Most children do not need to be taught empathy. Even infants physically close to one another display empathy by crying when the other one does. Babies will crawl over to gently pat another crying baby or bring them an object to soothe them. Toddlers can identify how others are feeling. In contrast, Asperger’s Disorder children do not display these behaviors because they lack empathy. Think of them as emotionally blind, not seeing emotions in others.
Empathy can be taught. It is a long-term process that may never be fully complete. Most adults with Asperger’s Disorder say that while they learned that in order to get along in the world they had to pay attention to how other people feel, they still do not truly understand it emotionally.
They have learned to act as if they have empathy, even if they do not feel it. Using a mental checklist, they have to ask themselves, “What is the person feeling?” and “What is the appropriate response I should make for this particular feeling?”