Are you an adult with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger's? Are you struggling emotionally, socially, spiritually or otherwise?
Then you've come to the right place. We are here to help you in any way we can. Kick off your shoes and stay awhile.

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Interventions for Adults with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Each person with Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) is unique, so interventions need to be individualized. Grown-ups come to this awareness at different ages and stages of their lives, which can influence the approaches they choose. Be creative in the combination of interventions you use, and simplify your life.

Here are some general ideas regarding interventions for adults with AS and HFA:


1. A Cognitive-Behavioral approach to therapy is strongly indicated.

2. A slower-paced environment will likely be more tolerable and allow for a greater sense of comfort and competence.

3. A therapist with an awareness of AS and HFA (or interest in learning about it with you) is essential.

4. A variety of therapies can be helpful to adults with AS and HFA, depending on the individual.

5. Advocate for environmental changes at work or home. If you are more comfortable, the people around you will be as well.

6. Teach others about the "disorder" (actually, I like to think of it as simply "a different way of thinking"). Grown-ups with AS and HFA are pioneers in educating others in their families, workplaces and communities.

7. Attend a group where social skills are explicitly taught.

8. Know your weakness, and seek professional “life coaching” to work on those areas.

9. Communicate with those around you about your need for periodic “down-time” (i.e., time alone to recharge your social battery), but do not use it as an excuse to avoid participation in family or other activities.

10. Contact Career One-Stop Centers (federally funded centers designed to help people learn new, marketable skills, identify jobs and prepare for interviewing).

11. Contact the vocational rehabilitation agency in your state. With an official diagnosis of AS or HFA, you may be entitled to service.

12. Disclose your disorder to others strategically. Only share the information that is required for that time and place, and consult with a trusted person to determine what to disclose if you’re unsure.

13. Heightened sensory sensitivities may make particular environments unpleasant or intolerable. Thus, change lighting, decrease noise, and wear comfortable clothing.
 
14. Hire people to do the things you’re not good at, which may include, but not limited to: (a) money management, (b) housework, and (c) organization and bookkeeping.
 
15. Join Social Groups with other AS and HFA adults. This decreases isolation, and with practice, increases comfort with other people -- and may improve social skills.

16. Know what AS and HFA is in general and how it affects you specifically.

17. Know your areas of difficulty.

18. Know your strengths and build on them.

19. Listen to trusted family or friends.

20. Medication can be helpful in decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety that often accompany AS and HFA.

21. Meet others with AS and HFA, listen to and support one another.

22. People with AS and HFA tend to connect most comfortably around shared interests (small talk is less essential in interest-based groups).

23. Physical and emotional comfort are essential to individuals with AS and HFA.

24. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is generally less helpful.

25. Read about AS and HFA from a variety of perspectives.

26. Sensory and social demands of daily life make more down-time essential for adults with AS and HFA.

27. Stop the blame game  – blaming yourself or others is common and not helpful.

28. Strengthen your areas of difficulty or minimize their presence.

29. Work with a Life Coach that will assist with (a) concrete skills-building and goal direction, (b) independent living skills, (c) employment-related skills, and (d) social skills.

30. Be patient with yourself as you experiment with different coping strategies.




Best Comment:

Frankly, we have been on the verge of divorce since we got married, but we have five kids in the house who have already been through a divorce and neither of us wants to put them through any more trauma. What led us to seek therapy almost immediately after the wedding, was my husband's EXTREME jealous, possessive and controlling behavior throughout the relationship. After we got married it had bordered on emotional abuse. We had been in therapy with various different counselors, (and still are) but no one seems to be an Asperger's expert around here. Getting the diagnosis was both an AH-HA! moment and also devastating, in that this is a permanent and incurable condition.

So much of what I have read online rings true with me, I am horribly lonely and feel like we are roommates but have no "connection" for lack of a better word....but the worst part, that makes me feel it is not safe to drop my guard and allow him into my heart, is the way he just explodes unpredictably. As is typical with AS, he is prone to meltdowns over the smallest things (which always seem to be related to him deciding some action of mine- shaving my legs, getting a text, being five minutes "late", telling my kids they can have a friend over) means that I either "don't prioritize him' or "am trying to attract another man". Neither of which is true, he just can't understand normal behaviors or handle any changes in (his) plans. He will take a normal incident, and go over it and over it in his head until it is just completely twisted into some horrible offense.

