aj mahari

Help For People With Asperger’s Syndrome?

Many people who know people with Asperger’s Syndrome, or have someone with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) in their families write me exhausted and exasperated as to what to do to help the person with AS in their lives. Can you help someone with Asperger’s or is the help just perceived as too stressful and too intrusive? Do you feel frustrated and like your every effort to help the person with Asperger’s in your life just makes things worse? As a life coach, it has become apparent to me that this is a common experience for many a neuro-typical (NT).

Neuro-typicals need to understand that they really cannot truly know what it is like to have Asperger’s Syndrome. That’s a good place to start. Sound too simplistic or obvious? It is an important distinction to keep in mind because you might think you are offering someone with Asperger’s help based upon what you would experience as being helpful.

What most neuro-typicals find helpful or recognize as support is, more often than not, not the same for people with Asperger’s. If you approach the person with AS in your life from your own perspective without consideration of the differences in perspective, experience, and interpretation of those with AS the results will often yield more frustration for both parties involved.

It is also important to not put your own expectations upon your loved one or friend with AS. For many people with AS the help, caring, and/or support of others feels intrusive to them. It can be experienced as being a major stressor. It can lead a person with AS to retreat more inside of him or herself as a reaction to the ways they know they are different. The very things you may be stressing in trying to help may in fact leave the person with Asperger’s feeling judged or criticized because they do not have a common reference point with you from which to share in the reality that you care and are trying to help them. 

As someone with Asperger’s who continues to push all my limits in learning and mapping aspects of life and relating where I have a different ability – commonly referred as “disability” by NT’s, I myself, have experienced others trying to help me at times when there wasn’t any help they could really give me. We didn’t have a shared perspective, understanding, or strong enough commonality in our experience for a meeting of the minds that could prove to be beneficial versus frustrating. I have also experienced people trying to help me over the years in ways that were about trying to change who I am and how I function. That doesn’t anger or bother me but I have learned that I have to point out that what I do and how I do it, just because it is different, doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. I’m sure there are easier ways or more organized ways to do many things but they aren’t things that fit the way my mind works – they just don’t jive with how I think and what will work for me.

I’m sure the same could happen in reverse. If i were to try to help out a friend of mine, offering advice let’s say, about something that they do and how they approach it or do it, and gave my NT friend aspie methods of doing things how could I reasonably expect that they would change the way that they think and experience the world to fit my Asperger ways? That would prove frustrating for both me and my friend.

Help and support aren’t the same thing. Support is often met with less stress and anxiety than efforts to help. If you are a neuro-typical and you are thinking about helping the person with AS in your life ask yourself, what your goals are. What are you trying to accomplish and why? Is it for the aspie or more for you? Are you invested, perhaps without realizing it, in having the person with AS in your life be more like a neuro-typical?

This is an example of an unrealistic expectation that will leave you frustrated in trying help and that will leave the person with AS feeling intruded upon and/or stressed out by your efforts to help. Often when you want to help you want to see change from someone else rather than changing the way you approach a person or situation.

Sometimes the best “help” is accepting the person with Asperger’s in your life for who he or she is. NT’s will benefit from education themselves about Asperger’s Syndrome generally. They will also benefit from going one step further in asking the person with AS in their life about him or her specifically because each person with Asperger’s is an individual. We aren’t all the same. We don’t all have every trait or listed manifestation of what Asperger’s is stereotypically described to be and mean.

Differences that aren’t accepted will continue to fuel exhaustion and exasperation. Those feelings are generated in those trying to “help” who are really seeking to change someone into thinking, being, doing, acting like they do – in other words – trying to get someone with Asperger’s to act as if or find a way to be neuro-typical. It just doesn’t work.

©  A.J. Mahari, January 4, 2010 – All rights reserved.



This Aspie Isn’t Quite Getting Online Social Media Interaction

As a woman diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in adulthood, perhaps I am still finding my way in some respects. I don’t know. However, this aspie is not quite getting social networking. I wonder, is it just me? I’d love to hear from other aspies about what they get or don’t get about social networking and social networking sites. What do you like about social networking and what don’t you like and why? Could it be that the word social, even from behind a computer screen, still packs a punch that leads to similar confusion online as it can so easily, socially, in “real life”? There’s something about being in my own world behind my computer screen that leaves me not so enthused about too much interaction what seems often intrusive interaction. Interaction that the purpose is at times not very clear.

The explosion of social networking sites like Facebook and others – and I’m not talking about dating-type sites – that’s a whole other thing – has brought with it the idea that the internet experience should be interactive. I wonder why. I truly do. I have been told by NT friends and others on the internet as well what is so wonderful about all of this interaction online. I don’t think I get it. I mean I blog, okay, but I have never been one to blog to get comments or to blog and wait for comments. Not that comments aren’t welcome, they are. It’s just that for me blogging is about saying what I have to say – period. It’s about sharing what I have to share. It isn’t that interactive for me. Ironically most of my blogs are not crammed with comments. I don’t know why.

Social networking sites and even twitter – in terms of personal tweets – leaves me scratching my head. I have thoughts about it, I observe it, but I really must be missing something. I got on Facebook the other day for the first time in months. I noticed in the feed that many of my “Facebook Friends” like apps for sure. They are starting zoos and doing something or other in some place called “Yoville” or something like that. Honestly, when I see these messages I’m like, okay, whatever that’s about. I mean I understand what apps are but the devotion of the masses – nope – that I don’t get? Anyone else? I wonder if my not getting it is just an Asperger thing or if it has more to do with the fact that perhaps many others, even NT’s don’t get it?

What do I mean by not “getting it”? Well, technically, that’s not the problem. I can interface with the actual technology. It’s more the logical purpose part that seems to be missing. I mean that I don’t see the reason or purpose to be ‘apping’ as a means of what appears to me on my screen to indicate some combination between some kind of “gaming” and perhaps something that is socially pleasing? I don’t know. Do you?

What really is puzzling to me in some way is the socialization aspect of social media. From an aspie point of view it seems without purpose to a large extent. However, it is likely not thought of as such by NT’s. I have a very busy and active mind. I am not usually lost for words. Even socially in my life, I keep pushing my limits, and I’m doing okay. The things is though, when I go to Facebook or even Twitter, and I see that little box looking back at me that says, “what’s on your mind?” on the screen, my mind goes totally blank. Unless I am posting to my Twitter or Facebook Pages (re coaching, self help, education, writing etc.) I can’t think of a darn thing to say. I mean why would I want to tell a couple of hundred or more people that I just ate a piece of toast or something? Why would they want or need to know that? Why do people want to know such personal details about or from others. That rat-a-tat-tat of social-chit-chat leaves me with an uncommon stilling of my thoughts – thoughts that suddenly do not seem relevant, social enough, or interactively-applicable. Thoughts that flourish in and from another dimension, world, or planet, as I experience them in the context of all that I read that others enjoy sharing with each other.

I understand that to some degree social networking for business or web endeavours has merit. I must admit, even that I do very little of. Am I really missing something? Beyond even that however, I the more I get messages from people, from networking sites and apps and stuff everywhere I turn on my computer online, the more I absolutely don’t get it. So, what am I missing exactly? Is this app-networking like a real-life social situation wherein people join in some activity for the heck of it because it’s what everyone is doing? Because it’s the “in thing” – the thing to do?

