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The idea of care has been the fundamental topic throughout the course, specifically self care and empathy. Self-care is the practice of taking care of one’s emotional, mental, and physical health. Meanwhile, empathy is the ability to care for other individuals by understanding one’s feelings and being able to walk ...
Self care isn’t necessarily distinct due to the fact that this practice is essentially different for everyone. In other words, self-care is not a one size fit all. For example, self care for an individual can include going to the gym while for another it may include relaxing and watching a movie. One activity can work for another and yet can be triggering to others. The fact that self care isn’t direct mirrors the idea of empathy. The ongoing debate regarding empathy includes whether to employ empathy on certain situations or if having too much or not enough empathy is beneficial or dangerous. It is difficult to measure the amount of empathy one may be expressed in terms of those with intellectual disability. This may be due to the fact that not everyone has been exposed to the disabled or at least hardly been exposed which in turn makes it challenging. This includes compassion towards those with disabilities and those who may not be disabled.
There has been dispute whether empathy is a trait or a kill. The article written by David Orenstein, “Human Empathy as a Primary Source for Peace and Justice,” discusses how empathy is an innate knowledge meaning that it is ingrained in everyone’s human consciousness. Research has shown that even babies are capable of having the ability to distinguish between the kind and harsh actions. This leads to the debate concerning the fact that since we’re born with empathy, are there different levels of empathy in terms of those who with intellectual difficulties can the intellectually gifted also experience compassionate towards the intellectually impaired or is there exemptions?
The downside of empathy can be expressed through the article “The Dark Side of Empathy.” written by Paul Bloom. When we witness someone get harmed, we naturally experience the urge for revenge. Adam Smith once said, “We are rejoiced to see him attack his adversary in his turn, and eager and ready to assist him.” We as individuals are so compassionate towards victims to the point where we feel satisfaction when we witness their desire for vengeance. Having said that, this ties back to the previous article which discusses how we are inevitably born with empathy. Is the defect in empathy also embedded in our human consciousness or is this a negative skill that anyone can just easily learn?
Having a sense of self-identification is a key aspect in shaping an individual’s character and a way to navigate through life. However, this is not the case for those born with intellectual disabilities. Statistics have shown that every one in five persons has a disability in the United States (Miller 2013). They may experience limitations that hinder their everyday social skills which can include their intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior.
The question regarding whether those who are born with intellectual disabilities can experience compassion towards others and vice versa is still prominent and ongoing. There have been various relevant research regarding this debate.
One research measured the empathy abilities of those who are born with an intellectual disability with sexual offending to men with intellectual disability but without an offending. Another research determines whether men with intellectual disability who had a known sexual offending had different levels of specific victim empathy towards their own victim compared to those with non offenders. This research was concluded by having men with intellectual disability to complete a measure of general empathy and specific victim empathy. Participants who had no sexual crime completed the measure hypothetically, while men with a history of sexual offending completed the measure based on their own most recent victim. The results show that non-offenders scored significantly higher in terms of the measure of general empathy than sex offenders. Men with a history of a sexual act had significantly lower victim empathy for their own victim compared to non-offenders. Although, men with intellectual disabilities and offenders have different psychological constructs than non offenders, there is still relevant evidence that validates the fact that offenders do not have difficulty with empathy. Because a high percentage of the sample was rated as high risk, resulted in a high level of deviancy, in other words, offenders with a high deviance may have difficulties with general empathy (Hockley and Langdon 2015).
Questions remain whether it is possible for the intellect to empathise with those born with disabilities. There is a lack of empathy towards those with disabilities due to the fact that the relationship between the disabled and those who support them demonstrate a lack of understanding. In general, the disabled view their lives more positively than those who care for them. Not only is there a lack of access to decision-making process, people living with intellectual disabilities also experience a power imbalance making the intellect more “powerful.” There has been reports where those caring for the disabled are not delivering necessary support. For example, an elderly mother was caring for her son for years with an intellectual disability but when she became unhealthy, she was unable to give her son full support and assistance. The son took a required IQ assessment and he received a scale of 72 but the cutoff for assistance for eligibility was 70. Although he attended a regular school and had the ability to drive, he was incapable to perform simple tasks including cooking or even tying his shoelaces. The report also stated that people such as this son are overrepresented as victims and offenders in the criminal justice system (Wain 2017). Lacking knowledge of the needs of the handicapped results in the inability of a professional to respond appropriately to those in need.
Empathy is challenging to get a grasp on due to the fact that not everyone can agree on one thing and it is a very complex word. Some studies have shown that there are different levels of empathy meaning that one can have higher empathy than another and this is not strictly limited to just the intellectually disabled. Personally, I believe that empathy is a trait in which everyone is born with but to some extent. Being compassionate towards others is ingrained in our human consciousness and will be developed throughout an individual’s life. This can be influenced by an individuals surrounding or environment including parents, friends, or social media. If we as a society, broaden our knowledge on empathy and showing compassion towards those who may not be ‘normal’, in terms of the western society, then we would be more acceptable towards others.
This research paper has led me to wonder several other questions to deepen my understanding towards the topic. Because studies have shown that there are different levels of empathy which can be different from person to person, makes me wonder the meaningful cause behind this. Some research shows genetics playing a role in empathy while other research manifest the fact that empathy is a skill that people have the ability to learn. It is common sense to be able to experience being in someone’s shoes when you have personally been in that situation. With that being said, is the extremity of being compassionate towards another due to genetics or from past experiences?
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