I walk on eggshells all the time waiting for him to turn something tiny into something that will dominate his thinking for weeks on end. I am tired of being told not to "push his buttons" and being afraid of what is going to happen, what he will say, what the next fight will be. A chance encounter I have with a male acquaintance can turn into an ongoing interrogation for days or weeks. He asks me if I "ran into anyone" or "talked to anyone" every day, and if I did or do, and fail to tell him EVERY DETAIL of what was said then I am "hiding" things, etc, but if I do tell him, he twists it into something it wasn't, makes accusations, ("why was he SO happy to see you!? why didn't you introduce me/ talk about me, etc") and so forth.... I dread social situations and even school events with my kids because I can't control other people's behaviors. I don't know what someone may say or do that is going to set him off or what he will find to be angry about. I even quit my previous office job that I loved in order to work with him because he was so angry and upset about my job every day. He was bullied pretty severely as a child and always thinks that other men are "playing games", "Bullying him" and are looking to "stir up drama" and that it's therefore his prerogative to respond in an overtly aggressive, nasty manner to these perceived threats, which obviously causes many problems. He also believes that all women are sexually interested in him and that all men are sexually interested in me. (no matter how unlikely or unrealistic that may be)

Some things have gotten better since his diagnosis (he no longer tries to inspect my clothing for any hint of attractiveness/ sexiness, or forbid high heels, for example, and he makes a real effort to buy me gifts, initiate affection, and communicate better.) He now accepts that there are things he simply does not understand; but other things are not. He thinks in marriage it's his right to expect an idealized, fantasy-type sexual relationship where I passionately desire intimacy with him every day; he reads meanings that aren't there into every facial expression or action I take (not standing close enough to him means I "don't love him"; not saying "bless you" when he sneezes is "callous" and so forth); and any desire I express for this slightest bit of privacy means I have something to hide, and therefore he should be suspicious about it.

I am 40 years old. If there is no help for this I would like to at least KNOW, I am exhausted from trying to please my husband and never, ever succeeding. I am absolutely desperate and broken. I can't even tell my husband any of this. I am actually terrified to even send this email and I have been sitting here debating what he would do if he knew I sent it....I am pretty sure if I let him read this email he would just get stuck on the first paragraph, find some example that isn't "strictly what happened"...we would argue over my use of examples, and he would be livid that I "reached out to another MAN", then it would turn into this huge dramatic fight about how much I "hate him" . He would never make it to the big picture at all, see that I am looking for a way to bring us closer, or see how hurt I am. He is not violent so I am not afraid for my safety.

Adults with Aspergers / High-Functioning Autism: Self-Test

A Self-Test for Adults Who May Have Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism

Do you have Aspergers (also called high functioning autism)? Has your spouse suggested to you that you may have it? Are you beginning to wonder?

If you have Aspergers and don’t know, it affects you anyway. If you do know, you may be able to minimize the negative impact and leverage the positive. Without the knowledge that one has Aspergers, one often fills that void with other, more damaging explanations such as failure, weird, disappointment, not living up to one’s potential, etc.

It is never too late for an individual to increase self-awareness in order to capitalize on strengths and work around areas of challenge. Knowing about Aspergers gives the individual an explanation, not an excuse, for why his or her life has taken the twists and turns that it has. What one does with this information at the age of 20, 50 or 70 may differ, but it is still very important information to have.

Take the (rather lengthy) self-test below to determine whether or not a formal diagnosis of Aspergers should be pursued. We strongly recommend that you seek a diagnosis from a professional if you answer ‘yes’ to most of these questions:

1. Are you bothered by clothes tags or light touch?
2. Are you easily distracted?
3. Are you poor at interpreting facial expressions?
4. Are you bothered by criticism, correction and direction?
5. Are you hypo- or hypersensitive to physical pain, or even enjoy some types of pain?
6. Are you impatient and have low frustration tolerance?
7. Are you poor at returning social courtesies and gestures?
8. Are you naturally so honest and sincere yourself that you assume everyone should be?
9. Are you often surprised what people's motives are?
10. Are you or have you been hyperactive?
11. Are you prone to getting depressions?
12. Are you sensitive to changes in humidity and air pressure?
13. Are you sometimes afraid in safe situations?
14. Are you somewhat of a daydreamer, often lost in your own thoughts?
15. Are your eyes extra sensitive to strong light and glare?
16. Are your views a lot different from your peer group?
17. As a child, was your play more directed towards, for example, sorting, building, investigating or taking things apart than towards social games with other kids?
18. As a teenager, were you usually unaware of social rules & boundaries unless they were clearly spelled out?
19. Before doing something or going somewhere, do you need to have a picture in your mind of what's going to happen so as to be able to prepare yourself mentally first?
20. Do you easily forget verbal instructions?
21. Do others often misunderstand you?
22. Do people comment on your unusual mannerisms and habits?
23. Do people often tell you that you keep going on and on about the same thing?
24. Do people sometimes think you are smiling at the wrong occasion?
25. Do people think you are aloof and distant?
26. Do recently heard tunes or rhythms tend to stick and replay themselves repeatedly in your head?
27. Do you avoid talking face to face with someone you don't know very well?
28. Do you become frustrated if an activity that is important to you gets interrupted?
29. Do you bite your lip, cheek or tongue (e.g. when thinking, when anxious or nervous)?
30. Do you dislike being touched or hugged unless you're prepared or have asked for it?
31. Do you dislike it when people drop by to visit you uninvited?
32. Do you dislike it when people stamp their foot in the floor?
33. Do you dislike shaking hands with strangers?
34. Do you dislike when people walk behind you?
35. Do you dislike working while being observed?
36. Do you drop things when your attention is on other things?
37. Do you get bored with gossip?
38. Do you dread meeting new people?
39. Do you enjoy mimicking animal sounds?
40. Do you avoid team sports?
41. Do you enjoy walking on your toes?
42. Do you enjoy watching a spinning or blinking object?
43. Do you expect other people to know your thoughts, experiences and opinions without you having to tell them?
44. Do you feel an urge to correct people with accurate facts, numbers, spelling, grammar etc., when they get something wrong?
45. Do you feel an urge to peel flakes off yourself and / or others?
46. Do you fiddle with things?
47. Do you find it difficult to figure out how to behave in various situations?
48. Do you find it difficult to take messages on the telephone and pass them on correctly?
49. Do you find it difficult to take notes in lectures?
50. Do you find it disturbing or upsetting when others show up either later or sooner than agreed?
51. Do you find it easier to understand and communicate with odd & unusual people than with ordinary people?
52. Do you find it difficult to describe your feelings?
53. Do you find it difficult to do more than one thing at once?
54. Do you find it hard to be emotionally close to other people?
55. Do you find it hard to recognize phone numbers when said in a different way?
56. Do you find it hard to tell the age of people?
57. Do you find it unnatural to wave or say 'hi' when you meet people?
58. Do you find it very hard to learn things that you are not interested in?
59. Do you find the norms of hygiene too strict?
60. Do you find yourself uncomfortable in romantic situations?
61. Do you get confused by several verbal instructions at the same time?
62. Do you get frustrated if you can't sit on your favorite seat?
63. Do you get very tired after socializing, and need to regenerate alone?
64. Do you have a fascination for slowly flowing water?
65. Do you have a difficulty knowing the right thing to say or do in social situations?
66. Do you have a hard time knowing how much pressure to apply when doing things with your hands?
67. Do you have a monotonous voice?
68. Do you have a tendency to become stuck when asked questions in social situation?
69. Do you have an alternative view of what is attractive in the opposite sex?
70. Do you have an avid perseverance in gathering and cataloguing information on a topic of interest?
71. Do you have a lack of interest for the current fashions?
72. Do you have atypical or irregular sleeping patterns that deviate from the 24-h cycle?
73. Do you have certain routines which you need to follow?
74. Do you have difficulties filtering out background noise when talking to someone?
75. Do you have difficulties imitating & timing the movements of others (e.g., when learning new dance steps or in gym class)?
76. Do you have difficulties judging distances, height, depth or speed?
77. Do you have difficulties with activities requiring manual precision (e.g., sewing, tying shoe-laces, fastening buttons or handling small objects)?
78. Do you have difficulty accepting criticism, correction, and direction?
79. Do you have difficulty describing & summarizing things (e.g., events, conversations or something you've read)?
80. Do you have extra sensitive hearing?
81. Do you have one special talent which you have emphasized and worked on?
82. Do you have poor awareness or body control and a tendency to fall, stumble or bump into things?
83. Do you have problems filling out forms?
84. Do you have problems finding your way to new places?
85. Do you have problems recognizing faces?
86. Do you have problems starting and / or finishing projects?
87. Do you have problems with timing in conversations?
88. Do you have strong attachments to certain favorite objects?
89. Do you have trouble reading clocks?
90. Do you have trouble with authority?
91. Do you have unusual sexual preferences?
92. Do you instinctively become frightened by the sound of a motor-bike?
93. Do you have difficulty knowing when it is your turn to speak when talking on the phone?
94. Do you have difficulty knowing when you are expected to offer an apology?
95. Do you misjudge how much time has passed when involved in interesting activities?
96. Do you mistake noises for voices?
97. Do you mix up digits in numbers like 95 and 59?
98. Do you not fit into the expected gender stereotypes
99. Do you need lists and schedules in order to get things done?
100. Do you need periods of contemplation?
101. Do you need to do things yourself in order to remember them?
102. Do you notice patterns in things all the time?
103. Do you often don't know where to put your arms?
104. Do you often feel out-of-sync with others?
105. Do you often have lots of thoughts that you find hard to verbalize?
106. Do you or others think that you have unconventional ways of solving problems?
107. Do you or others think that you have unusual eating habits?
108. Do you pace (e.g. when thinking or anxious)?
109. Do you prefer to do things on your own even if you could use others' help or expertise?
110. Do you prefer to wear the same clothes or eat the same food many days in a row?
111. Do you repeat vocalizations made by others?
112. Do you rock back-&-forth or side-to-side (e.g., for comfort, to calm yourself, when excited or over-stimulated)?
113. Do you see your own activities as more important than other people's?
114. Do you sometimes have an urge to jump over things?
115. Do you sometimes lie awake at night because of too many thoughts?
116. Do you sometimes mix up pronouns and, for example, say "you" or "we" when you mean "me" or vice versa?
117. Do you stutter when stressed?
118. Do you suddenly feel distracted by distant sounds?
119. Do you talk to yourself?
120. Do you tap your ears or press your eyes (e.g., when thinking, when stressed or distressed)?
121. Do you tend to become obsessed with a potential partner and cannot let go of him/her?
122. Do you tend to express your feelings in ways that may baffle others?
123. Do you tend to get so absorbed by your special interests that you forget or ignore everything else?
124. Do you tend to interpret things literally?
125. Do you tend to look a lot at people you like and little or not at all at people you dislike?
126. Do you tend to notice details that others do not?
127. Do you tend to say things that are considered socially inappropriate when you are tired, frustrated or when you act naturally?
128. Do you tend to shut down or have a meltdown when stressed or overwhelmed?
129. Do you tend to talk either too softly or too loudly?
130. Do you wring your hands, rub your hands together or twirl your fingers?
131. Do your feelings cycle regularly between hopelessness and extremely high confidence?
132. Does it feel vitally important to be left undisturbed when focusing on your special interests?
133. Has it been harder for you than for others to keep friends?
134. Has it been harder for you to make it on your own, than it seems to be for most others of the same age?
135. Have others commented or have you observed yourself that you make unusual facial expressions?
136. Have others told you that you have an odd posture or gait?
137. Have you been accused of staring?
138. Have you been bullied, abused or taken advantage of?
139. Have you been fascinated about making traps?
140. Have you have had long-lasting urges to take revenge?
141. Have you taken initiative only to find out it was not wanted?
142. If there is an interruption, can you quickly return to what you were doing before?
143. In a conversation, do you tend to focus on your own thoughts rather than on what your listener might be thinking?
144. In conversations, do you need extra time to carefully think out your reply, so that there may be a pause before you answer?
145. In conversations, do you use small sounds that others don't seem to use?
146. Is it hard for you to see why some things upset people so much?
147. Is your sense of humor different from mainstream or considered odd?

