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Introduction to Understanding “Spousal ASD”: Summary for Neurotypicals

Here's a good synopsis of what you can expect to witness in your spouse who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD):

Reasons for Rigidity in ASD—

  • the misunderstanding or misinterpretation of your feelings, thoughts, and actions
  • the violation of a rule or ritual (i.e., you, the NT, changing something from the way it is “supposed to be” … you violating a rule, and this is unacceptable to him)
  • anxiety about a current or upcoming event (no matter how trivial it might appear to you)
  • the need for immediate gratification of a need
  • lack of knowledge about how something with social/emotional components is done (by not knowing how the world works with regard to specific social situations and events, he will become anxious and try to reduce his anxiety, which often results in shutdowns or meltdowns)
  • sensory sensitivities
  • the need to avoid or escape from a non-preferred activity (often something difficult or undesirable) 
  • perfectionism
  • OCD tendencies
  • the need to control people for anxiety-reduction reasons
  • the need to engage in - or continue - a preferred activity (usually an obsessive action or fantasy)
  • transitioning from one activity to another (this is usually a problem because it may mean ending an activity before he is finished with it)


Black-and-White Thinking and Mind-blindness—

  • an obsessive-compulsive approach to life that results in the narrow range of interests and insistence on set routines
  • the inability to take your perspective (i.e., mind-blindness)
  • the lack of cognitive flexibility (i.e., black-and-white thinking)
  • there is always some distress, anxiety, or obsession manifested in every “inappropriate” behavior that you, the NT, may witness
  • cognitive difficulties that lead to inaccurate interpretations and understanding of the emotional world (how he interprets a situation determines how he will respond to it, but many times the interpretation of an event is not an accurate one)


Behavioral Manifestations of Anxiety—

  • wanting things to go his way, when he wants them to, no matter what you may want (he may argue, ignore you, refuse to yield, etc.)
  • tending to conserve energy and put forth the least effort he can, except with highly preferred activities
  • remaining in a fantasy world a good deal of the time
  • appearing unaware of events around him
  • reacting poorly to new events, transitions, or changes
  • preferring to do the same things over and over
  • lecturing or scolding you rather than having a reciprocal conversation
  • intensely disliking loud noises and crowds
  • insisting on having things and/or events occur in a certain way
  • having trouble socializing well with you, or avoiding you altogether (he prefers to be alone, because you do not do things exactly as he does)
  • having a narrow range of interests
  • becoming fixated on certain topics and/or routines
  • eating a narrow range of foods
  • demonstrating unusual worries
  • showing resistance to directions from you, the NT
  • creating his own set of rules for doing something
  • becoming easily overwhelmed
  • having difficulty calming down


Questions NTs Should Ask Themselves Regarding Their ASD Spouse’s Behavior—

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


1.  Is he misunderstanding what is happening and assuming something that isn't true? (Misinterpretation)
 

2.  Is he expecting perfection in himself? (Black-and-white thinking)
 

3.  Is he blaming me for something that is beyond my control? (He feels that you must solve the problem for him even when it involves issues you have no control over.)
 

4.  Is he stuck on an idea and can't let it go? (He does not know how to let go and move on when there is a problem.)
 

5.  Is he exaggerating the importance of an event? There are no small events, everything that goes wrong is a catastrophe. (Black-and-white thinking)
 

6.  Has he made a rule that can't be followed? (He sees only one way to solve a problem. He can’t see alternatives.)
 

7.  Does he see only two choices to a situation rather than many options? (Black-and-white thinking)
 

8.  Does he need to be shown a better way to deal with a problem? (He does not understand the way the social world works.)
 

9.  Because a situation was one way the first time, does he feel it has to be that way always? (Being rule bound)


More Resources:

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism  

==> Online Group Therapy for Couples and Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder 

==> Online Group Therapy for NT Wives

==> Online Group Therapy for Men with ASD

 

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