Okay, I’ll stop guessing. I wonder how many others with Asperger’s Syndrome find themselves puzzled by all this social network app and seemingly endless communication? Is it a world onto itself? This aspie is resisting it becoming a part of my world as hard as I can. I really am. Intellectually I get it but socially or inter-personally, I have to admit I do not get the value or the reason or the purpose.

I long for the good ole online days where I could just write on my sites or blog or what have you and receive email. That was simple. It’s purpose rarely complicated.

© A.J. Mahari, November 30, 2009 – All rights reserved.


Does The Social Isolation of Asperger’s Ever Push You to Despair?

Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome often struggle with a profound social isolation. Some feel it more than others. For some it is managed but for others it leads to despair and for still others it could factor into feeling like one wants to commit suicide.

If you have Asperger’s, have you ever felt this way? I heard recently from someone with Asperger’s Syndrome who wants to remain anonymous but who asked me to post something they shared with me on this blog.

The person who sent me this email is a 44 year old woman who says she just is at a point of such emotional pain – an emotional pain she described to me as seeming not only endless in terms of her social isolation but an emotional pain that she realized recently she has always felt and struggled with.

This 44 year old woman asked that I just call her E. E and I had a long conversation about the reality and nature of social isolation in Asperger’s Syndrome. I know myself, it’s an isolation that isn’t always felt as isolation as such but it can bring about many different feelings. I think that for many with Asperger’s Syndrome issues within the social realm of life cause varying degrees of emotional pain and bouts of despair and/or loneliness that need to be coped with. They can often come and go. More and more in my life they seem to come rather than go though.

E writes:

“I am not a person who thought that I would ever want to take my own life yet I find myself feeling this way a lot lately. I don’t think I want to take my life. I know that sometimes there is just such a deep pain that I have absolutely no idea what to do with that it pushes me into feeling total despair.

I watch people socialize, as if it was a sport or something – a sport I can’t play, don’t get, and that makes no sense to me. A sport that I sure don’t have the rules to or for. Whatever it is that people are sharing seems important to them. I don’t get it. I really just don’t get it. It is foreign to me. But then I look at my own life and I don’t have any friends. I don’t have any family. I am not connected to anyone, place, or even thing. Sometimes that matters and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s hard to articulate.

All I really know about these feelings of despair is that they come out of feeling like I don’t belong anywhere. I don’t feel like anyone cares about me. I don’t know anyone. And to be honest, at least a lot of the time, I don’t know that I really care about others – not the way it seems you are actually supposed to, if that makes any sense?

I’m writing to you A.J. in the hopes that you can talk to me because you have Asperger’s Syndrome and because you are a life coach. I don’t know who else to even try to explain this to. I don’t want to put my feelings on to you but I figure you must at least understand what I am talking about at some level.

Do others with Asperger’s Syndrome, if they are really honest with themselves, ever also struggle with this painful place that can rise up out of nowhere and leave you feeling that you just don’t belong anywhere? Do others feel as invisible, weird, and unimportant as I do? Even sometimes? Are there others out there like me who have no friends and no family and just feel like society sees them as worthless as a result?

I really feel like I want to just quit on life. I have no plan or anything right now but when I get to this place where I hurt so bad, I cry, the tears juts pour down my face. And I know that there isn’t anyone to help me with this. I know that this cannot be changed. I have Asperger’s and what that mainly means, among other things, is that I am lost socially. I stick out somehow. I have been bullied all my life. I am a freak. People see that I am different. I don’t even understand how they figure that out when they don’t even know me. I feel socially helpless and so clueless – just totally lost and that means painful despair for me”

If you have Asperger’s Syndrome and you are reading this and relate, I’d sure welcome your comments so that E can get some feedback other than the feedback I gave to her. I wonder if we don’t all know this place of despair when it comes to the reality of that intersection between Asperger’s and social struggles to varying degrees?

I hope that some readers will share their feelings and/or experience about social struggles and/or being bullied or teased and having Asperger’s and if that leads to feeling so frustrated it ends up going all the way to feelings of despair and/or hopelessness.

I have known 3 people with Asperger’s Syndrome who did take their own lives. Do we talk enough about Asperger’s Syndrome and suicide?

I must say that I strongly identified with most of the despair that they felt, at one point or other in my life. I myself sometimes do feel a significant amount of pain at the difference that I know I own when it comes to social “stuff” because I have Asperger’s. Not that that means the same thing every day or in every single social situation.

I also wonder if there aren’t aspects of socialization, whether understood, cared about, desired, or wanted at all, that still somehow end up effecting us in ways that leaves us feeling less than in the face of what is often a glaring difference. I must admit that there are times when I realize later how unaware of my own glaring difference I can be. And when the awareness arises later I can’t deny that it can be extremely painful. There is something very cyclical about this that continues to unfold in my own social experience, at times, that I may somewhat intellectually understand or have some insight about but that still, in the actual unfolding moments of, I remain mind-blind to.

Does the social isolation of Asperger’s ever push you to despair? If so, what do you do when you reach that place? What do you feel?

If you don’t want to share a comment here on the blog, but would like to discuss this, please feel free to email me at aspergeradults@yahoo.ca

© A.J. Mahari, May 8, 2009 – All rights reserved.


Asperger’s Syndrome – Living in Another World

Many who have Asperger's Syndrome are either described by others or describe themselves as living in another world. What does that mean? Is that true? What is it about having Asperger's Syndrome that leaves us, at least part of the time living in another world?

In my experience I get this "other world" feeling or have this "other world living" experience primarily within the social context of what it seems to mean, to the average neuro-typical, to be "in" the world or connected to the world out there. The world out there meaning the social "world" out there.

I really do not have a problem or issue at core with the awareness that I do often experience living in "another world". It is my inner world. It is the world of my narrow focuses (2 or 3 of them) of interest. It is a world that makes most sense to me. It is a world that holds within it the experience of my purpose, and who knows maybe even "the" purpose for my having Asperger's in the first place.

I think the problem, or the rub, if you will, for many with Asperger's about this living largely in another world comes from the reality that any world other than the neuro-typical "social" sphere such as it is, is somehow a less than way to be or place to be or both.

I think it is important to realize if you have Asperger's Syndrome (AS) that living in another world is part of who you are. It is part of how you are as well. It is part of your way of experiencing life. That doesn't make it less than the neuro-typical way of experiencing or living life – just different.

Different needs to be dissociated from meaning less than. What we do not understand about each other and each other's "worlds" needs to be accepted and validated and not judged.

Living in another world, my aspie world, doesn't mean that I do not have any connection to the "outside world" or to the neuro-typical world. I do. There are many ways and times that I have this connection. It is not a connection that I need per se. It is not a connection that fills me up by any means. It actually empties me out.

I do, however, continue to be most puzzled at the neuro-typical social world and all that entails. Do I connect to that some times? Yes. Do I always get how? No. Do I feel lost in that connection often, socially, yes. Does it matter anymore? No, not to me, not really. How come it doesn't?

Simply because I realize the importance of letting go of ever thinking that I will ever get that neuro-typical social world. I know I won't. So many times I have tried. So many times I thought I did get it, for a few minutes. So many times I thought I was in an experience of it only to come to find that, no, actually, it was its own version of hit and miss. That's okay. It is what is. And actually each and every time I experience the awkward feeling meeting of my aspie world and the neuro-typical social world I think that I do gain more insight and awareness into the differences – the ways in which I am different.

