This is an excellent guide for communication. As a parent of a son with Autism, I had to ‘learn’ to communicate with my son. This lesson of communication was learned both from the both of us….a neurotypical and an Autistic mind. The article below, by Dr. Marcia Eckerd, touches on a topic we could all better apply…that of communication. -Jennifer Allen/Aspergers101
Why don’t people and their interacting style come with manuals? Parents and partners often misunderstand or don’t know how best to talk with someone with Asperger’s, and people with Aspergers can have trouble understanding and communicating with those who think differently than them. If you are the neurotypical partner or parent, you need to understand what different processing is like, with different needs and expectations. And the same is true for those with Aspergers who are finding it difficult being with the people in their lives. Everyone must take the importance of understanding seriously.
Here are some rules for neurotypical partners or parents of Aspies:
- Understand that your Aspie often won’t necessarily understand your need to feel gratified by connecting. He or she might go to an office/room and ignore you, for example. This doesn’t mean a lack of caring – it means that this meets his or her needs, and he doesn’t get it that you need something more. He may see your need as a difficult demand if he needs some space.
- Your Aspie won’t “see” what you consider obvious. Expecting those with Asperger’s to realize what “needs doing” or what is an expected behavior is a setup for failure and hurt on both sides unless you make these ideas clear and concrete.
- Your Aspie might not “get” why something is important to you; it might seem trivial or not make sense. You need to make it clear that something is important and why. I once worked with an Aspie who had trouble understanding that showing interest and expressing concern were important even if he didn’t do something actionable.
- A caveat for the non-Aspie: you need to have realistic expectations. Expecting someone to be “more romantic,” to “respond right” to Grandma or in a family situation, to infer what you’d like her to do or to participate fully (and “normally”) in a social event is a setup for failure. You can’t expect an Aspie to be fundamentally different, inauthentic or untruthful.
- Be clear and concrete.
For partners: If you want a present for a birthday on that day, say so. If you expect a gift to be “right,” offer a list of things you’d like. If you want a certain behavior, like a greeting, asking about the day, or some other demonstration of caring, be clear.If you feel resentful about having to ask, think of the larger context of your partner’s strengths, and what you value about the relationship.
For parents: Be clear about what is needed ahead of time, and be specific. “Be more helpful around the house” won’t work.
- It’s not back to square one if there’s a miscommunication or disappointment. Sometimes it’s absolutely best to cut each other some slack (as is true for every couple!), but if if you hang on to bitterness, you’re creating a wall between you. It’s better to wait until you’re calm and can clarify and address challenges more effectively.
In general, understanding what behaviors are related to a person being an Aspie and not emotionally withholding, an “attitude” or a lack of caring makes a big difference. I find partners often know the list of Aspie traits, but don’t translate that into everyday life. Get help from an expert if you need to.
A guide for adult Aspies with a neurotypical partner/parent:
(Parents need to realize that they are the adults; children can be helped to learn to understand others but must be understood.)
- Be aware that most neurotypicals want to feel connected, and that there are social behaviors that communicate connection. Behaviors like withdrawing send a message that you’re not interested. Stopping to say hello, ask about the day, and showing interest by listening and responding (even by just acknowledging what was said) are very important. Leaving without saying goodbye is also interpreted as rejection.
- Aspies often don’t understand that partners are looking for emotional support, and not just concrete actions. I often find my Aspie clients do care about their partners, but don’t say so. You need to say that you care, that you notice if your partner is upset, that you are concerned that a child is sick. It’s not just about fixing it.
- If your partner asks for something that is too general to have meaning, ask for him or her to help you by being specific. “You’re not thoughtful” isn’t meaningful; “When you’re going out, please ask me if I need something” makes sense.
- You need to check out your assumptions. You might think she’s just picking on you if she keeps asking you to repeat yourself, and she might just have trouble hearing you because you speak softly.
- Be clear about your needs as well. If it’s too hard for you to participate in something, if something is difficult for sensory issues or overstimulating, be clear and explain that.
- Remember that your area of interest might not be shared. If you’re talking about it, check in with your listener after a few sentences, like, “Do you want to hear more?”
- It’s important to avoid holding a grudge when frustrated, and to continue to work together to come to solutions when needed. As was true for your partner, holding onto bitterness just creates a wall between you.
It certainly is possible for Aspies and non-Aspies to have successful relationships if both are committed to making it work. A fundamental mistake in empathy in any kind of relationship is to assume that the other person is like us, and to interpret behavior based on what it would mean if we did it.
Mutual respect and appreciation are critical, as is the assumption that the other person fundamentally means well and cares. Keep the relationship framed in a holistic perspective of what you value in each other, and consider that many of your differences can also play out as complementary strengths.
by: Marcia Eckerd, Ph.D.
This article originally appeared on PsychCentral.com as ” https://blogs.psychcentral.com/aspergers-nld/2017/11/aspergers-and-non-aspie-relationships/”
All rights reserved. Reprinted here with permission.
After an extensive career broadcast marketing, Jennifer and her husband searched for answers when their oldest son hit the kinder years with great difficultly. After finally learning that their oldest son had Aspergers Syndrome, she left her career in television and became a full time mother to both of her sons. Jennifer elicited the participation of her sons and together they produced several independent programs including a children’s animated series titled Ameriquest Kids (now distributed by Landmark Media) as well as her documentary and book titled, Coping to Excelling: Solutions for school-age children diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome.
The need for more information encouraged Jennifer to elicit a team of autism experts to provide weekly, original content to a website free to anyone seeking to live their best under the diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism/Aspergers Syndrome… appropriately titled: Aspergers101.com.