"Not everything that steps out of line, and is thus abnormal, must necessarily be inferior."
These are the words of Hans Asperger, a Viennese doctor, who did his work with autism and published his research in the 1940s. It is paramount to understand that when we are talking about differences related to neurodiversity, we are not talking about right and wrong, or good and bad. We are talking about differences, and differences can be identifed, understood, and accommodated in a neurodiverse relationship. This is the goal of neurodiverse couple counseling.
It was not until the 1990s that the term Asperger Syndrome was first used by a British clinician named Lorna Wing to describe a constellation of symptoms and characteristics that come together in certain individuals, and fall at the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Since that time, the term has been used commonly in the popular press, and autism is now frequently represented by the entertainment industry.
But what is autism?
Autism is a result of neurological differences in the structure of the brain that distinguish it from what we call the neurotypical brain. It is not mental illness or a personality disorder. There are many as-yet nondefinitive theories for what causes autism. There is a genetic component, and environmental (including prenatal) factors seem to influence its expression as well. It is not a result of bad parenting. There is diverse ongoing research in the area of autism with new insights appearing regularly.
A clinical diagnosis is based on evidence of noncongruence to what is culturally accepted as normal behavior across several domains: social and emotional abilities; communication skills; cognitive skills; specific interests; and movement skills (dexterity).
Remember that some of our most successful CEOs, entrepreneurs, politicians, entertainers, and artists are thought to have autism. It is stressful for such individuals as they seek ways of fitting into society, and it is most pronounced in their interpersonal relationships. It's a challenge to be autistic and have to live in a neurotypical world. Everyone would be wise to remember that.
One thing to keep in mind about all of this is that no two autistic individuals will exhibit all of symptoms, and they will all be expressed differently and to varying degrees among individuals.
As we say often, "If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism."
Typically, autistic adults feel a sense of relief once they receive a diagnosis. It confirms for them what they have sensed their entire lives. And once they understand what is going on, they can learn to live in what is called the neurotypical world with greater confidence and satisfaction. However, some individual are highly adverse even to the suggestion that they may be autistic and are not willing to explore the possibility. Couples benefit from open and nonjudmental conversation about how to approach this possibility.
If you wonder whether you or your partner may fall into the autism spectrum, I would be pleased to meet with you and work with you to identify the issues of concern, and to devise a plan of action desiged to ease some of the distress that often accompanies this.
If you are interested in working with me for reasons related to neurodiversity in your relationship, but you do not live in the state of Washington, please consider working with me for education and coaching. My coaching website is SwensonCoaching.com.
Also, I have developed a teaching website full of courses designed to support partners in a neurodiverse relationship. You will find previews of the courses on my YouTube Channel for The Neurodiverse Couple and you can enroll in them and view information about upcoming courses at TheNeurodiverseCouple.thinkific.com.
I am able to work with couples and individuals around the world with sessions conducted via the secure online chat platform on my website. Don't let the fact that you live far from Seattle keep you from getting the help you need. I can work with every time zone, and I can also support English-language sessions with supplemental use of your native language, if it happens to be Italian, German, or French.