I'm sometimes asked how autistic people respond to tragedy. Whether we can feel. Whether we care. It is true to say that most autistic people care so deeply about such things that we can barely bring ourselves to describe it. It is also true to say that many of us are front-line workers, trying to help in such tragedies. I crewed an ambulance for a charity for a while and regularly attended situations where tragedies had occurred. Good training enabled me to focus on what was needed, caring for all involved, co-ordinating what needed to happen with the rest of the team. I also was a worker in a hospital, on hand when patients died, gently being there with the families. In my own life, I've been carer for family members who have died in avoidable circumstances, left trying to manage all I felt whilst communicating with medical professionals...Coroners...funeral directors.
Amongst the many autistic professionals I work alongside, autistic police officers, first on hand to many crises. Autistic medical professionals, dealing with casualties. Autistic prayer partners, praying for all concerned, whatever their faith. Autistic people donating to charities and supporting charities. There is good research showing that we give as much - if not more - than non-autistic people to such charities. The myth that we are all burdens, takers-of-things-from-others, is one that needs dispelling. Of course some autistic people are unable to do much for others, because of their own situations of various sorts. But absolutely all are people of worth, people who deserve lives that have joy within them, and fellowship, and caring.
Some of us have a delayed response to tragedy. I think that lies behind the myth of lack of empathy. That, and that we do not always immediately show how we feel. Mistaking that for callousness or a lack of humanity has caused its own fair share of tragedies in the lives of autistic people. It is so important that we realise that what people see 'on the surface', with autistic people, is not what's going on inside. That we do care, and do mourn, and do need support. But that some will respond later, and need support later. That some will need different support to others. Asking gentle questions, allowing people their own time and pace to grieve - those are important things for all of us, autistic or not.
Today, in the midst of that new tragedy, I am joining in prayer with many others, that the world will have less tragedy, and more love. Such a world is one we all work towards, together, in all our diversity.