Does that insight and awareness mean anything in the actual unfolding of relating or experiencing neuro-typical social world? Nope. Intellectually, yes. In the unfolding of the relational dynamic, each and every time, no, not really.

I can map out more each time I gain more awareness but the truth is I make some of the same – what neuro-typicals may well think of as "mistakes" each and every time I leave aspie world to connect with their social reality in the not-so-effective ways that I actually do that.

There is a truth, in fact, though about living in another world, living in my aspie world and that is that even when it seems I can unstep it or escape it - it is a painful and often times frustrating type of desired (at times) illusion.

The trick is to first accept living in another world. Secondly, it is important to not allow yourself to feel shame or wrong or less than when you realize later or it is pointed out to you later how you didn't quite get to where you had hoped you had gotten to, socially.

It is what it is. Its meaning is only imposing if we let it be. We don't have to engage the idea (or what can be painful feelings) that we are less than because we aren't the "norm" or the average social majority.

Living in another world is just a part of having Asperger's Syndrome. I as someone with Asperger's Syndrome don't value or need or even really want the same type of socialization that most neuro-typicals seem to want, need, and thrive with. I thrive in different ways.

Have you ever stopped to really think about how many different worlds there really are within our one over-all world? There are likely more than you've ever even thought about. We are divided and sub-divided many times over by what we have in common and more often than not by all that we do not have in common.

It is and will be okay the minute you just accept that for what it is. Accept it. Celebrate who you are. Let go of the idea or concept that we all have to be the same. We aren't and we don't. No one is right and no one is wrong. That's the true beauty of difference.

© A.J. Mahari, May 3, 2009 – All rights reserved.


Real Freedom in Asperger’s Born Out of Living Outside the NT Box

Adults with Asperger’s Sydrome (AS) really know what it is to live life and to exist, be and differently function outside of the Neuro-Typcial (NT) box which is all-too-often held up as the measure by which we all must be held to standard. It is the measure used to determine value and worth, success and failure. It is the box that traps the NT and those with AS live much richer lives and should not be tarnished with this brush of judgment.

Monism, which is the doctrine that mind and matter are formed from, or reducible to, the same ultimate substance or principle of being, can be assimilated into an understanding of what it is like to be an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). It speaks to the reality that life is not some “other defined box” into which we must all fit. We, as beings, within this human realm with all of its incumbent nature cannot and should not be reduced to a single principle or way of being.

Human nature to varying degrees conditions human knowledge. Knowledge is inherently derived from what we are taught and what we experience. It can also be postulated that knowledge is also derived from our intuition, our spiritual essence. How we learn, how we process, how we experience concepts, precepts, and datum drive the ways in which we come to a working and ongoing understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Ashok Tiwari – in “Real Freedom, A Philosophical View”, on his website asserts that, “Monism does not see, behind man’s actions, the purposes of a supreme directorate, foreign to him and determining him according to its will, but rather sees that men, in so far as they realize their intuitive ideas, pursue only their own human ends. Moreover, each individual pursues his own particular ends. For the world of ideas comes to expression, not in a community of men, but only in human individuals. What appears as the common goal of a whole group of people is only the result of the separate acts of will of its individual members…”

So, what I am driving at here is simply this: People with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) live outside the box of the “whole group”, or society in general. This is seen, viewed, and defined by most as being “less than” and/or dysfunctional. When, in truth, what this really means is that those with AS are living lives that are of a different nature than those who are neuro-typical (NT). What the majority, in this case, NT’s, have in common, is all-too-often (if not always) seen and defined as “normal” leaving anyone, anything, or any difference in values, morals, goals, life choices, paths in life and so forth being categorized as unsuccessful or not valuable in accordance with a monistic view that rejects the metaphysical philosophy of freedom.

Freedom like a stone, in the eyes of some perhaps, but freedom nonetheless.

We are only as free, in this world, as our thoughts and understanding will allow us to be. Those of us with Asperger’s are in some ways freer than the average NT who ascribes wholly to the datum which espouses the kind of like-mindedness required to chase the 9-5 definition of both functionality and success.

To live outside of this cherished box is seen as the equivalent of being a failure. To society, it is defined as failing to do what an adult is supposed to do. It is viewed as a disability. I have struggled with this freedom-robbing reality all of my life. I am just now coming to a place of burgeoning freedom, understanding, and personal acceptance. I am coming to truly accept what it means to have Asperger’s Syndrome, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am now a strong believer in the inherent difference between how I process information, view the world, function, contribute to the world around me, play my part, accomplish, and so forth, as an individual. No doubt that the Asperger way is much more unique (often seen as “weird”) but it is nonetheless totally a worthy and valuable way of being firstly, being in the world secondly, of processing information thirdly, and fourthly of relating.

If some of us didn’t live outside of the box, whatever you define that box to be, how would the rest of you come to know that box so well? I don’t judge those who live in the box so why judge me for not living there?

It is the inability that I have to be a part of the masses in many ways that actually is valuable and makes me tick so to speak. The reality of the metaphysical masses assumes that reality is a unified whole and that all existing things can be ascribed to or described by a single concept or system. A single way of doing things. A single way of being in the world – being social – being driven by a set of common values, morals, and a code of conduct.

Those of us with Asperger’s Syndrome, to varying degrees, live outside of this single way conceiving, thinking, understanding, acquiring knowledge, functioning or being. This reality does not make us any less. In fact, many would argue it makes us a whole lot more. It makes us more individual. We walk to the beat of our own drummers. Not all that is eccentric is negative. Not all that is not part of the main is negative.

Those of us with AS have a different nature. We have to be true to our natures just as NT’s have to be true to their natures. To all adults, like me, with Asperger’s I say, be sure to celebrate your differences and not get caught up in the “I’m supposed to be like everyone else” kind of thinking. There truly is not, despite the rhetoric spouted from so many areas of life, any everyone else, at all.

Gregory B. Yates, in his writing, “A Topological Theory of Autism,” says “Autism emerges as a major feature of brain evolution: It is generally not a disease. Autism has been with humans as long as humans have been and has marked human history.”

Yates makes it clear that the central defining feature of autism is social disconnectedness. Yates points out that, “The name “autism” derives from the Greek word “auto” for self, and proclaims the apparent mental involution or self-absorption of autistic people.”

As one who has to a certain degree experienced (and I continue to experience) what Yates describes as an “apparent mental involution” along with a dose of “self-absorption” I do not agree that how these are from the inside out are the same as how they are defined from those on the outside, looking in and trying to understand.

There is an awesome gift in the form of AS mental involution. I experience that gift in many different ways not the least of which is the way that I crave and process information.

I would also assert that not all that is involuted is negative either. Just as all that is exuded is not all positive or negative.

Just as the words of Ashok Tiwari, in “Real Freedom, A Philosophical View, “…men, in so far as they realize their intuitive ideas, pursue only their own human ends. Moreover, each individual pursues his own particular ends. For the world of ideas comes to expression, not in a community of men, but only in human individuals…” point out self-absorption is not reserved only for those who are autistic of have Asperger’s but is to some degree a part of the human condition.

What then, I ask, is the difference between the pursuits of those with Asperger’s, such as myself, for example, and the pursuits of others? Though some want to make these worlds or realities so different I postulate that there is more similarity than difference.