As a rough estimate, if you answered 'yes' to approximately 80% of the questions above (about 117 questions), then you may want to seek a formal diagnosis, because you're in the ballpark range for having an autism spectrum disorder.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Aspergers in Adulthood: What Other Family Members Need To Know

Aspergers is typically first diagnosed in children. In contrast to those with autism, adults with Aspergers usually acquire language skills normally, develop appropriately in cognitive abilities and tend to have higher-than-average verbal skills. 


Aspergers Adults in the Workplace

"I want to better understand one of my employees who has Asperger Syndrome. He is a valued member of our company, but without going into detail here, we're currently having some issues that will need to be resolved. Let's just say that the relationship he has with some of the other coworkers is conflicted. Any tips for providing the best working environment for this gentleman?"

Due to misunderstanding their behavior, adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can be seen as selfish, egoistic, cold, ridged or uncaring by their co-workers. This kind of labeling is based on ignorance (i.e., lack of information) and has nothing to do with behaving inappropriately on purpose.

HFA adults are neurologically less able to see things from the other person’s point of view. They are frequently told by their peers (or partners) that their actions or remarks are considered painful or rude, which often comes as a shock to them since they were never aware of this in the first place.

Nonetheless, many – if not most – HFA adults are able to work in mainstream jobs successfully. Their focus and knowledge on specific topics - as well as their good eye for detail - can help them succeed in their career field. In pursuit of their preoccupations, HFA adults can develop sophisticated reasoning and an almost obsessive focus on their subject of interest, turning them into specialists in their line of work. One (of many) common career option in HFA adults is engineering since they can be fascinated with technology.

In any event, HFA adults should focus their energy on their strengths rather than on their weaknesses. They should simply do what they are good at – and organize the rest!

There are some work-related issues that will not be supportive of the Aspergers or HFA employee. These are listed below:
  • Absence of visualized work plan’s or schedules
  • Appointments that are not kept
  • Attending meetings
  • Authority figures that push them around
  • Co-workers need for small talk
  • Customers that will keep changing their order
  • Irresponsible behavior of the boss or co-workers
  • Making deadlines while depending on others to contribute to the work
  • Members of the team breaking rules and regulations
  • Obligation to interact with co-workers
  • Obligation to plan their work
  • Sharing a room with co-workers who keep talking to each other or on the phone
  • Sudden changes in plans of the company
  • The lack of punctuality in their boss or co-workers
  • The obligation to put your thoughts and ideas into a written report
  • The way colleagues or their boss do not see the important details
  • Unannounced changes in company policy
  • Working in an office with bright lights, background music, or phones that keep ringing
  • Working together as a team

So your tip is this: As much as possible, try to accommodate your Aspergers employee by eliminating or reducing some of the non-supportive scenarios listed above. With a little help and understanding, HFA adults can lead a fulfilling life, professionally as well as personally.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Do I have High-Functioning Autism?

