How To Talk To Someone With Autism

How To Talk To Someone With Autism. Asperger’s is a previously used diagnosis on the autism spectrum. In 2013 Asperger’s became part of one umbrella diagnosis now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5). “If you’ve met one person with Asperger’s you’ve met one person with Asperger’s.” – Dr. Stephen M. Shore (a former AANE Board President) We’ve all come across people with odd behavior. No one’s perfect and who’s to say I don’t have odd behavior. “He without sin cast the first stone.” – John 8:1-11 Meaning only those who are faultless have the right to pass judgment upon others (implying that no one is faultless and that, therefore, no one has such a right to pass judgment). As human beings we tend to judge and criticize things we know little about. Rather than mock at something that is foreign, learn more about why it could be making you feel uncomfortable. People with Asperger’s don’t realize they are behaving in ways that make the general population uneasy. If you think you feel anxiety around a person with Asperger’s they feel the same way interacting with neurotypicals.

How To Talk To Someone With Autism

I happen to be married to a man on the Autism Spectrum. Even though Asperger’s is no longer used clinically, we both find the term “Aspie” endearing, so I continue to use the term in my writings. I apologize if it offends some people but I mean no disrespect when using the term.

When we meet people we either connect, don’t connect, or are indifferent. When talking to a person on the Autism Spectrum they may appear aloof, indifferent, or even rude. They don’t mean to be but social settings can be anxiety provoking for some. Aspies can make you feel uncomfortable but, guess what, neurotypicals make them feel the same way. Expressing themselves can be difficult as they don’t always have the words to express their feelings. Aspies can tend to become overloaded (flooded with emotions) when interacting and stimming is a way to manage sensory stimuli like loud noises or bright light. Examples of stimming include rocking, flapping hands, flicking or snapping fingers, or twirling or bouncing when sitting or standing. My husband tends to rub his index finger or middle finger against his thumbs. They may miss nonverbal cues come off as stupid, mean or offensive.

People not on the spectrum form conclusions during conversation based on nonverbal and emotional cues. If you notice that the person you’re talking to isn’t doing that, you might be talking to someone on the autism spectrum. To demonstrate the challenges that Aspies go through, try closing your eyes the next time somebody is talking to you. It will give you some perspective on how much they are missing then in conversation.

When speaking to someone with Autism:

  • Be kind
  • Be patient
  • Listen carefully
  • Pay attention
  • Guide the conversation
  • Be respectful of differences

For more information on being more mindful when talking to someone on the Autism Spectrum contact me at (858) 735-1139 or visit my website CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com

 

Asperger’s And Intimacy

Asperger’s And Intimacy. Again, for those new to my Blog, I use the word “Asperger/Aspie” in a fond way with no demeaning label. Intimacy in a relationship is a feeling of being close, emotionally connected and supported. Being able to share a range of thoughts, feelings and experiences that involves both physical and emotional intimacy makes for a content romantic relationship. In my work with neurodiverse couples, it makes all the difference in moving forward when their sex lives are good. Being married to someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has many challenges. But I find with good sex lives, just like couples who aren’t on the Spectrum, makes for good long term results.

Asperger’s And Intimacy

Jennifer and Jerry have been married for 21 years. For the first 10 years Jennifer thought her husband was not showing her the attention she wanted. When they were dating he was shy and she thought it was endearing. He’s a brilliant man but lacked in social graces and fell short when it came to planning romantic outings. When it came to sex she noticed whenever he was interested he acted like a shy teenage boy making jokes to deflect intimacy. His physical approach to her was awkward if not clumsy and when going for her breasts he would grab them in such a way that she found it a turn off. Ok, there’s cute, then there’s “what’s up with that move?”

Sex is a hard topic to talk about whether you’re married to someone on the spectrum or not. In closed family systems members seldom talk about feelings, let alone sex. In neurodiverse relationships, it can be even harder to communicate because of the language difference. Sex is full of nonverbal cues that can be misunderstood. A wide range of emotions to a partner on the spectrum can be challenging as sensory triggers such as touch, smell, taste and sound can be overwhelming.

