it might just change the way we treat those with Asperger’s Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism. Actually, this theory describes my daughter, who has been diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism, to a tee.

The Intense World Theory

asperger's syndromeAccording to Henry and Kamila Markham of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, those with Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning AutismĀ  are actually hypersensitive to every day experiences which makes them easily overwhelmed. This means that instead of lacking empathy, they actually empathize too much, making it difficult to process everything.

It’s a chain event. They walk into a room and sense everything in an intense way. This in turn, causes them to withdraw and seek comfort in repetitive movements such as rocking and spinning. Because they withdraw from over-stimulating situations, they lack the social experience necessary to interact with others.

Another reason why those with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism may seem to lack empathy is because the ability to see things from a different perspective than their own is delayed. They eventually develop this skill, but it may cause difficulty in understanding what others are feeling.

Also, understanding the emotions of others often involves reading body language and facial expression, skills which are difficult for those with Autism or Asperger’s. It doesn’t mean they lack empathy, they just might not understand what the person is feeling based on non-verbal cues.

Sometimes people think that Autistic people lack empathy because they dominate the conversation. It’s not really that they don’t care how the other person feels or that they are trying to control the situation. Again, it’s part of the perspective thing. They have intense interests that they like to talk about and don’t realize that others might not be interested in the same things.

Many Autistics state that they feel a lot of empathy for others, but have difficulty communicating with Neurotypicals (those who develop normally). They compare it to a human trying to communicate with a chimpanzee. They are similar in many ways, but have differences that might make interaction and communication difficult. On the other hand, Autistics do well with other Autistics because they understand each other. And when they understand where the other is coming from, it’s easy to show affection and empathy.

Those with Asperger’s Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism actually do want to form friendships and be social. They just have difficulty handling the stimulation that comes with interacting with others.

This understanding truly could change the way we look at individuals on the Autism Spectrum. If we can help them process and deal with the stimulation they are feeling, we can help them get the social experience they need to interact with others and show the empathy they feel.

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