High-Functioning Autism: Self-Test

Many adults with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have received an incorrect diagnosis (e.g., schizophrenia, depression, a personality disorder, etc.). With no (or few) features from the list below, one does not have the disorder. Even with a high score, a diagnosis cannot be accurately made on this basis, but requires a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation. Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the questions below (if you answer ‘yes’ to 10 or more, an evaluation by a professional is warranted).

Have you experienced any of the following:

1. Abnormal speech rhythm?
2. Attachment to animals or things other than humans?
3. Bitten by dogs?
4. Capable of sustained rigorous hard work?
5. Clumsy or exaggerated gestures when talking?
6. Depression or on anti-depressant?
7. Diagnosed with any Personality Disorder?
8. Diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
9. Diagnosed with Schizophrenia?
10. Drug addiction or alcoholism?
11. Eating disorder (e.g., anorexia)?
12. Educated below ability level?
13. Employed below ability level?
14. Fetishism?
15. Flat or monotonous voice?
16. Highly sensitive to criticism?
17. Homelessness?
18. Lack "common sense"?
19. Lack sensitivity to nonverbal cues and social codes?
20. Little eye contact?
21. Little or no facial expression?
22. Longing for death or suicidal thoughts?
23. Low "social skills"?
24. Motor clumsiness?
25. Neurotic habits or tics?
26. Never had a steady job?
27. Never had a long-lasting romantic relationship?
28. Never married?
29. Not emotional?
30. Not taken seriously or misunderstood in face-to-face situations?
31. Not well able to read another's facial expression?
32. Use tranquillizers?
33. One-sided eating habits?
34. Oversensitive to particular sounds?
35. Peculiar or (for males) too high-pitched voice?
36. Perfectionism?
37. Poor work record?
38. Read full manual before taking equipment into use?
39. Read reference works from A to Z?
40. Rigid day or week schedule (i.e.,repetitive patterns)?
41. Savant-like traits?
42. Was severely bullied at school?
43. Shy?
44. Sleeping problems?
45. Social isolation?
46. Still a virgin?
47. Stilted and overformal in social interaction?
48. Strong interest in mysterious subject matter (e.g, scientific, occult)?
49. Talk too little?
50. Talk too much?
51. Teased by children in adulthood?
52. Was unjustly punished at school?
53. Very honest?
54. Write complaint letters to authorities, professionals, companies, etc.?
55. Have always felt "odd"?

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Wife's Letter to Aspergers Husband

My T.D.,

I love you. You are unlike anybody I’ve ever met. I want to continue to be a part of your life, and I want you to continue to be a part of mine. I do not want our marriage to end. I want us to raise our children together and be a family. Most of all, I want us to love each other.

Just like the song that played at our wedding, “When I said I do, I meant that I will, ‘til the end of all time…”. But then day to day life played out and we had one disconnect after another. And as more major life events happened, we experienced more and more frustration with each other. I became annoyed when you did not do things for me that I assumed all good husbands do for their wives, like give control of decorating the house over to me, offer me massages, give me gifts on special occasions, or do anything romantic. But, I figured you’re a guy and guys don’t always know to do those things. So instead of expecting things or even dropping hints, I told you the things I liked and what I wanted you to do. Then I became angry and resentful when you did not do them. It seemed the more I asked of you, the less I got. Many times I could not believe how you just didn’t get it – did not understand at all what I wanted and needed, and did not recognize the sacrifices I made for you. I did not think so then, but now, I believe it is very likely you felt the same way towards me.

Then there were your quirks – your insisting things be done a certain way or placed in a certain location, your aversion to any new or different smell, your avoidance of social situations and loud noises. I never saw anyone use earplugs in church or wear sunglasses inside. I know you did not mean for it to be, but a lot of what you did came off as rude, especially where it concerned my family. And then, it started to affect me directly. It annoyed me that you put off redoing the nursery for a whole year after Nina was born. You had a meltdown when I put together the entertainment system while you were away and it was not set up the way you liked it, and another fit when Mom and Gayle rearranged our bedroom furniture. Then you gave me the silent treatment, only talking to me to give me instruction and criticism. It put me under so much stress that I could not function on a daily basis to take care of our children. I began to lose control of my emotions and my temper. I had tolerated the control and abuse for as long as I could, and I felt myself beginning to snap. I felt stifled, suffocated. I had to get out, away from you, to be able to breathe again.

