People on the spectrum struggle to understand the meaning of non-verbal social cues. Unfortunately, this can be very hazardous when it comes to inter-personal relationships, especially those of a romantic nature.
I used to think I had a chance at a relationship with someone as long as they didn’t flat-out reject me. What I failed to understand was the non-verbal cues, i.e. not returning phone calls, not being receptive to conversation. But while these things may not come easy to the Aspie, they can certainly be taught.
Another area Aspies may struggled with is in handling rejection. It used to be whenever a person rejected me, I thought it was all about me and I had said or done something to put off the other person. With counseling I came to realize that it wasn’t all in my control. I also came to realize that sometimes when things don’t work out, sometimes there’s no one to blame. Neither party did anything wrong; it just didn’t work out.
Aspies tend to see everything in black and while, which can cause problems given the intangible and ever-changing nature of relationships. For example, two plus two will always be four, and pi will always equal 3.14. But relationships aren’t nearly so much set in concrete. They are always changing, sometimes daily.
But the Aspie may be reacting to how the relationship was before, or at least how he thought it was before, or how he thinks it should be, instead of responding to how it is in the here and now. This can obviously include realizing when the relationship has run its course.
How can the Aspie overcome this? With coaching and counseling. If he can be taught to look at things from the other person’s perspective, he might be able to see things more clearly. But he also needs to be taught the different ways a situation can be perceived. Otherwise, he might not be able to understand that everyone doesn’t think the same way he does.
By Ken Kellam
Ken Kellam III was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in his late 30’s, and has worked with Autism Treatment Center of Texas since 2003. He is currently the administrative assistant to the clinical director. He also helps facilitate three different self-advocate groups, and in the Spring of 2015 was presented with the “Angel Award” by the National Autism Association of North Texas for the works he has done with these groups. He has also done public speaking on the subject of autism/Asperger syndrome, and has spoken to various educational and parental groups. When not involved with autism, Ken has led the singing at the same church since 1988, and has also been the fill-in preacher at this same church. In 2006 he was called on to sing the National Anthem at the Autism Society of America’s national convention in Dallas, and performed the same song at ATC’s rodeo fundraiser. He also enjoys writing, and formerly wrote articles for a website dedicated to reality television. In 2011 he got married for the first time, and his wife Rachel works for ATC in Adult Services. Ken graduated from Oklahoma Christian University in 1987 with a Bachelor’s in Mass Communications, and once worked as a radio traffic reporter, interactive announcer and writer, and news producer in Dallas. He views Asperger’s as a difference, not a defect, and has come to appreciate the positive aspect’s of Asperger’s.
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