Teachers, parents and partners come to me asking my help to understand the behavior of someone with Aspergers. Usually they’re frustrated by behavior of some kind that’s perceived as resistance to what seems to be needs and expectations that are “normal,” or neurotypical. The neurotypical teacher, parent or partner wants to have things go more smoothly.
In turn, the individuals with Aspergers (neurodiverse) are often frustrated by the expectations they face which seems to suggest a basic lack of understanding of their needs. The assumption is that if those who are neurotypical “got it,” expectations would be more realistic and problems such as difficulty transitioning, social anxiety and sensory issues would be taken into account. They may feel that their meltdowns are a direct result of their environment.
I find myself in the role of translator of the perspective of the neurodiverse individual to the neurotypical parent, teacher or partner, and the translator of the perspective of the neurotypical to those who are neurodiverse. In my role as translator, I can be free of judgments. I’m simply trying to help people understand each other.
Many neurotypicals are grateful to understand a neurodiverse perspective. However, I’ve also been told that clarifying the situation from the neurodiverse point of view is simply making an excuse for the neurodiverse person’s behavior. I’m excusing rather than explaining. I’m not doing what’s wanted, which is to get the neurodiverse individual to stop acting neurodiverse and start acting neurotypical.
The idea that the neurodiverse perspective is only an excuse rejects the reality of the needs of the neurodiverse person. It’s saying that these needs aren’t real but represent oppositionalism, avoidance, an attitude problem, or even selfishness.
Dr. Marcia Eckerd has been in practice as a licensed psychologist since 1985. I am on the CT ASD Advisory Council and the Clinical Advisory Committee of the Aspergers/Autism Association of New England, as well the professional advisory board of Smart Kids with LD. Aspergers101 is honored to offered the knowledge and experience of Dr. Eckerd through her informative blogs!