And I did. I left and spent some time in Brackett with friends and family. I have an entire support group here and they have helped me take care of the kids and have given me encouragement, and most importantly, time to do things for me. As a result, I can think much more clearly now. And though I hated the situation I was in, I still love you. I have done a lot of thinking, praying, and reflecting. As I muddled through memories, both good and bad, I just could not understand how you could be so awesome, such an amazing, loving, enthusiastic person in one moment – like when you bought Mom a car, when you patiently helped Kristi prepare for the baby shower when I was pregnant with Nina, how you worked so hard on Sam’s car and drove her north for a camp she had to go to, when you changed my brother’s oil for him, when you went with my family to Nacogdoches for Christmas and did so much for my mom and siblings – but then you can at the same time make comments about where they park their cars, move things around, or even how they help clean up around the house. Those actions seemed so contradictory; I couldn’t understand how one person could act in two totally different ways. And I couldn’t understand how you could love me so much and say I was the answer to your prayers and yet constantly critique everything I do and show no interest in my interests. None of it made any sense to me. So much more negative than positive was going on when I left that I thought you just didn’t love me anymore – you just were using me to get one your life goals, a bunch of kids. I felt I had no value to you as person. But I knew from earnest things you would say about our future plans together, like building our house, and things you wanted to do as a family, like travel the country, that you really did want to experience things with me and share a life together. So you couldn’t have meant to be callous and abusive – but then if you still really cared about me, why would you act that way? If you really still loved me, then what was the explanation for your behavior?

You don’t know why you behave the way you do. I realize that now. I know you are truly sorry for all the things you did to hurt me. And I know you honestly did not intend to. Usually you had no idea you were doing anything wrong, or that I had any other expectations for how you should act. At first I blamed you for not knowing what to do for me. I accused you on the phone of never paying attention, and of not caring. And I blamed your parents for not teaching you better social etiquette and how to treat women. But blaming people doesn’t solve anything, and it does not explain the contradictory behavior, nor the fact that so much of it was not intentional. I felt so confused trying to figure out what went wrong. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong – you told me so all the time. And I knew you didn’t mean to do anything wrong – and it wasn’t really true that you didn’t pay attention. You always paid attention to certain details, like making sure I was drinking enough water. So what in the world was going on?

I knew this was bigger than me. And how I proceeded from that point was too important to base it only on what I wanted. At that point I believed I could never have what I really wanted anyway – a thriving family of successful individuals who support each other, where the mother and father stay together and the children grow up happy - so whatever I chose, to leave you for good, or to come back, I would be unhappy. I didn’t want to raise our daughters without you. I didn’t want to be alone. But I couldn’t thrive and be happy the way we were going. I knew that unhappiness was not in your plans either; you had wanted us to work, too. I just couldn’t understand you. So I turned the whole thing over to God.

I didn’t ask why. I just prayed that God’s will be done. I sat in mass with the twins (your mom had Nina) one Sunday morning and prayed that God would make His will known to me. I told Him I would be completely obedient in whatever He wanted me to do. During the Eucharist, I felt Him very clearly ask me “Are you sure about that?” I thought for a moment about how happy I had been since I left – the help with the kids, the support and encouragement I received from my friends and family, the prospects and freedom I had to pursue my interests in Brackett, and never having to deal with these issues again. But then I decided God knows better than I do. He knows me – and you – better than we do. He knows what would truly make me happy. So I said, “Yes, whatever you want me to do. I don’t want to make this call myself. I can’t screw this up.” His response came “Even if that means staying with T.D.?”  “Yes, even if you want me to stay. I will do WHATEVER you want me to.” And that was all. He left me with that thought.

After last weekend, I received an explanation for our situation. It was simple, and it fit so well.

You are different. I have always said I never knew anyone else like you. You are in a category all your own, one in a million. Well, now, it seems that actual figure is more like one in three hundred.

I discovered that there are other people who have your same set of traits: an intense passion and focus for one special interest, paired with an odd list of idiosyncrasies and seemingly rude tendencies. Good news for you, since you always said you wished there were more people who thought like you. There are. And they are affectionately known as “Aspies”, because they have something called Asperger’s Syndrome.

Asperger’s Syndrome is a very mild form of autism. It has a spectrum with varying degrees of severity. Those who are less affected by it are often just seen as weird or rude. They often go undiagnosed or are not diagnosed until much later in life, after their marriages, careers, and other interpersonal relationships have been through many hard times. Aspies have average or above average intelligence. Many have PhD’s. They are brilliant, passionate people with clear focus and unique insight into the world around them. They don’t play mind games, don’t lie, and don’t hold back what they think or feel. But they have trouble expressing their emotions and picking up on others’ emotions. Also, they like to feel in control of their environment, and as a result they have an aversion to change. Things that others may not even notice drive them completely nuts. Most Aspies don’t have a clue and don’t care about what is popular or in style. So they often do not put much effort into their wardrobe, hair or makeup. Appearance is not as important to them, and while that can be a disadvantage in certain situations, the flip side is, they see past all that and do not judge people the way non-Aspies, or those who they call “neuro-typical”, do. Not all Aspies are autistic in the way most people think of autism. They do not all look and act like Rain Man. They just have trouble relating to other people. Sadly, for those Aspies who get married, 80% of them end up divorced.

