Monday, August 15, 2011

Journeys with Autism » A Critique of the Empathy Quotient (EQ) Test: Conclusion

I think Rachel nails it in her conclusion of her series critiquing the EQ test.

The professor continues:

I have some sympathy for this view, because I have met many adults with Asperger Syndrome who can cope with one-to-one relationships and are very caring within these, and only find it difficult when they have to process information in fast-changing social groups. Equally, I have met many adults with Asperger Syndrome who can display their excellent empathy when they have the “luxury” of considering all the facts “off-line”, that is, when there is less time pressure creating demands to respond in real time.

Anyone else notice the sleight-of-hand here? Karla asked about people on the spectrum — not just people with Asperger’s. Personally, I don’t find it an appropriate emotional response to turn the conversation toward a subgroup of a subgroup, when the question was about all autistic people, and when Karla was expressing her concerns about the dehumanization of all autistic people.

As for his comment that people with Asperger’s Syndrome can “display their excellent empathy when they have the ‘luxury’ of considering all the facts ‘off-line,’” using the word “luxury” here, even in quotes, is highly prejudicial. It implies that we are asking for some sort of special treatment when we need the time and the space to understand the intensity of our experiences. It’s not a luxury to process the facts off-line; because of the rush of sensory and emotional stimuli, it is a physical necessity. For the professor to call it a “luxury” is like calling a wheelchair a luxury for someone who can’t walk. It derives from an inability to put himself in the shoes of autistic people and understand the ways in which we experience the world.

Read the full post here.


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