AS & Families - an Introduction

Asperger Syndrome (AS) is a disability on the autistic spectrum that is characterized by difficulties in both verbal and non-verbal communication, challenging social behavior, and difficulties understanding the intentions of other as well as one's own emotions. It is a neurobiological condition whose origin and cause remain unknown. Persons diagnosed with AS tend to be on the higher functioning end of the autistic spectrum. Many of them are able to become independent as adults, and lead apparently "normal lives." However, appearance is not reality for those who live with them as mates or as their children or relatives. Persons with AS are burdened with a wide range of "hidden" problems and difficulties throughout their lives. So are their families.

 As Asperger Syndrome has become an increasingly well-known condition of childhood, a growing number of adults of both sexes are being diagnosed relatively late in life. The ratio of men to women is at least four to one, although there is some indication that many women may be on the spectrum but their socialization as girls and young women has largely led to their autism being less obvious, hence more "invisible" than the autistic traits of men of their same age.

By the time a definitive diagnosis is made, the marital relationship between an AS spouse and an NT, or neurotypical person not on the autistic spectrum will undoubtedly have seen difficulties. A common occurrence in such marriages is evidenced by the non-spectrum spouse having to adopt a variety of additional roles including caregiver, mentor, advocate, and executive secretary. The fact that one spouse cares not only for children but "another adult child" places a tremendous burden on all the family. The stresses that these additional responsibilities bear are commonly not understood by other members of the family, friends, and those unfamiliar with the daily challenges of living in a family where Asperger Syndrome comes "as a part of the package."

 Currently, there are a few supports for spouses who discover that their partner is likely to be on the autistic spectrum. Traditional marital counseling often fails to address the complex issues that form a part of the daily dynamic of partnerships where a spouse is autistic.

 

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"We each have our own way of living in the world, together we are like a symphony.
Some are the melody, some are the rhythm, some are the harmony
It all blends together, we are like a symphony, and each part is crucial.
We all contribute to the song of life."
...Sondra Williams

We might not always agree; but TOGETHER we will make a difference.

 

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Updated 04/02/2014