Well, first of all, if the spouse with ASD is struggling in his/her relationship, I will have to work with both parties. But I do prefer to have a few sessions with just the AS partner beforehand, in which case, we will work largely on social skills and the development of emotional reciprocity.
Asperger's (high functioning autism), like classic autism, falls on a continuum of symptoms and impairment. Usually, it includes an exclusive focus on one area of interest, particularly of a non-social nature. The ability to empathize with his “significant other” and her circumstances is the main area in which social skills get compromised.
Social skills can be improved, and an awareness of social signifiers do make a big difference in the AS person’s ability to relate at a deeper level with his/her spouse. Sometimes called interpersonal training, the approach consists of two dimensions:
- The individual is taught to understand communicative cues, and how to send and receive them in a contextually appropriate manner (e.g., active listening, eye contact, nodding to register comprehension, paraphrasing, learning to ask open-ended questions, learning to disclose opinions, experiences, and feelings in a reciprocal manner).
- Learning interpersonal skills and gaining emotional insight (e.g., managing anxiety, self-criticism, depression, anger, and avoidance in social circumstances).
The first dimension gets most of the attention, but the second dimension is most important, because you might learn a "skill," but feel too much anxiety, depression, or critical self-consciousness to implement it.
By developing emotional muscles, which consists of displaying creative optimism, self-acceptance, and an acceptance of others with whom one disagrees with, the individual on the autism spectrum can learn some specific social skills and cultivate a deeper level of emotional intelligence.
==> Learn more about why your partner/spouse on the autism spectrum thinks, feels and behaves the way he/she does...
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