Thus starts a fascinating article regarding new research into Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Judging from the comments on one Asperger's Forum, this research really strikes a chord with people who have children with Asperger's or who have been diagnosed with an ASD themselves. Given how much this resonates with me, I'm not surprised.
A groundbreaking study suggests people with autism-spectrum disorders such as Asperger's do not lack empathy – rather, they feel others' emotions too intensely to cope.
People with Asperger's syndrome ... are often stereotyped as distant loners or robotic geeks. But what if what looks like coldness to the outside world is a response to being overwhelmed by emotion – an excess of empathy, not a lack of it?
As the article touches upon briefly, many people with Asperger's or Autism have sensory perception problems. These can include hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to light, sounds, touch, etc. Given the prevalence of such problems in conjunction with Autistic disorders, the suggestion that such people are also hypersensitive to the emotions of those around them makes a great deal of sense. (It's also hardly shocking to suggest that people who are hyper-aware of others emotions might have a problem understanding and learning the subtleties of non-verbal communication, a hallmark of many people diagnosed with ASD).
Obviously, my personal experiences with my own son are not proof of anything, but these suggestions make far more sense than many other things I've heard. I also know that my son is highly sensitive to loud noise and especially to strong emotions. Whenever I lose my temper and raise my voice at him, he covers his face and tries to hide behind his hands.
Maybe now I know why.