Being in one’s own world, to whatever degree one is socially disconnected, or different, can be one of the most single freeing experiences that a human being can hope to atta
in. Not all that glitters is gold. Just as not all that appears to be negative or is judged as negative or a lack is in fact the negative lack of anything.

Conversely, what I know about Asperger’s Syndrome from the inside out is that the reverse is actually true more often than not. What professionals and others deem to be such lack of functioning (which is really more to speak to a lack of “fitting in”) is for me the antithesis, of free-thinking, freedom of self-expression, a very strong ability not only to process information but to assimilate it and take things further than most give effort to thinking about in a 9-5 box.

Living outside the box has its inherent burdens but the benefits, in my experience, far outweigh them.

As an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome the freedom that exists outside the box is profound and cherished. As I keep pushing the limits of my box-free existence I continue to find more and more to celebrate and less and less to feel inadequate about.

Feelings of inadequacy often arise out of taking on the imposed “should-be’s” of others. They can also exist and be painful if one continues to believe that having Asperger’s and what that means in terms of being different makes one “less than”. Feeling “less than” is often a response to the negative experiences that accumulate when difference is not met with acceptance or understanding.

This process of self-acceptance is very much about not buying into the “party line”. Know that what appears to be the “common goal of the whole group” or a norm of our collective culture is really underneath it all a reflection of a mass mentality that seeks to undo the inherent essence of spiritual being — and our freedom to be as individual and different as we want to be or need to be in what it means to just be who one is.

© Ms. A.J. Mahari January 11, 2005 – with additions February 13, 2009 – All rights reserved.


Do Aspies Really Feel Love For Others?

Neuro-Typicals (NTs) often wonder if those with Asperger’s Syndrome really feel love for others. As someone with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), in my own experience, I think that what is more at issues isn’t so much what someone with AS feels or doesn’t feel but can they communicate what they feel or do not feel in a way that NTs can understand.

Recola, who has an aspie boyfriend and posted in the discussion area of Aspergeradults.ca Forum describing some difficulty encountered with her aspie boyfriend. She described his not being there for her in times of needing emotional support and understanding when she needs space due to her own stresses and/or his not fully understanding her need for space when she feels this way.

She asked this question: “Do Aspies really feel love for others or do they just stay with people who give them a comfort level?” and described that her aspie boyfriend seems to take leave of the relationship when she is depressed and that things seem to switch from him professing his love for her to him saying to her that “You need a helpful loving person, someone who can get you through those tough times that you have. I don’t have the energy for that”.

The first thing I want to make really clear in response to this is that each and every person with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) has their own individual responses to life, to the stress of relating. Each individual person with Asperger’s has varying degrees of understanding of “other”. Whether or not Recola’s boyfriend can actually understand what her stresses or feelings of depression are like and what she needs and why or not is not clear. He may well not be able to empathize. Some people with AS lack empathy. Some have empathy and can’t express it. Some both have empathy and express it in their own ways.

It is important to remain cognizant of the fact that each and every situation for those who are involved in relationships with those with AS is somewhat individually different. There is no blanket statement to be made that every aspie will do this or that or not be able to do this or that relationally.

Asperger’s Syndrome is indeed a complication to many aspects of relating generally and specifically in interpersonal relationships for most. I believe that those of us with AS can learn to compensate for
that which we don’t understand very well. We can learn how to meet our partner’s needs, or at the very least how not to stress them more when they are facing emotional turmoil or other life challenges.

To the question posed, “Do Aspies really feel love for others or do they just stay with people who give them a comfort level?” forgive me for sounding like a broken record when I say that it is such an individual thing. There is no lumping us all together generally or when It comes to the ability (or perhaps lack thereof) to relate to a significant other. What it sounds like the aspie described by this poster to the discussion area of this topic is struggling with is lack of emotional reciprocity. This may well be because he, like many with AS, has mind blindness, which is described through the “Theory of Mind”

Theory of mind, or mind blindness is an impairment that those with AS must learn to compensate for to one degree or another in order to maintain heathy and functional relationships with those who are Neuro-typical (NT).

Those with AS may lack the ability to be able to consider, understand, and cope with other people’s thoughts and feelings. There may be times when an aspie may have a degree of understanding but not have found a way to communicate that understanding in a way that an NT would readily comprehend.

This reality can lead to difficulties in the areas of trying to comprehend the intentions, motivations, and subsequent actions and feelings of others.

If you are in a relationship with someone with Asperger’s you must remember that NT’s and those with AS do not share similiar ways of processing information and/or communicating. So to highten the chances of successful communication each must be willing to be patient in hearing the other.

People with AS may also lack understanding of their own emotions and/or the emotions of others. This often manifests as a lack of empathy.

At times any lack of understanding of emotions, one’s own or those of others, can be the result of the time it takes aspies to process information. Sometimes, just allowing the person with AS a little more time will help him or her to identify what they feel or to understand more about what an NT feels.

There are compensatory strategies that can build strength and more understanding to decrease the impact and potential negative effects this impairment. This has been my experience. However, that said, not all aspie’s will be able to make these efforts or even desire to consider making these efforts to learn to bridge the emotional and social gaps between themselves and those who are NT.

To answer the question then, I believe that aspies really do love others in their own way. What that way ends up being, looks like or consists of varies. As an aspie who has stretched and grown in compensatory ways in this area myself I know that in my own case I am not seeking to be in a relationship in the search for some comfort level. Comfort is often elusive and over-shadowed by the anxiety that presents when I am relating to my partner. So to the degree that any aspie seeks to be in relationship to another (and especially an other who is NT) I believe that in most cases this would be from a place of love – love as the aspie understands it which may be quite different and much more limited than an NT understanding and experience of love.

When Recola’s aspie boyfriend says he doesn’t have the energy to cope with her emotional state or needs this may be the product to some degree of mind blindness. It may also have a lot to do with the stress that dealing with emotions causes many with AS.

The bottom line here for Recola, or anyone who is NT in a relationship with someone with AS is that you have to decide what you need. You have to clearly ask yourself what you can and cannot live with.

I would encourage each individual NT in relationship to a person with AS to also consider just where on the spectrum their desired significant other is. I say this because I know from my own experience as a high functioning aspie that I can be taught how to respond to what my partner needs. I continue to educate myself and to challenge myself to learn and grow and adapt the best I can. My partner continues to learn how to best cope with the areas that present difficulties for her and then we both work at communicating and understanding each other.

I do not believe that aspies just stay with people who give them a comfort level because the exposure anxiety and general stress involved in relating are often formidable and for most I believe would be (as in my case) motivated by very real feelings of love. The territory that those with AS have to navigate to express love and to cope with relating is very different from the terrain traveled by those who are NT.

These relationships, between those with AS and NT’s require continued effort on both people’s part to address the challenges that will present themselves and it is crucial to understand that all that a couple seeks to mirror to and for each other within a relationship will be two very distinct reflected images presented in very differing styles of relating, communicating, and emotional expression.

It is therefore very important that assumptions aren’t made “facts”. Each person, and perhaps even more so the NT in the relationship need to clarify and re-clarify things in order to accurately understand the feelings and intentions of his or her partner.

© Ms. A.J. Mahari April 12, 2005 with addition on February 7, 2009 – All rights reserved.