Sex is important in healthy relationships. Sex doesn’t necessarily have to be intercourse. Lying in bed hugging with or without clothes, kissing, touching, erotic massage and using sex toys are forms of giving and receiving pleasure. Oral sex can be a challenge due to sensory triggers but doesn’t necessarily have to be ruled out.

Maxine Aston (2001) in her study of Asperger’s and sexual intimacy found that fifty percent of Asperger’s (AS) and neurotypical (NT) couples had no sexual activity within their relationship. In fact, “there was no affection or tactile expression whatsoever.”

Tony Attwood notes, “one of the characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome can be emotional and social immaturity.” Rather than experiencing sex as an emotionally compatible act, AS-NT couples frequently experience themselves playing out, by necessity, parent-child roles which kills any chance of sexual arousal.

Is there any hope for couples in which one partner has Asperger’s? Yes, of course.  If both partners are motivated to change, then they can have a more satisfying sex life, one that makes each partner feel wanted and accepted. But a satisfying sex life generally starts outside the bedroom.  Partners first need to educate themselves about Asperger’s so that they can understand how it is affecting their intimate relationship. The best indicator for a good sex life is being able to communicate. Being able to initiate conversation, share thoughts and feeling, and ask for what you need and want is effective communication.

Sensate focus activities may also be helpful in slowing down both partners so that they can concentrate on what feels good, instead of on performance. Learning to give verbal feedback about sex without creating defensiveness is another valuable skill. Being realistic about what may or may not change in the bedroom is another facet of acceptance of the diagnosis of Asperger’s.

For more information about Asperger’s and sexual intimacy contact me at CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com or call me at (858) 735-1139.

 

Is It Your Husband’s Autism Or Personality?

Is It Your Husband’s Autism Or Personality? When a couple is aware that their relationship is affected by autism it can be quite difficult to decipher what traits are caused by personality and what are due to being on the autistic spectrum. I’ve been married to a man with Asperger’s for over 20 years. During the first 13 years he displayed some behaviors that looked pretty much like he was being a jerk. His lack of consideration and thoughtfulness made him appear self-centered and self-serving. Not all differences are due to your partner being on the autism spectrum, and not all personality traits can be attributed to or blamed on autism.

Is It Your Husband’s Autism Or Personality?

I’m working with a couple whose Asperger (AS) husband is talkative with anyone and everyone. He is also quite flirtatious with the ladies. He flirts with waitresses, grocery store clerks, and women at the bank. He states he just wants to be personable and doesn’t mean anything bad by it. This bothers my neurotypical (NT) client (his wife) as it is a trigger for her due to trauma from past relationships where there was cheating. With tools they’ve acquired during counseling he shows her the empathy needed so she feels seen and heard. Some think people with Asperger’s have a difficult time with filter and being impulsive when interacting.

I have another client who discovered her Asperger husband had been having an affair for the past eight months. They were in counseling with me during that time which makes it even more horrific and disappointing for this neurotypical wife. Her husband states he thinks he’s a sex addict and manages his anxiety with other women. He blames his Asperger’s for his inappropriate behavior. I point out being unfaithful is not a trait caused by being on the spectrum.

Traits caused by being on the autism spectrum:

  • Highly focused
  • Single minded
  • Obsessive
  • Clumsy
  • Logical

  • Rigid/inflexible
  • Reactive to noise
  • Reactive to smell
  • Reactive to touch
  • Reactive to taste
  • Reactive to light
  • Pendantic

 

 

Traits not caused by being on the autism spectrum:

  • Flirtatious
  • Unfaithful
  • Inhibited
  • Frigid
  • Promiscuous
  • Verbally abusive
  • Boring
  • Reliable
  • Emotionally withdrawn
  • Withholding
  • Unsympathetic

