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Cultivation of empathy in individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder
Linköping University, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Division of Health and Society. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2013 (English)In: Ethics and Education, ISSN 1744-9642, Vol. 8, no 3, 290-300 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

High-functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorder (HF-ASD) typically lack cognitive empathy, compromising their moral agency from both a Kantian and a Humean perspective. Nevertheless, they are capable of exhibiting moral behavior, and sometimes, they exhibit what may be deemed ‘super-moral’ behavior. The empathy deficit poses, to varying degrees, limitations with respect to their moral motivation and moral agency. To compensate for this deficit, individuals with HF-ASD rely primarily, and justifiably, on the formation and application of moral rules. Educators who focus predominantly on empathy, however, may be less effective in the moral education of individuals with HF-ASD because they neglect the preference for rules of the latter. In this article, I argue that an individualized balance of empathy-based and rule-based strategies in the context of moral education is needed to assist individuals with HF-ASD in their challenges with moral motivation and moral agency.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2013. Vol. 8, no 3, 290-300 p.
Keyword [en]
Autism spectrum disorder, empathy, rules, education, Kant, Hume
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-104417DOI: 10.1080/17449642.2013.878514OAI: diva2:696954
Available from: 2014-02-17 Created: 2014-02-17 Last updated: 2014-02-17Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Reflections on Autism: Ethical Perspectives on Autism Spectrum Disorder in Health Care and Education
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Reflections on Autism: Ethical Perspectives on Autism Spectrum Disorder in Health Care and Education
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Reflektioner om autism : Etiska perspektiv på autismspektrumstörning i hälsovård och utbildning
Abstract [en]

In the four papers presented in this dissertation I analyze and discuss various value statements and moral stances, which I regard as unjustifiably harmful for persons with Autism and obstacles for the creation of an Autism-friendly society. In the papers I try to show that the positions underpinning the Autism-phobic moral stances are not warranted and cannot be defended in a good way. In doing so, I hope to transform the harmful moral intuitions underlying these positions into autism-friendly ones. The first paper investigates the Neurodiversity claim that ‘Autism is a natural variation’. The claim is interpreted and investigated and an argument is given that, contrary to Low-Functioning Autism, High-Functioning Autism can indeed be seen as a natural variation, without necessarily being seen as a disability. The second paper focuses on the problem for persons with Autism to adapt to prosocial lying, which is saying something not true but socially acceptable in a situation. By comparing a Kantian approach and a care ethics approach, the paper ends up recommending teaching persons with Autism to lie in a rule based and empathic way. The third paper deals with the morality of embryo selection in IVF. Based on a widely shared intuition of natural capabilities, arguments are given that it is morally legitimate to choose an Autistic embryo instead of a ‘normal’ one, contrary to arguments given by proponents of ‘every child should have the best chance of the best life’. The fourth paper deals with moral education. An argument is given that due to problems with cognitive empathy children with Autism should be taught pro-social behavior in a rule based way.

Abstract [sv]

I de fyra artiklarna, som presenteras i denna avhandling, analyserar och diskuterar jag olika värdeuttalanden och moraliska ställningstaganden, vilka jag anser inte kan berättigas och är skadliga för personer med autism och utgör hinder för skapandet av ett autismvänligt samhälle. I artiklarna försöker jag visa att de ståndpunkter som ligger till grund för autism - fobiska moraliska ställningstaganden inte kan berättigas eller försvaras på ett rimligt sätt. På så sätt hoppas jag att omvandla de skadliga moraliska intuitioner som ligger bakom dessa positioner till autismvänliga sådana. Den första artikeln undersöker påståendet från förespråkare av neurodiversitet att ”autism är en naturlig variation”. Påståendet tolkas och utreds och ett argument ges att, i motsats till låg fungerande autism, kan högfungerande autism faktiskt ses som en naturlig variation, utan att nödvändigtvis ses som ett handikapp. Den andra artikeln fokuserar på problem för personer med autism för att anpassa sig till att ljuga prosocialt, nämligen att säga något som är osant men socialt lämpligt i en viss situation. Genom att jämföra en Kantiansk strategi med en omsorgsetisk strategi rekommenderar artikeln att undervisning i att ljuga på ett regelbaserat och empatiskt sätt bör ges till personer med autism. Den tredje artikeln behandlar moralen kring väljande av embryo i IVF. Baserat på en allmänt delad intuition om förekomsten och betydelsen av naturliga förmågor ges ett argument för att det är moraliskt legitimt att välja ett autistiskt embryo i stället för ett ”normalt”, i motsats till argument som ges av förespråkarna för ”varje barn ska få bästa chansen till det bästa livet”. Den fjärde artikeln handlar om hur barn ska bibringas moral genom utbildning. Ett argument ges att på grund av problem med kognitiv empati så bör barn med autism undervisas i pro - socialt beteende på ett regelbaserat sätt.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2014. 78 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 606Linköping Dissertations on Health and Society, ISSN 1651-1646 ; 24
Autism, applied ethics, health care, moral education, Neurodiversity, Autism, tillämpad etik, hälsovård, utbildning i moral, neurodiversitet
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-104418 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-104418 (DOI)978-91-7519-402-8 (print) (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-04-10, Aulan, Hus 240 (ingång 15), Campus US, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 10:15 (Swedish)

The series name Dissertations on Health and Society is incomplete. The correct and complete name is Linköping Dissertations on Health and Society.

Available from: 2014-02-17 Created: 2014-02-17 Last updated: 2014-04-11Bibliographically approved

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