Empathy is about making an emotional connection. One of the greatest roadblocks to gaining a greater sense of empathy is knowing the right questions to ask. Until kids learn how to ask questions that elicit an emotional response, other people's thoughts and feelings can seem locked in a black box. This is especially true for children and adolescents who are on the autism spectrum.
Beyond being the kind of quality we want to posses because it makes us good, empathy has immense pragmatic value as well. It allows a person to understand and anticipate the needs of friends, family and co-workers. It makes it possible to process and ameliorate the anger and aggression of antagonists. It makes it easier to negotiate and persuade.
In social group we have been working on understanding and reading body language, asking open ended questions, and demonstrating empathetic listening. This week we will bring it all together in a talkshow/game format. It is going to be fun. Instead of our regular connected conversation time where the kids share news from the week, each child will have an interviewer who will work to draw out and understand the feelings behind the stories. An important skill to practice will be recognizing the signs of the discomfort that comes from pushing the boundary of how much a person is comfortable sharing and then honoring that boundary.