  • Stingy
  • Unhygienic
  • Unkempt
  • Intuitive
  • Passionate
  • Irrational
  • Impulsive
  • Defensive
  • Critical
  • Opinionated
  • Religious
  • Political
  • An unloving parent
  • Forgetful
  • A loner
  • Generous
  • Extravagant

Knowing whether a trait is caused by having autism or personality is confusing for both in a relationship, especially for the neurotypical partner. It’s confusing because everyone on the spectrum is different, that’s why they call it a spectrum. All will have their own unique personality with their own childhood history. We are products of our upbringing which has molded who they are now and will have encouraged certain beliefs, behaviors, and opinions.

When working with neurodiverse couples in neurodiverse couples counseling, I emphasize abuse is not a trait of having Asperger’s. Sometimes bad behavior is just bad behavior and should never be tolerated. I work with the couple through a neurodiverse lens where I help them recognize, understand and treatment the problems in their relationship. When we are able distinguish what is an Asperger trait versus a personality trait, both can see more clearly where the work needs to be done.

For more information on neurodiverse couples counseling please contact me at (858) 735-1139 or my website CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com

Do You Suffer From Cassandra Syndrome?

Do You Suffer From Cassandra Syndrome? Cassandra Syndrome is what a woman experiences after years of being married to a man with Asperger’s. Women I see are desperate to feel a connection of some type within their marriages. Some couples have been married for years before they come across a possible Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) aka Asperger’s (AS). The term Cassandra comes from Greek mythology; Apollo gives Cassandra the gift of prophecy; the ability to foresee the future. Cassandra Syndrome is also referred to as Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome or Affective Deprivation Disorder and abbreviated as CADD, OTRS or AfDD. Cassandra is a debilitating condition that can lead to physical and psychological problems if not managed experiencing distress as a result of their emotional needs not being recognized, or met by their AS (autistic) partner.

Do You Suffer From Cassandra Syndrome?

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and woman married to an Asperger husband, I suffered for 13 out of the 23 years of my marriage. The past ten years have been filled with hope and appreciation for one another as we acquired the tools necessary to become more relational. As traditional marriage counseling does not work, I became certified as a Neurodiverse Couples Counselor by the Autism/Asperger Network (AANE) to help Neurodiverse Couples get the help they need to make their marriages work. Cassandra tends to have a negative and blaming connotation to the Asperger husband. Asperger husbands don’t give their wives Cassandra symptoms, the symptoms manifest due to the lack connectedness between the couple. It is usually both a blessing and a relief when the wife (neurotypical spouse) learns about AS and feels she now has an explanation for her husband’s unusual behaviors. Asperger husbands also have feelings about their relationships. That’s for another article.

You may suffer from Cassandra if you:

  • Feel lonely in your marriage
  • Are frustrated, resentful, angry; feel guilt
  • Doing all the work in the relationship
  • Are self-medicating with alcohol
  • Are not sleeping well
  • Act out your emotions inappropriately looking like you’re a crazy person
  • Feel like you’re going crazy
  • Are eating too much or too little (weight changes)
  • Are always yelling at your husband and other family members
  • Have a loss of libido (sex drive)
  • Are Moody
  • Experiencing a lot more premenstrual tension
  • low self-esteem
  • Are having social problems
  • Experiencing incredible fatigue
  • Experiencing high level of anxiety
  • Depressed
  • Losing your sense of self (self identity)

Do You Suffer From Cassandra Syndrome?

For years I thought I was losing my mind, as well as my sense of self. I kept telling myself I was a licensed clinician trained to study human behavior and interpersonal relationships. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I started to see couples in my practice suffering from the same disconnectedness. I had empathy, as well as compassion for the “Neurotypical” wife. I related to what these women were saying. I read all I could read about Asperger’s and Asperger’s and relationships. I consulted with experts in the field in the United States and in England and finally came to the conclusion that my husband was on the Spectrum. We consulted with a psychologist who worked with Autistic individuals, but didn’t have the expertise in working with Neurodiverse Couples. We were frustrated for our relationship and disappointed realizing we were spending hundreds of dollars on marriage counseling that wasn’t working.

