Teaching empathy?

G has a pretty sensitive sense of fear.  For example, while swimming lessons have been extremely successful, on the last day the teacher had the kids play a game where one child was a shark and chased the other children back to the pool wall.  Added to that, since all previous lessons had gone so well, I made the incredibly poor decision to move from one picnic table to another in order to talk with a woman I know.  So G got scared by the shark game, looked over to where he had left me for reassurance, couldn’t find me, and completely freaked out.  It took me 20 minutes to get him calmed down.

Another manifestation of this sensitivity is his inability to watch anything on tv that is the least bit suspenseful.  We generally stick to the 20 minute shows on noggin or pbs but he enjoys ‘movie time’ where we pop popcorn and turn the lights off to make the room dark.  He can watch a few movies as long as they are very mild, like the Air Bud, Air Buddies, Snow Buddies movies and he has control of the remote so can skip scary scenes.  Which is a vast improvement from the days before he could work the remote and would suddenly start screaming, “SKIP THIS PART, SKIP THIS PART, SKIP IT, SKIP IT, SKIIIIIIIIIIP IT!!!!”

Because of this, I am extremely careful about exposing him to any shows I watch during the day.  I pretty much limit it to MSNBC political coverage, as long as the panelists aren’t too shouty, and the celebrity interviews on Oprah.  The other day Oprah re-ran the Horton Hears a Who episode and I had it on while G watched the highlights and read books on the couch with me.  Everything went great until she showed the clip of Steve Carell’s chest waxing scene from the 40 Year Old Virgin.  Steve was screaming and G startled violently.  I was cracking up the way I do everytime I see this scene which really confused G.  He had started to get scared and cry, but saw me laughing and was trying to follow suit.  Which left him with this really painful grimace on his face as he tried to smile through his fear and he kept asking, “This is funny?  We should laugh?  Why is this funny?”

It made me think later.  “They” say kids with Aspergers are lacking in empathy and need help connecting to what others are feeling.  How true is that, when G was responding appropriately to someone in pain but I, the neuro-typical, couldn’t stop laughing?

Published in: on June 27, 2008 at 3:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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