A.J. Mahari is a Life Coach who, among other things, specializes in working with those with Asperger’s Syndrome and their partners, relatives, or friends. A.J. has 6 years experience as a Life Coach and works with clients from all over the world.


What is the Impact of Jenny McCarthy’s Autism Cure Claims To Those Adults With Asperger’s Syndrome?

What is the impact of Jenny McCarthy’s experience with her son Evan wherein, according to McCarthy, her son is cured? Is he cured? Do people with autism or Asperger’s want to be cured? Is it something that needs fixing?

Jenny McCarthy, a self-professed advocate for her son Evan, who was diagnosed with Autism, and for other children who have been or will be diagnosed with autism, has written a memoir about her experience “Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey In Healing Autism

The main thrust of McCarthy’s memoir, aside from telling the story of a very dedicated mother who has fought hard for her autistic son, centers around what McCarthy terms Evan’s “recovery”.

McCarthy, appearing on The View, Live with Regis and Kelly, Oprah, and Larry King to name the shows I saw her on, in each interview first spoke of Evan as recovered from autism. She would then, later in each interview, sort of back track from the word “recovery” and point out that while Evan does now attend a regular school and interacts much better and so forth, he does still have challenges.

 What is the impact, generally, of this on those with Asperger’s Syndrome?

This might be a very difficult thing to assess. However, the specific autistic challenges that McCarthy’s memoir deals directly with the journey that the intervention strategies, treatments, and interventions, of more “classically autistic children” require. While not agreed upon by all professionals totally, there are doctors who support McCarthy’s strategies and results. Though the doctor who was on with her on Larry King was careful to say that results of these treatments vary widely in autistic children and the reasons for that aren’t fully understood. It is agreed, however, that the earlier these alternative treatments are attempted the greater the likelihood of favourable results.

It seems to me that to some significant extent a lot of what is being fought for by McCarthy and others for their autistic children are things that most children with Asperger’s Syndrome don’t ever lose (totally). Things like some eye contact, speech, the ability, (on a wide spectrum that varies in degrees) to be able to relate and be interactive. The question that begs asking here is do those with Asperger’s even require the same intervention? Will they benefit from the same things that McCarthy’s son did?

What is the impact, specifically, of this on those who are adults with Asperger’s?

I know for myself, speaking as an adult with Asperger’s who didn’t find out until I was 40 years old, it personally causes me a little bit of grief. Grief that I didn’t find out I had AS when I was a child. Grief that as a female much of what I was caused difficulty by was even more invisible than it is for most young aspie boys.

Grief that causes me to wonder, briefly, how would my life have been different – or if in fact it would have been different – if in fact it would have been different – if I had a mother who went to bat for me (which I did not have at all) like McCarthy has for her son. Grief just thinking about the what-ifs which is not a place I recommend any adult with AS stay in long. But it is only human to go there at times.

Self-reflection on these feelings and this grief, I think is necessary at times, for greater self-understanding, and in the end, a greater self-acceptance too.

How it impacts me, as someone on the specturm, who has Asperger’s is that I wonder about the quest to normalize autistic children. It’s a catch-22 of sorts. It hits at the question, are we all supposed to be the same? How does this desire and/or quest to make every child “normal” effect the way that we value or fail to value inherent differences? Does it send a message that what is perceived and defined by
many as a disability is a less than way of being. This is an attitude that leads to discrimination and marginalization of inherent worth.

McCarthy’s memoir, “Louder than Words” does tell a compelling story. It does offer hope for a growing number of parents and their autistic children. The statistics now say that 1 in 150 children will be diagnosed with Autism. Those numbers keep rising. Autism, in all its forms, is an epidemic, in North America for sure, and perhaps also in other countries.

As an adult with Aspeger’s Syndrome, however, it feels like a catch-22 of sorts to me – this entire issue of getting the most autism out of a child type of thing. For me being on the autistic spectrum continues very much to be an on-going paradox.

It has its amazing aspects and it has its challenging, frustrating, and still at times, painful and/or emotionally difficult aspects for sure. The question that comes up for me is would I really want to be changed now if that was possible or ever to be possible? I think, in spite of everything, my answer is – no. I have come to value my differences. I have come to find ability from the depths of what are challenges and inherent differences between myself and those who are neuro-typical (NT). In other words I am finally finding peace with being who I am. I am who I am in all that means. Asperger’s is not the some total of who I am but it is an important part of who I am.

I know that the important distinction (perhaps among many others) between Asperger’s and more profound manifestations of autism – or classic autism – has a lot to do with the differences that those of us with Asperger’s have in terms of being verbal, being able to communicate and not being “classically trapped” in a separate totally internal and separate world. However, I will make the point that there are times in my life, even now, when while I might know differently intellectually, there are times when being an aspie, primarily in the social arena, leaves me feeling like I know a little bit about what it might like to be that more classically autistic child. Socialization, is still, at times, and in many ways, for me, not at all like I’ve heard it described by NT’s and it can still cause frustration, pain, and lostness. But, as this is my own personal journey through this life, I take it that there is great purpose, even in that.

I do at the same time very much recognize the battle and the validity and important of this battle for these more “classically autistic children” however. Many of them are reported to seem rather normal until a certain age (or set of circumstances – some believe after vaccinations for example) when suddenly they withdraw inward and they stop communicating, stop making eye contact and more and more are lost inside of themselves in more profound forms of “classic autism”. To be saved from being trapped within I think is huge and important. To be helped to be able to communicate and to interact – to whatever degree – can make a life with autism much more liveable, especially for those around that child who love and want and need to interact with them.

The interesting thing in all of this too, in my opinion, is that much of what McCarthy talks about has having helped her son Evan, the wheat and gluten free diet, and addressing the yeast in his system, for example, along with the other methods used to “rehabilitate” him, referred to still as alternative treatments, do not work the same for all children with autism. Even all the children who are now able to take advantage of what McCarthy did for her son, the results vary widely. I wonder what information, if any, this fact, may well yield that may shed more light on the issue of whether or not what McCarthy’s son and others like him have actually experienced. Is it recovery? Does it have to do with the degree to which they were autistic? Can this be measured? It seems in many ways, for me, to raise more questions than this held out “cure” actually provides.

And another question that crosses my mind is of course related to causation. Can autism really be cured without knowing what causes it? What leaves one child classically or more profoundly autistic and the next with Asperger’s Syndrome, for example? Is it a case of different causes?

Is Jenny McCarthy and her son Evan’s journey revolutionary? Is it more typical than is known? Will it become more typical? Is it too cost prohibitive for way too many families?

And of course, I have to add here again, that there needs to be services and supports put in place for adults no matter where they fall on the autistic spectrum. Not every parent as McCarthy’s fortitude, reserve, or even financial choices. Not all autistic children treated like Evan will have the same outcome. Therefore, it is not just adults with AS that need services and supports because today’s aspie kids and  autistic kids will be tomorrow’s invisible adults on the autistic spectrum for whom service is only a wished-for thing and certainly is not, in reality, tangible in any meaningful way.

© A.J. Mahari October 2, 2007 – All rights reserved.

A.J. Mahari is a Life Coach who, among other things, specializes in working with those with Asperger’s Syndrome and their partners, relatives, or friends. A.J. has 6 years experience as a
Life Coach and works with clients from all over the world.