T.D. I know you. I know a lot of things about you most people don’t. And as I have read and researched Asperger’s over the past week, it was as if everything I read about it was written about you. I believe you have Apserger’s.

From our very first interaction, I knew that you were different. You were in Brackett for the weekend and had come to the youth Bible study. I was a little surprised to see a college guy at a high school youth group, but then your brother was there, and I thought you were cute, even though you were a little overly competitive at bucket-ball. As luck would have it (or maybe you did it on purpose ), you were in my small group. I was a little annoyed that you were rustling through some papers and flipping through your bible while I was trying to facilitate group discussion. I thought you weren’t paying attention. But when I looked to see what you were doing, I was pleasantly surprised and greatly flattered to see that you were copying quotes and verses I had written in the back of my Bible. That got my attention. I thought “this guy is worth getting to know”.

We started dating, and I was attracted to your enthusiasm and your focus. You had a very clear idea of what you wanted in life – a good wife, a house full of kids, and the freedom to pursue your passion for renovating houses. You had this surety about you that was more than just confidence in yourself - it was this faith that things would work out in your favor, even if you didn’t know exactly how. You had this excitement about life that was just contagious, and I found that very attractive. It seemed to me that for you, success was inevitable, and that made me want to be a part of your life.

You never try to hide who you are, and over the last seven years, I have learned a lot about you and we have been through a lot together. I loved the anniversary card you sent me saying that you’d do it all again, the good times and the hard times. And I’m not mad you didn’t know to get a card or anything else until I said something. I’m not mad you didn’t get me presents on certain occasions, or didn’t go to Kristi’s wedding with me, or lots of other things I thought you should have known to do. I forgive you for those things and for all the things we have talked about and that you have written letters about. I know you are sorry for all the ways you hurt me, and I realize now, that you honestly did not know what you were supposed to do in many of those situations.

I understand now. You think differently. We are physically wired to view the world in different ways. And that will make our marriage a challenge. But with God all things are possible. And it will be hard, but with His help, I can do it. I am up for the challenge.

I like that you are different. You are so much more passionate and aware than the average person. You see things others don’t. More importantly, you see past things that aren’t as important to the bigger picture. I realize now that your idiosyncrasies are not something you can change, and that your needs are hard to express in language that a neuro-typical like me would understand. But now that we have this explanation of why we just keep missing each other on so many things, we can learn how to work through our differences.

Asperger’s is a lifelong condition. There are no drugs or any kind of treatment. There are only certain strategies we can use to cope with having been wired differently. These strategies are worth pursuing if we plan to be in the 20% of undivorced Aspie marriages. I have found a plethora of resources on Aspie relationships, especially marriages. I ordered one book on Amazon and downloaded and read another e-book that was very helpful. I used many of the recommendations for conversation found in the book when I spoke with you about taking Nina this past week. It was hard for me to do, because I had to try very hard to suppress my natural reactions to what you said. But I was able to do it with the understanding that you understand things differently. And though it was hard, the conversation was productive and in the end, positive. I hated that I had to spell out for you just how anxious I get about my babies and the terrible thoughts I struggle with concerning their safety. That is an issue I try hard to hide, and I do not like discussing it, because I can never do it without crying. I just see all the images I did not ask to pop into my head the first time come rushing back to me, so clearly and so horribly terrifying. But that conversation made think about it and consider that maybe that sort of anxiety is not normal, and I may need to get help dealing with it.

I knew our marriage, and this situation was bigger than I thought; I just didn’t realize how much bigger. When I first considered the possibility that you had Asperger’s, I was mad at God for the first time in my life. I had never been angry with Him before, but I just couldn’t understand why He would make some people in such a way that they had so much trouble understanding other people, especially since we were all created for relationship – to love and to be loved, by God and by each other. I had felt so enlightened, as though I had discovered some great truth, when I started reading about Theology of the Body and realized that the context of the Bible and of God’s plan for mankind was covenant, the highest form of relationship, and that our interpersonal relationships are designed to tie into his greater plan. That’s why there is so much history in the Bible. Who did what with whom matters. What we do in our life to affect the lives of others matters. How could God create people for relationship, and then give some of them an emotional disability that handicaps their relationships? But then I realized I was looking at this from my own limited perspective. And God is limitless. He is so great and His mystery encompasses depths we cannot fathom. He created both neuro-typicals and Aspies for the same reason he created both men and women. He wants us to be different. He is not one, easily defined being that our mind can put in a box. In His infinite wisdom, He makes plans outside of time and conducts our history to bring about his glory and our redemption. He wants us to understand things in different ways so that we can better understand Him. He wants us to learn to think outside ourselves. It was then I realized that you having Asperger’s is not what has made things harder for us, but both of us not being able to understand each other is what has made things harder for us. And though we have both tried to understand each other, we have failed. I found my own limitations, and beyond them, I found God.

