Dear Ms Bazelon



Ms Bazelon,

As the mother of an autistic daughter, I watched your TEDx talk with great interest. After seeing it, I have some serious concerns about your remarks. Although I have no doubt that you have the best of intentions and sincerely want to help shine a light on the particular experience of girls on the spectrum, I’m afraid that you are unintentionally perpetuating some dangerous misconceptions about autistic people.

I’ve written a response to your talk on my blog, Diary of a Mom where its gotten a very passionate response from the autism community, and from autistic adults in particular. I’d be most grateful if you would take the time to read it. I’d be happy to follow up with you thereafter at your convenience.

As I said in the post, I very much appreciate your focus on girls on the spectrum — they are far too often overlooked and, as you noted, they face some daunting — and often misunderstood — challenges in navigating the world.

Please read the post. It’s important to a lot of us.



Thank you,

Jess Wilson

Author of Diary of a Mom

FB page

Ms Bazelon’s contact information can be found HERE. Please feel free to drop her a *respectful* note directing her here.

You can also tweet …

.@EmilyBazelon Pls read this response to your #TED talk on #autism and #empathy in #girls Thank You! @diaryofamom

… and I will retweet.

Thank you!


13 thoughts on “Dear Ms Bazelon

    • I have no doubt that she was trying to good a thing. And in many ways she did. Autistic girls face very different challenges in navigating the world than do their male peers. It’s an important thing to recognize and to explore in depth in order to help.

      It’s our job to ensure that she see other perspectives, but I do want to make sure that we remain respectful and don’t vilify her in the process.

  1. My daughter was diagnosed with autism at age 3 and one of my biggest fears was this whole empathy misconception. I was terrified because I had heard that kids with autism do not have the ability to be empathetic. Terrified. BUT, what she has demonstrated to me over the past year and a half is nothing but empathy. Genuine and heartfelt empathy. I have numerous examples, but my favorite one is when I was sick and laying on the couch and trying to rest. I awoke to my daughter “brushing” me and asking, “do you feel better now, mommy?” She also asks, “do you want me to rub you back, mommy?” when she notices I’m sad or stressed. This child is empathetic. She is more empathetic then most people I know. She is kind and caring and has a genuine concern for others. Always. I hope others realize this is just a misconception and that children with autism can and do have empathy.

  2. I just dropped my nonverbal autistic three year old daughter off at her school this morning. She started her routine of moving her picture for circle time, but then stopped, turned around and started walking towards another child who was crying. She can’t talk, but she can show empathy. She so wanted to comfort this little boy. I couldn’t help but think of your post from yesterday.

  3. More than offending me or hurting my feelings, I’m offended for two of my closest friends. One of them has classic autism and intellectual disability. Last year, she knit me a hat, carefully choosing the colors related to a favorite book of mine. She is always caring, giving, and reaching out. My other friend, who has PDD-NOD, is one of the most loving and compassionate human beings I’ve ever known. The moment she finds out I’m in the hospital or ER yet again, she texts me to make sure I’m okay. Thought she is Jewish, she always senss me a Christmas present. And you know, I even feel bad for Ms, Bazelton, because by assuming that girls and women with ASD lack empathy, she’s missing out on some amazing relationships. Strangely enough, it looks like the inky one who lacks empathy around here is Ms. Bazelton!

  4. My two year old son has mild to moderate autism, and he is the most empathetic little person I have ever known. He tears up when he sees cartoon characters crying, or other children crying. Lack of empathy is such a myth.

  5. I know the video was specifically about girls but my boys (17 yr old with Asperger’s and 14 yr old with PDD/NOS) are almost hyper sensitive to other peoples emotions. I asked my oldest son to watch the video, not telling him why or what everyone was saying about it. At the end he looked up and said, “Mom, I know she was talking about girls but as an Aspie, that was kind of offensive. I’m glad she’s not a doctor or therapist.”
    At my niece’s wedding a few years ago, she and my brother did the father/daughter dance. There were a lot of us crying it was so beautiful. My youngest (who I was told would never show empathy) got tears in his eyes and proceeded to hand out napkins for us to wipe our faces. He had to hug each and every person that was crying and tell them he was sorry they had an “owie”. We obviously reassured him that we were just fine and they were happy tears.
    Ms. Bazelon, there is a saying repeated a lot in this blog community, “If you’ve met one child with Autism, you’ve met…………ONE child with Autism”
    We fight so hard against generalizations because they are misleading and can be harmful. It’s these misconceptions that make my trips to the grocery store sometimes longer than they need to be because I end up answering questions from people that have heard misleading stereotypes. Mind you, I’m grateful for every person that at least asks.

  6. I have a six year old son with autism. My father (his Papa) passed away three years ago. My husband’s father (Grandpa Jake) has been gone 21 years. Immediately after I read your post, I went upstairs to get my son ready for school. As he was getting dressed, he looked at me and said, “In heaven, Grandpa Jake is taking care of Papa so he can be all better and come back down to see us and be happy.” I’ll take that empathy any day.

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