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The Legacy of Asperger’s Syndrome and Being Diagnosed As an Adult

There is a legacy left in the wake of childhood and adolescence lived unknowingly superimposed upon what is the foundational hard-wiring of difference and social disconnectedness that are central to the reality and scope of Asperger’s Syndrome and that form different ways of thinking and perceiving that are outside the ebb and flow of the landscape of the stratum of social terra firma. A legacy of defectiveness that my personhood was engulfed in and defined by through the judgment of the NT masses.

A legacy created by the reality of not having been diagnosed and informed so many years ago.

When the way one thinks, perceives, and experiences the world is then challenged and one is labeled  weird, bullied by others for their differences as I was as a child, the legacy is one of ominously oppressive observation that leads to a negative association of all that it means to be who one really is. Being who I was as a kid was definitely not okay for so many reasons. Reasons that all these years later are all befuddling and bound together into one heterogeneous conglomeration of massive weighty wearisome foreboding familiarity.

Never mind the underlying reality of the social impairment of Asperger’s Syndrome the obliteration of any competent feelings of esteem and worth for who I was were annihilated. I fell of the wheel of life. Little did I know all those years ago that the wheel of social life that it felt like I actually fell off of was one that I never truly got to ride in the first place.

The reality of the social impairment and disconnectedness of the Asperger’s that existed underneath all of my experience unbeknown to me until I was 40 was formidable and painful and has definitely left in its wake an aching of longing as a legacy in my life. A longing that has been misleading. A longing that really wasn’t ever mine. A longing for all that I was told I was supposed to want, supposed to be, supposed to do and supposed to achieve, learn and be adept at. The longing was driven by how others defined me. It was driven by what others thought was who I should be, how I should be, what I should be interested in, what I should and should not pursue.

This long-enduring legacy in my life – this Asperger reality – cast a wide dubious and damaging shadow over my perception and experience in life and my psychological understanding of myself. There is nothing short of heart-ache associated with the great lengths that I went to try to pretend to be normal. I so tried to be what I thought it was that everyone else was. I failed miserably all over the place, and in each and every stage of life. (socially)

As an aside but also illustrative of the legacy of this hidden Asperger reality in my life, I was a lesbian growing up not knowing that, either, in a world that tried to teach me what my role as a taken-for-granted heterosexual woman was expected to be – that I would grow up, get married, and have children. When none of those things were unfolding in my life in my early and mid-twenties I can liken that experience somewhat to finding out about having Asperger’s and to having been banging my head on my Asperger wall as hard and as often as I pounded my psyche into the wall of sub-par woman for not getting married or having 2.5 children, to say nothing of the dog and the white picket fence.

I have managed the dog but that’s all of that dream that I was told I wanted that I could make come true. After all it was never my dream. It was society’s expectation of me. It meant I was flying in the face of a cultural norm. That’s lonely territory, but barely when compared to being socially clueless at the hands of what was most of my life a well-hidden and totally unrealized and overlooked enigmatic entity – Asperger’s Syndrome.

Legacy handed down from the past. A past in which a neuro-typical world tried to ram this round peg into its square hole over and over again. That took its toll. Legacy, the word, can also pertain to old or outdated computer hardware, software, or data that while it still may well function, does not work well with more up-to-date systems. That’s how I feel in a way. I feel that I do still function and in a way I have always functioned but much like an old computer functions, in a very tossed aside and not appreciated kind of way. I function differently from the NT masses just as an older computer functions differently than a newer one. It may not be adept at all the new bells and whistles of its social and user-friendly software but leave it to its own device, literally, and it will still get its job done, in its own way and its own time.

Falling Off The Merri-go-round of Life – A Ride I Wasn’t Ever Really On

My childhood was a world unto its own in so many ways as I look back on it. I remember my first day at grade school, kindergarten, I was four, almost five years old. I had been led to school by a neighbour girl after my mother had asked her mother if she would take me to school that day. This girl, who lived down the road was all of five. She was however more schooled in the ways of the world than I was. As we arrived at the school yard I was lost. I felt as if it all wasn’t really real. It was too much. Loud yelling and playing and screaming. Too many voices. Too much noise. The sun was so bright. I felt hot. I felt dizzy. I felt overwhelmed. None of those feelings were foreign to me, even at the age of four. I felt exhausted and the really alarming part of my day was yet to unfold.

With all of this play on the playground, all of the frantic mind-numbing activity, suddenly there was this very loud bell that sent a shrill pain of panic right through me. I didn’t know what was happening to me then or why. I just ran. I bolted. I took off. I ran all the way home and in record time. That was it. I was four and already I had enough of this normal life out in the what was such a foreign world to me. That bell had just blown a hole clear through any sense of being that I might of had. It had assaulted my entire existence.

I was of course dragged back to school, kicking and screaming by my mother. Once the bell was explained to me I learned to live with it. But, I could only live with it after I had made a point of knowing when it would go off and paying particular attention to that. I would worry about it and anticipate it long before its scheduled two rings each day. I managed to survive the bell ringing because I was able to plug my ears and somewhat protect myself from its daily assault on my being.

School, the merri-go-round work of childhood, was for me the very un-amusing ride off of which I fell abruptly, brutally and in many lasting ways. It made little sense to me for so long because I love information and I always loved to learn. I just could rarely go a whole day at school with all the stimulation, noise, and light that assaulted my senses in ways I had no reference point from which to understand.

As l recall from my childhood, while things were never really alright in my world, those shaky anxiety-producing experiences morphed into monumental trepidation of mammoth proportions when it was time, at the age of 12, to go from grade school to junior high school. It was a change I simply could not and did not cope with. I never knew why. From that point on I was on a mission to just opt out of what my imposed daily routine was. I had no way to cope with all the things that inundated me endlessly in all of the chaos that was class after class in sprawling buildings (we moved twice when I was in my two years of junior high) that I could never master finding my way around in.

Ironic that I would often get lost as I did in high school too. The getting lost just added to the reality of the fulility of even trying to be there at all. My school struggles left me feeling so damaged, so less than everyone else. I never dated in high school. I didn’t have friends at school and except for answering the odd question asked of me by teachers most days the whole day would go by and I wouldn’t utter a word. I talked to no one. I was suffering and suffering badly in so many ways. Some ways I found out about in my early 30’s as I dealt with mental health issues but I wasn’t really going to be able to put it all together in a way that imperfectly as hell made perfect sense until, at the age of 40, I found out that I had Asperger’s Syndrome.


When It Hurts – And it Does Hurt

Though I did not know I had Asperger’s Syndrome, as I said above, until I was 40 years old there was always its palpable pain present in my persecutory experience of what it meant to just fight to exist. So often so much hurt. The lights at school hurt. The cafeteria noise hurt so much I retreated to eating my lunch alone in the washroom.

I just couldn’t relax enough amid the noise and lights of the cafeteria to actually swallow food in there. The pressure of doing what everyone else was doing also really got to me. The socialization that was everywhere confused and overwhelmed me. I never really knew what to do.

I have lived in a world of hurt. When I could retreat to my own world I could find relief from most of my hurt. I would then only have to endure the enigma of my weirdness. The consternation of the judgment of others that I was beginning to impose upon myself. The reality that I wasn’t cutting it. The fact that all I knew I wanted and needed was my quiet dark room. My own world and to be left alone in it.