The most important indicator for success in neurodiverse couples is for the wife to be able to manage her emotions while the Asperger husband acquires tools to learn how to communicate with her in her language of neurodiversity. When the couple becomes stable enough to be able to initiate conversation, share thoughts and feelings, and ask for what is needed and wanted, can they move forward harmoniously.

I love my husband I wanted to help our relationship not only become relational and functional. I wanted it to thrive. As a Neurodiverse Couples Counselor, I work with couples all over the world to acquire tools needed for communication, put a system in place to implement, and get traction on becoming more relational. I coach to maintain stability. I use the tools I give out and can say the past 13 years have been successful….even thriving.

For more information about Cassandra Syndrome and neurodiverse couples counseling please contact me at (858) 735-1139 or my website CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com

 

 

 

Living With An Asperger Husband

Living With An Asperger Husband. After finishing my book, “Happy Me Happy We: Six Steps To Know Yourself So You Know What You Want In A Relationship,” I understand the root of happiness starts within yourself. Our external environment can affect our ability to make choices that make us happy or unhappy. When you concentrate on yourself and what you want things fall in place to make your life more functional and content. It’s a game changer when you start with you and what you want. Sometimes codependency makes for getting other people’s needs met over our own. We become codependent as a means of survival in some families as you grow up. Asking for what you need and want for some growing up was deemed as disrespectful and selfish. And often times met with negative reinforcement in the form of judgment, criticism, and abuse.

Living With An Asperger Husband

As a Marriage and Family Therapist I help you reframe the negative experiences you had to bear as a young child (inner child). I help your Functional Adult manage those scary feelings from childhood to assert oneself so you get what you need and want. As a Certified Neurodiverse Couples Counselor I help the Neurotypical (which is typically the wife) manage Cassandra Syndrome aka ongoing traumatic syndrome. Feeling like you are losing your sense of self is frustrating and disheartening. You can tend to feel like leaving your marriage as saving your sense of well being becomes the focus for survival.

Living With An Asperger Husband

Living with an Asperger husband is very challenging. Even during what can be deemed as stable times can instantly turn into another awful situation where feelings are hurt and anger increases. I lived a life that was confusing to say the least. As a clinician, I was flabbergasted when I realized my husband had Asperger’s. For 10 of our 23 years of marriage we had major problems with communication. My husband is a highly intelligent and kind person so I didn’t think he was doing these inconsiderate behaviors on purpose. I had a meltdown every six weeks and threatened divorce over and over again. Threatening the relationship is never appropriate as it undermines any chance of safety and security within the dyad. My acting out behavior included yelling, cursing, belittling, threatening, and name calling. I’m ashamed of my behavior because I should know better. However, I am only human and am not immune to what living with a person on the Spectrum can do to one’s self esteem.

I desperately needed tools to better communicate with one another. Traditional marriage counseling was a total waste of time. I did appreciate it being part of the process in educating myself about Autism Spectrum Disorder. I studied many journal articles written on the subject and became certified as a Neurodiverse Couples Counselor through Asperger/Autism Network AANE.

Through neurodiverse couples counseling, my husband and I recognize and understand that we speak different languages and have very different perspectives. We have effective tools to initiate conversation, share thoughts and feelings, and ask for what we need and want. We have learned to be explicit in saying what we need to say and describing what it looks like so we get a visual of what is being talked about. We’re not perfect and I still have meltdowns every now and then but they aren’t as devastating as they were in the past. Understanding is key and acquiring tools to show each other empathy is a game changer.

For more  information on managing your life with your Asperger husband please contact me at (858) 735-1139 or through my website CouplesCounselorSanDiego.com

Subscribe to get relationship tips and insights by being notified when new blog articles are published