Hyperempathy, Autism and Creativity

Are there substantial links between hyperempathy – a condition of which I had not been aware of until recently – autism and creativity?  This is a question I want to address in some depth.  I have a personal interest in this issue because autism and related disorders affect so many of my own family.  Me included

It is nowadays well known that people diagnosed as being located on the Autism Spectrum vary in their personality types, their skills and interests, their aptitudes and behaviours in the same way that people who a ‘neurotypical’ do.  Or perhaps I should say this ought to be a well known fact. Sadly, there are far too many people who clump all autistic people into the same large unwieldy basket. It is an error that frustrates many of us who deal with the issues of abuse, bullying, disrespect and even contempt directed to themselves or members of their family on a daily basis.

Creativity and autism have been frequently recognised as being connected.  I want to take that one step forward, and look at how this relationship may/may not affect my own family. There has been a succession of women on my mother’s side who have been very creative, although not always successful.  There is also a long history of anxiety disorders, depression, feelings of personal and social inadequacy, clinical depression and alienation that shows up through 5 generations. This extends now to my granddaughters.

This pattern is not limited to the women in the family.  3 of my 6 grandsons have been diagnosed as being on the spectrum. Another has both verbal and physical dyspraxia. 4 of my grandsons – not all those diagnosed as having ASD but certainly including some – are extraordinarily bright. 5 have experienced serious bullying in the streets and in schools, both as children and as young men.  This includes occasional bullying conducted by staff in their schools/colleges. 1 of my 6 grandsons has attempted suicide, and very nearly succeeded.

Recently there has been an explosion of knowledge about the way autism expresses itself in females. For many years the seeming disparity in the ratio of males to females diagnosed as being on the spectrum meant that autism was seen as a ‘male’ disorder. This is no longer the case.

So you should be able to see why the issues I have set out below interest me so intensely. I am particularly focussed on the three articles I have linked to this post. The issues they raise tie in closely with the experience of my own family, and in future posts I will be examining them more closely.

Dana Fenton 06 /11/2014, Exploring Hyper Empathy Syndrome.  in  Emotional & Stress Management, Steady Health
Henry Markram,1 Tania Rinaldi,1 and Kamila Markram1,01/11/2007,   The Intense World Syndrome – an Alternative Hypothesis for Autism in Frontiers in Neuroscience
Sandra L. Brown M.A. 11/03/2012,  Genetic and Neuro-Physiological Basis for Hyper-Empathy in Psychology Today

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I am a 72 year old grandmother of 9, mother of 3, and happily married for almost 52 years. I was born in Sydney NSW, spent my first 43 years living there, but moved with our family to Tasmania in the mid 1980s seeking to leave behind Sydney's increasing madness. Following our usual gypsy pattern, we travelled around the state for some years, living in the North-West, the Midlands, the Central North, before finally settling well and truly in the beautiful Derwent Valley at Black Hills. It took just under 20 years of discovering Tasmania for us to finally came "home". I now live under wide skies with glorious views of the countryside, the hills and valleys of the Upper Derwent, approximately 50 minutes drive from Hobart and 20 minutes west of New Norfolk. Our home is high on an escarpment looking out to Mount Field, and as the photo shows, often wrapped in mist and floating on cloud lake. Writing poetry is my passion. It expresses my life, the ups and downs, the sadness and joys, the beauty and the ugliness in which we are all immersed. It is in my poetry that you will find ‘me’. In my writing I travel through the stages of a long life, all its highs and lows, its fun and frustration. Recently I new turn - I've resumed student life by enrolling in my MA (Writing and Literature) at Deakin University. Just as important, if not more so, I write and rewrite so that my poetry can reach out and touch as many lives as possible.

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