When it hurts I wonder, where is it I go? When it hurts I wonder, where is it that I am? When it hurts I wonder where have I always been? When it hurts it puts me in touch with the infinitely  infallible precision with which I have always been here. Here, under all of this pain. Under all of the “supposed to’s” and feelings of being different and weird.

Here, I have always been – here. Way down deep under it all. Under it all. So under it all. Under the constriction of trying to pretend I was normal. Under the negation of not knowing how to be who I really am instead of who everyone has tried to tell me I “should” be.

What kept me so under it all was really not knowing or understanding what “it” really was or that “it” was there and that “it” had so much influence and meaning in my life. It – Asperger’s Syndrome – was defining much of my perception (socially) and my experience in life (emotionally) and I didn’t even know it.

I think I get now, at the age of 50, that when I was flooded with such grief and utter despair that caused me to feel hopeless and suicidal for the better part of my 44th year – a year I spent actually trying to come to terms with having been told I had Asperger’s Syndrome four years earlier – wasn’t as much about all that I’d come through that had to do with mental health issues as I had originally thought.

There was that for sure. There was a sense of loss that I had worked so hard to become mentally healthy and to recover from so much – I wanted to be normal – damn-it – only to come to this brick wall of “you-are-never-going-to-be-normal-period – Asperger’s Syndrome.

Okay I relent, I surrender, I am not ever going to be normal That is finally okay. I radically accept that. I did, however, in reaching to be normal recover and heal from major mental health issues and I can honestly say that it was my quest to be normal that led me to the gift of average mental health – nonetheless. There are truly serendipitous blessings in all things.

Life has taught me so many times the hard way that it is important to note and notice and be grateful for all the times we do so much for one thing, that we can’t have or may never attain, but that in those efforts, there are other rewards. Rewards in the way of increased awareness that answers questions that we didn’t even know we had – the questions that even if we could have more awareness we’d likely be far too afraid to ever ask.

Questions that when understood by the unveiling of their unasked for answers solve the riddles we had yet to even ponder in any consciously-aware way.

This is why I have come to be a firm believer that it is so important to learn to live the questions. Living the questions of our lives and ourselves and our pain leads us to answers that we have no reference point for which to search until our experience in life unfolds in the form of questions. Questions arise when we meet with obstacles.

Obstacles are not stop signs.

In my experience obstacles are detour signs that take us down the highways of life that will yield us the bounty that we really need to uncover in our lives. If I had not been led down the scenic highway of having been sexually abused, raised in a dysfunctional abusive family, and having been diagnosed with a personalty disorder I would not have even been on the car in search of the normal whose yield to me, though it fell short, was not only average mental health but also the revelation of Asperger’s Syndrome in my life.

Asperger’s Syndrome the one remaining piece of the puzzle of my life. The left over lost legacy of what it means to truly be who I am.

But even more so than that dream I had to be normal the despair and the grief had an entirely different layer to it. I have just recently and slowly uncovered this layer. I am still uncovering it and really I may always be in some stage of its further being uncovered. This layer has all to do with the painful experiences of my childhood and adolescence.

Experiences that were enriched through their ability to cause me pain, in retrospect, no doubt, because I have Asperger’s Syndrome and I had no way, then to know that, as I know it now.

I had not yet been formally introduced to my Asperger wall of pain or its unending burdens and blessings in my life. There it was, my Asperger wall, stone cold, thick, inpenetrable, my worst enemy and my best friend.

For years I had no reference point for the foundation of my difference or for this wall that I would slam into over and over again. A wall, my Asperger wall, that I still do slam into with predictable regularity.

It is my Asperger wall that holds the very sacred parameters of my ability or lack thereof to find my way in the social sphere of life. As I continue to push the limits of my own social impairment and social disconnectedness I continue to not only hit my Asperger wall, but I get to know a little better each and every time I hit it. I learn just a little bit more about the nature of the pain of being one way in the world, autistic, and of being constantly expected to be another way – neuro-typical. There are so many lessons that fall to the foot of my Asperger wall where I sit, from time to time, crying and still trying to make sense of it all.

My Asperger wall is a sacred and paradoxical reality. It is the lighthouse of my limitations and the harbinger of all my potential to continue to find compensatory coping strategies that little by little do in some ways broaden the horizons of even my social understanding along with my ever-deepening understanding of who I really am and how okay that really is.

© A.J. Mahari December 2, 2007 – All rights reserved.

A.J. Mahari is a Life Coach who, among other things, specializes in working with those with Asperger’s Syndrome and their partners, relatives, or friends. A.J. has 6 years experience as a
Life Coach and works with clients from all over the world.


How Should NT’s Treat Those With Asperger’s Syndrome?

How should neuro-typicals (NT) treat those with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS)? Whose responsibility is it to ensure that communication is constructive and/or clear? Is it all up to those who do not have Asperger’s Syndrome to make things somehow better in relating for those with Asperger’s?

Is it the responsibility of those who are Neuro-Typical (NT) to ensure that the person (or persons with AS) that they are relating to feel comfortable all the time? What are NT’s supposed to do? What NT’s shouldn’t have to do is take full responsibility for any and all relating communicating, or socializing with an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome.

I received several emails on this subject from NTs, that in many different ways were all asking, How should you treat people with Asperger’s Syndrome? What should we do?

Let me respond, firstly, by saying that how those with Asperger’s Syndrome should be treated is not necessarily so different from how each and every one of us would be best served to strive to treat each other generally.

The ways in which we all need to strive to treat each other include being kind, caring, compassionate, understanding, non-judgmental, with respect and dignity, and as inclusive as possible and so on.

With particular respect to those with Asperger’s Syndrome the first thing to consider is whether or not you are interacting with a child, teen, or adult. The way in which you interact with a child or a teen varies
greatly, generally, and this is true of those with AS also.

Of course, relating to an adult, then would differ somewhat (AS or NT) from the ways that we relate to children or teens. Adults, even with AS, have much more responsibility to be a part of the building of the
foundation from which interaction can take place between two adults, whether that’s one NT and the AS adult or two AS adults or what have you.

While there are definite and varied styles and degrees to which socializing, or relating is accepted, understood, or wanted by those with AS, it is important to keep in mind the individual strengths and weaknesses of the person you are wanting to relate to. This would be the case whether someone has AS or not.

While there is no doubt that in most, if not all cases, of adults with Asperger’s communication with others in a relational or social context can be stressful, difficult, and often time-consuming, I don’t believe that those who are NT should be expected to bend over backwards all the time to try to ensure the comfort level of the person with Asperger’s.

Each adult with Asperger’s has to find his or her own way to comfort within a relational context. This can be done. The degree to which each adult with Asperger’s will want to relate or how often or how intensely varies greatly.

Personally, I do know that those who get to know me or who are closest to me do have to learn about what Asperger’s is and what that means and then learn more specifically how Asperger’s manifests in my relating and communicating. I think that just as those of us with AS continue to try to learn more about what NTs want and need and why, the same is true of NTs needing to learn more about what those of us with Asperger’s (individually) need and want and how it is that we process information differently, the reality of social challenges, and the ways in which having Asperger’s does impact relating.

