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How Mind-Blindness in ASD Affects Communication

“How does this so-called ‘Mindblindness’ affect how my spouse [with ASD] communicates with me [or does not communicate, as the case may be]?”

Due to mind-blindness, the person on the autism spectrum often has an obsessive-compulsive approach to life that results in a narrow range of interests - and insistence on set routines. This usually starts as a cognitive (i.e., thinking) issue before it becomes a behavioral one.

To understand communication breakdown, we must first look at cognition. Cognitive issues, such as the inability to take someone else's perspective (which is mind-blindness) and the lack of cognitive flexibility (which is black-and-white thinking), cause many of the unwanted reactions and behaviors you see in your ASD spouse.

You will know when there is a cognitive element by looking at your spouse’s behaviors, because there will always be some anxiety or obsession manifested in every inappropriate response to your “message” (e.g., trying to talk to him/her about a relationship problem that you would like to address).

Your ASD spouse’s cognitive difficulties lead to inaccurate interpretations and understanding of the social world. How someone interprets a situation determines how he or she will respond to it.

Many times, the interpretation of an event is either not an accurate one, or not one that leads to positive or prosocial actions. If the event can be “re-interpreted” FOR him or her, it might lead to a more productive outcome. But in doing this, you must first try to understand how your ASD spouse interprets a situation. All of his/her behaviors are filtered through his/her perception of the way the social world works.

Remember, details are extremely important in trying to understand what is happening - and what to do about it. Don’t try to intervene until you understand (at least to a small degree) what is happening with your ASD spouse. Changing thinking becomes a paramount issue, but one that is often neglected. However, successful changes in thinking will dramatically increase the success rate of any communication strategy you use.

To help you determine the reasons why your ASD spouse thinks and acts the way he or she does, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are they stuck on an idea and can't let it go? (They do not know how to let go and move on when there is a problem.)
  • Are they misunderstanding what is happening, and assuming something that isn't true? (Misinterpretation.)
  • Are they expecting perfection in themselves? (Black-and-white thinking.)
  • Are they exaggerating the importance of an event? There are no small events – everything that goes wrong is a catastrophe. (Black-and-white thinking.)
  • Are they blaming you for something that is beyond your control? (They feel that you must solve the problem for them, even when it involves issues you have no control over.)
  • Have they made a rule that can't be followed? (They see only one way to solve a problem. They can’t see alternatives.)
  • Do they see only two choices to a situation rather than many options? (Black-and-white thinking.)
  • Do they need to be taught a better way to deal with the problem in question? (They don’t understand the way the social world really works.)
  • Because a situation was one way the first time, do they feel it has to be that way always? (Being rule-bound.)

By getting answers to some of these questions, the NT spouse will be in a much better position to effectively register her or his concerns about existing relationship difficulties.


==> To learn some very specific and concrete communication strategies for dealing with spouses on the autism spectrum,  register for one of my online workshops. Dates and times are located here...

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