So now, I have given my will completely over to God. You do the same. You told me you would do WHATEVER it takes to make our marriage work. I will, too. Now let’s find out what that is. The first thing we need to do is go see a specialist, someone who is more familiar with Asperger’s Syndrome, and get a diagnosis. I believe you have Asperger’s, and if you do, that will greatly change our approach to marriage counseling. I want us both to know for certain that is the case so that we can get recommendations on the best way to build OUR marriage (ours is not typical, and so that’s why typical counseling has fallen short) and do what we need to do to make it easier to love and understand each other.

I love you.

Your wife,

Danielle

Adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism - Support Group

High-Functioning Autism: Diagnosis in Adults

Many High-Functioning Autism (HFA) grown-ups happen to read, hear some information, or be told by a family member or friend about HFA. Some may believe that the information matches their history and their current situation, and as a result, may self-diagnose. Others are not so welcoming of the diagnosis. Sometimes family members suspect that their adult child, spouse or sibling has HFA and wonder how to tell them about it.

Professionals, even some who have had long-term relationships with their clients, may realize for the first time that the traits their client is exhibiting are best described by HFA. The professional may be uncertain of the diagnosis, however, if HFA is outside his or her area of expertise. After the question of HFA is initially raised, many grown-ups and their family members wonder, “Should I pursue an 'official diagnosis'?”

For some individuals, doing their own research through books, on the Internet and through support and information organizations, provides enough answers and the best explanation yet of challenges that one has faced and strengths that one possesses. Others want the corroboration of a professional.

A diagnosis is needed to request reasonable accommodations for employment under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Official diagnosis is necessary if one wants to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

In addition to those with an MD or PhD, any professional with the credentials and expertise to diagnose any other condition may make a diagnosis of HFA. Such professionals may be social workers (MSW), master’s level psychologists (MA), or other mental health professionals.

Many individuals pursue neuropsychological testing with a neuropsychologist (PhD) or a psychiatrist (MD). As a result of this testing, it may be determined that the individual has HFA, something related to HFA, or something different. This will give a fairly full picture of strengths and challenges and of how one’s brain processes information.

Neuropsychological testing is not required to get an “official diagnosis”. To apply for SSI there must be written documentation in the record from an M.D. or PhD. that there is some type of a psychological issue (not necessarily HFA). There is no requirement of psych testing. The other issues regarding inability to work may be best described by other clinicians.

It is never too late for an individual to increase self-awareness in order to capitalize on strengths and work around areas of challenge. Knowing about HFA gives the individual an explanation, not an excuse, for why his or her life has taken the twists and turns that it has. What one does with this information at the age of 20, 50 or 70 may differ, but it is still very important information to have.

In early adulthood, one may use the information to plot a course through college:
  • Take classes part time (to account for executive functioning/organizational challenges)
  • Request reasonable accommodations at school or at work
  • Possibly live at home (to minimize the number of changes all at once)
  • Plot a career that matches interests and abilities
  • Join interest-based groups (so that socializing has a purpose)
  • A single room to decrease social and sensory demands and to have a safe haven

In middle adulthood, one may use the information to:
  • Ask for accommodations at work, or pursue work that is more fitting
  • Do a life review, understand why careers and relationships have or have not been successful
  • Improve on relationships or pursue better matches

In late adulthood, one may use the information to:
  • Renew and/or repair relationships affected by HFA
  • If possible, customize one's environment to be comfortable and accommodating to the strengths and challenges of HFA
  • Do a life review

Regardless of age, one may use the information to:
  • Work differently with helping professionals (with an emphasis on concrete coaching help, building of life skills vs. insight-oriented therapy)
  • Find people who share similar interests
  • Find other people with HFA with whom to compare notes (in-person or online)
  • Consider disclosure to family, friends, co-workers

If you know someone who you think has HFA, should you tell? YES! It is better to know than not to know. If you have HFA and don’t know, it affects you anyway; if you do know, you may be able to minimize the negative impact and leverage the positive. Without the knowledge that one has HFA, one often fills that void with other, more damaging explanations such as failure, weird, disappointment, not living up to one’s potential, etc…

How do I tell an adult that they may have HFA? 

Lead with strengths! Most people with HFA have significant areas of strength (even if this has not been translatable into tangible success). Bring up areas of strength with the person with suspected HFA. Next, point out the areas in which they are struggling. Then, suggest to them that there is a name for that confusing combination of strengths and challenges, and it may be HFA.

Common responses to this information may include:

TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE: “If that’s me, it’s you, too!” 

RELIEF: “I’ve always known there was something different about me!”

DENIAL: “I don’t have that.”

ANGER: “How come no one ever told me before? I’ve lost so much time and opportunity not knowing!”

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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