Ask the Experts

Q: Why Doesn’t My Son Show Any Empathy?

Your teen with ADHD doesn’t seem to care when he hurts your feelings, and he won’t even try to show empathy. Is this a symptom of ADHD? Yes and no. What you’re seeing is actually weak perspective-taking skills — a common social learning challenge among kids with ADHD. Learn how to identify this problem and how to address it without shaming your child.

FREE WEBINAR REPLAY WITH RYAN WEXELBLATT
Listen to “The Social Lives of Boys with ADHD”


Q: “I have come to the realization my son doesn’t show empathy. It seems like he doesn’t even want to try. How can I help him?”

A: “When someone has a lack of empathy, that means they don’t show remorse — and that is extremely serious. I have never met a child with ADHD who lacks empathy, but I have met tons of kids with ADHD who lack perspective-taking skills — that is understanding others’ thoughts and feelings, and also how they come across to others — because that is a social learning challenge associated with ADHD…”

WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW FOR THE FULL ANSWER


Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSW is the facilitator of the ADHD Dude Facebook Group and YouTube channel. Ryan specializes in working with males (ages 5-22) who present with ADHD, anxiety with ADHD, and learning differences; he is the one professional in the United States who specializes in teaching social cognitive skills to boys from a male perspective.

Submit your questions about ADHD in boys here!

Updated on September 13, 2019

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  1. You should also know that empathy and perspective taking and consequential thinking are all abilities residing primarily in the frontal lobes. This part of the brain is the last to develop both evolutionarily and developmentally, with or without ADHD. Very young babies can be said to not have empathy at all, since they are the center of a world that revolves around them as an extension of themselves. The frontal lobes gradually develop through childhood and adolescence and continue to do so into the early to mid-20s, sometimes even later. That is a good part of why children, adolescents, and young adults seem to be so impulsive compared to older adults. So don’t despair if you don’t see much empathy in your son: that’s likely normal at his age while his brain is still growing.

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