It is important for those with AS to learn how to open up and trust a friend or partner with the vulnerable places where he or she may need to explain more to an NT to be understood and/or ask for help or information about how to best give the NT what they need. I ask those that I relate to if I’m being understood and I listen to them when they give me feedback as to what they may need that I don’t know to give without being cued to do so. Being open to being cued and then doing
your AS best to give is also very important.

Ideally, compromise and openness to understanding how the individual person you are relating to with AS would feel most comfortable is a very welcome and kind thing to keep in mind. Just as those with AS, wherever and whenever possible need to continue to learn how to reach out to those who are NT and try to find some common ground from which to relate. This ensures that both parties have opportunities to be heard, understood, and feel included and respected.

There may well be some concessions that will help make relating to someone with Asperger’s more accessible than not realizing that some more give (at times – yes maybe often) may be necessary on the part of those who are NT. However, that said, I personally believe, as an adult with Asperger’s myself, that it is my responsibility to work at finding and balancing my own comfort level in interaction with others. I do not believe communication (especially in friendships and relationships) will be effective for everyone if only one person is making all the efforts at creating a comfortable interaction.

Often relating to those of us with AS will require more patience on the part of NT’s. It would be counterproductive to apply pressure or to have certain expectations as to how someone with AS will communicate or relate or socialize with you (NT’s).

While that kind of consideration and effort is kind, caring, and compassionate and has its importance for those with AS it is important that NT’s (and those with AS) realize that the NT is not wholly responsible for all things communication-wise and so forth. Bridges must be built and responsibility for interacting must be shared to whatever level of sharing those with AS can achieve. Some with AS will be much stronger at this sort of thing than others.

So, basically, being kind and understanding and accepting are very important. However, remembering that you are not responsible for any entire interaction/communication/socialization with an adult with AS and that treating them like the person that they are and with respect is the most important thing.

Sometimes, for many with AS, the more intense any relational or social experience is the more stress they may have and the more they will have to deal with their difficulties. This is, however, something that most just want to be accepted in spite of for who they are. Most with AS do not want to be treated in such a way that would see the NT denying their own needs and wants and comfort needs and so forth.

We come from different worlds in the relational/social spheres and it is important to be as inclusive as possible and as accepting as possible. Patience always helps too. Require as much reciprocity as the adult
with AS, in your life, is able to give.

Just as those with AS want to feel some comfort level in interacting with others (and this is often difficult and stressful) those who are NT need also to ensure that they can find a comfort zone when relating to someone with AS.

We are different, just as are all individuals different in general too. Each one of us as human beings requires that we be seen for who we are and accepted for who we are. This applies to those with AS and those who are NT. This is common ground upon which to build foundations of communication.

© Ms. A.J. Mahari May 22, 2005 – with additions February 6, 2009 – All rights reserved.


Reflections on an Asperger Diagnosis In Adulthood

Learning that one has Asperger’s Syndrome as an adult is a different kind of challenge than those who find out with systemic and parental support and guidance in childhood. It gives one pause for much reflection.

Having Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) and knowing about it in childhood is one thing and being diagnosed as an adult is another. Trying to cope with AS after a life time of experiencing its many challenges and having not known the reason for its impact in my life has brought to the process a lot of reflecting and grief for me.

One of the most difficult challenges of dealing with an AS diagnosis in adulthood, for me, has been the reality that while I was finding all of this out there were no services to help in the necessary transition, adjustment, or understanding of what it will all mean in my life and for my future.

There is much to reflect upon when it comes to my experience of learning that I have Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 40.

The struggle and process of accepting AS, understanding how it plays out in my life, and affects my life generally is a gradual, still, unfolding one. This is especially true in terms of working hard to meet my partner (NT) in the middle of all that is complicated communication and relating.

One of the biggest challenges, in adulthood, is how to not only further educate yourself, after being diagnosed with AS, but the responsibility of informing and educating friends, family, and significant others so that relationships cannot only be maintained but enriched, viable, and as painless and stress-free as possible.

In my own life I have found that the more I relate in my primary relationship, the more I learn about how Asperger’s actually impacts my ability to relate. This is important to learn, to know more about and understand. However, with each new revelation and this further understanding comes pain, sometimes embarrassment, always grief and tears.

There is a natural tendency to want to protect that which one may feel leaves them so different, vulnerable, weak, or lost and yet for an adult with AS, it is crucial to trust your significant other with this tender and vulnerable area of lack of knowing or understanding relationally as NT adults relate and communicate in order to learn more and be able to push the limits of your ability to in fact relate, communicate and learn to negotiate.

The most difficult area, where I find this really impacts me, in terms of my relationship centres upon trying to learn to be more flexible, to manage the inevitable stress and agitation that result from a lack of unpredictability and/or changeability as well as learning what negotiation is and looks like. I may not always get there but when my partner is patient and I am able to follow through with my own communication process and differences in this area, I find that we can meet in some middle place that allows us to hear and understand each other and results in us reducing the amount of conflict between us.

Generally, then, and to summarize what I am reflecting about here, if you are, like me, an adult who is diagnosed with AS at an older age, it is very important that you give yourself time and space to accept this, to grieve and feel about it and to find ways to bridge the differences and gaps with those neuro-typicals (NT) in your life so that you don’t have to be so isolated.

I am learning through just living this and a process of trial and error that healthy risk, trust in myself, and in those I know, and in my partner mean that I can celebrate my differences, rejoice in the gifts of AS and not lose out in all other areas of NT life. I choose to step off of my AS (autistic) planet and onto the NT planet more often than ever before now. I also, at times, straddle both planets. There are times when just being on my AS planet also is very necessary. Making these shifts isn’t easy but the more I choose them the more I am able to better cope with them.

I have learned, that in fact, to some degree, I can have the best of both worlds. This is not the case without agitation, some stress, and pain. The key here, I’ve found, is learning to tolerate and cope effectively with the agitation, stress, and pain.

Though I can and do reach out to others and to my NT partner in ways that require me stretching and reaching and in ways that don’t feel first nature to me, I also very much have come to accept myself as I am. This acceptance is still growing. It is imporant because I had to come to learn and really know that it is okay to be different. I am still likable and lovable even though for many and for my NT partner I am (at some times more than others) quite different. In fact my NT partner even values some of my eccentricity and quirkiness. There is so much room for bridges to be built. Don’t let the fact that you have been diagnosed with AS (as an adult or at all regardless of age) leave you believing that you can’t learn to find your own way to the kind of communication and relating needed to share time and space and feelings with others.

It is my conclusion, upon this reflection that what I have to endure at times to be in a primary relationship and to have love and companionship in my life is well worth it. There are times I still feel pretty green and fairly lost but if I allow myself to be there and not judge myself I find I can navigate those waters, in time, quite effectively and with positive results.

There are times I really enjoy a lot about space, aloneness, and what it means to live in a more natural AS/autistic realm. However, I don’t have to be totally there.

Even those of diagnosed in adulthood and without services can learn to relate and function in ways (that while they feel foreign) allow us to know what deep connection is about (even if we need respite from it and it is stressful more often than not) and to know what it is to love and be loved.

There is life after the AS diagnosis in adulthood.

There can be relationships and relating. Educating oneself is of primary importance. Also of utmost importance is the realization, understanding, and acceptance of ourselves and the reality that while AS makes many things in life somewhat more complicated it bestows upon us gifts and skills that we must celebrate and fulfill our potential with, through, and because of.

© Ms. A.J. Mahari 2004