Empathy and autism: feeling too much and how friends & family can help

I want to talk about empathy because I know the public perception is that people with autism don’t have empathy. In fact quite a few people told me they were surprised that I had been diagnosed because their perception was that I was over-empathetic. Well…being over-empathetic is actually often a trait of those on the autism spectrum! I’ll try to explain how I experience empathy and emotions, and how others can help.


The first thing you need to know is it’s connected to something called Theory of Mind. Theory of mind is knowing that you are separate to other people, and that other people have their own different intentions and thoughts and emotions, which are different to the intentions and thoughts you have. It’s something all non-autistic people pick up naturally, even at a young age. But it’s something that autistic people struggle with all their life. It’s why it’s harder to read others intentions, which has meant people have said I am naive in certain situations and have not noticed things that other non-autistic people picked up on easily, as I always think my intentions are also the other people’s intentions. It’s also why I often think people are upset or angry with me even if they’re not, and feel anxious about it and worry about it a lot inside. If I feel happy about a situation, I feel so confused when others aren’t happy too, or I feel sad about something, I find it difficult to see why others aren’t sad about that too. And I often think too much, when I struggle to figure out why someone’s behaved in a certain way, which can be very exhausting.

But there’s also another part of Theory of Mind. And that is, as my ASD counsellor puts it, “I find it difficult to figure out where the boundary between the other person stops and I begin”. Continue reading “Empathy and autism: feeling too much and how friends & family can help”


The yumminess of tea + special interests

Tea is definitely one of my special interests. I could talk or write for ages about tea. πŸ™‚ When I was at my ASD assessment, I was told “you have a very long-winded pattern of speech”. Speaking with lots of detail and talking for a long time, especially if it’s a topic of interest, is something that is common for people with Aspergers and ASD. But I stop myself from speaking in a long-winded way, a lot.

My ASD counsellor told me that a lot of women with Aspergers like me are very perceptive, but not intuitive. That means that because things are not intuitive (I.e, we don’t just “know” how to read body language or facial expressions), we make up for it by trying to observe people as much as we can with our heightened senses – so we are very perceptive at noticing differences, even if we are not entirely sure how to actually interpret it. So when I’m speaking to someone I know, I will notice tiny changes – like if their body twitches even a little bit, or their facial expression changes even a little bit; this makes me panic and my first thought is, “They are no longer happy with me, they are bored/angry/sad, I should probably not talk so much or should find something else to talk about”. Obviously this is a silent process that goes on behind my mind, but you can imagine the amount of stress and panic this causes me, because I can’t really properly interpret what people are thinking or feeling. So over the years I am very aware of how much I’m speaking, am constantly worrying and am not always sure how much I should or shouldn’t say.

But with my partner, I often realise I’ve been talking for quite a while – I do indeed have naturally long winded speech, when I’m not trying to stop myself and when I feel comfortable, especially when I get excited and talk about things that are really interesting like special interests, but also when I’m just describing things or telling him things that happened during the day, because I talk about every single detail of what happened! I often talk about lots of tiny details, rather than the general picture, as that’s what I tend to see. Recently since I became ill, I unfortunately get very tired talking a lot, but my natural speech is like this.

My partner told me that it’s important that I should be myself, and he told me that even though I don’t realise it, people do love me for who I am. So in an effort to be more myself, I am going to fill this blog with all my quirks and excitability and special interests. πŸ¦„πŸŒΈA special interest is a lot, lot more than a hobby, it’s something that is so incredible and important, something I become completely fixated on (sometimes for a short time, so I have a series of intense interests, or sometimes a longer period of time), and which becomes, in those moments, all that I can think about. Its very hard to switch off from it. It’s an obsessive joy and also a coping mechanism for a lot of autistic people, a bright and brilliant part of their lives. Without my ongoing and new special interests and my imaginary worlds, I do not think I would be coping now. This is also called having an “abnormal intensity” and focus, and is part of the ASD criteria (although I don’t like the word abnormal). The difference between hobbies and special interests, is not about the actual interest or subject, it’s the intensity and the focus of those interests. I have a few “special interests”: tea, cuddly toys, Harry Potter, Disney, desserts, fantasy books, hair accessories, and also whatever my latest area of personal research is. I think a lot of people think only of trains when they think of ASD special interests, but that’s just one of many intense interests someone could have!

So today I’ll talk about tea!

Continue reading “The yumminess of tea + special interests”

Friendships – why are they so difficult?Β 

Today I’m writing about how it was difficult making friends growing up – even though I really wanted friends and being around people who I likedπŸ™‚

When I was little, I was extremely shy and quiet. When I did speak, people would say to me “what’s that? I can’t hear you! Speak up!” because I had such a soft voice. I was generally quite different to other girls my age, but very intelligent and picked things up quickly and loved to read – so my differences (like crying, becoming extremely distressed and having meltdowns far beyond what children my age would cry for, very difficult to soothe, being extremely clingy to my mum while other children weren’t, not wanting to be with anyone else, easily startled and terrified of sensory information like noises which didn’t seem to bother other children), weren’t really picked up – until very recently when I had my diagnosis of autism.

When I did go to nursery and reception, I had just one special friend called Thomas. I remember it vividly because I think those were some of my happiest times in my life, because I had found someone who was truly my friend. I used to try to teach him Tamil – and he would sit on the bench and repeat Tamil words after me! And then he would get a bit bored and go off to play football with his other boy friends – but then I’d follow him around the playground and say “Thomas!! Thomas!!” and he would come back and sit down and play with me. Sometimes I would be so sad when he went away that I would start crying, and he would come back to play, even if he didn’t understand why I was so sad. He was my best friend. I always formed (or wanted to form) very intense friendships with people who I thought were my friends, and I think that’s one thing that has upset me so much growing up – i don’t think many “neurotypical” (non-autistic) people think the same way about friendships that I do.

Continue reading “Friendships – why are they so difficult?Β “


I am an aspie!

Welcome to my blog! β­οΈπŸ¦„πŸŒΈ

I was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum last week. On the spectrum, I would fall under the category known as “Asperger syndome” due to the fact I hit the usual intellectual milestones and was also always of above-average intelligence. It has been very overwhelming for me to come to terms with it, but I am also feeling very happy that I’ve found out more about myself!

I have a lovely aunt who, over the past few months, had been giving me and my mum a lift to go to and from my medical treatment for my physical conditions. My aunt also attended an extensive training course on autism. After one of the trips back from the hospital, she told my mum she suspected I was on the autistic spectrum. That even though I had physical conditions, there was definitely something else, something underneath this all.

My aunt told her that the way I reacted to everyday stress that first made her think of it, but then they also talked about my early childhood, the big differences between me and other young children at that age, social and other history all the way from when I was a baby, through school, how I was at university (by secondary school and university I was trying my best to blend in), incidents that happened at the workplace that just didn’t happen to the majority of people I knew, and also my severe physical conditions including unexplained stomach problems which started in childhood and got worse as I was exposed to stress I couldn’t handle, even reactions to medicines and foods and odd allergies and neurological / coordination difficulties since I was a child, that it all pointed to being on the autistic spectrum. My mum then told her when I was a child, I would never lie. That when other children learned early on that if they lied about something to keep themselves out of trouble, I would never do that. That it was as if I didn’t know how to. My aunt told my mum that was a classic feature of autism that is found in childhood.

Continue reading “I am an aspie!”