The Big Bang Theory may show the humorous side to the intense paranoia, struggles with empathy, sensory sensitivities and other key points of the mindset of the Asperger’s person. Yet, beyond a comedic device, the struggle is real for the neurodiverse person and their family members.
There is a great gaping hole in the awareness of Asperger’s or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in the general population. Since my husband’s diagnosis, he has felt at a loss as to how to explain himself and the stigma of judgement is so strong that he’d rather act ‘normal’ than be open about his struggles.
Despite how much understanding could be reached by educating people on it, the Asperger’s person normally lives in their own private hell – trying to make sense of reality when the majority of people see things differently.
I wish when people meet my husband they would leave their judgements at the door, and try to not view him through their view. Perhaps these points will help.
1. Things you may not notice, do bother him.
Sounds, smells and visuals are at a different intensity for him, so sometimes he can get irritable without warning. Shopping centres are torture for him and anywhere where there are multiple conversations going on at once can be trying.
2. He thinks you’re over-analysing him, and if you say you’re not, he probably won’t believe you.
The world makes sense to him only if everyone else thinks the way he does. He’d prefer to think that everyone else has the same neurodiverse qualities; because that means the world and other people would make sense to him.
3. He has a defence mechanism that can come across as childish.
That old taunt ‘I know you are, but what am I?’ is often used by the Aspie when they feel themselves being threatened. Even with a throwaway comment taken the wrong way (and he takes a lot of things the wrong way), my husband will likely bristle and attack you back.
He’s not trying being a jerk, his mind is just like a supercomputer which has identified you as a threat.
4. He likely doesn’t believe you’re being real with him.
Because he has to ‘act’ so much, studying traits, learning to fit in when it’s so unnatural to him, he naturally assumes other people are the same. My husband often expresses that everyone is an actor. Being overly sceptical has its uses: there’s less chance of being hurt.
5. Being around you is very tiring for him.
This is because he feels he has to be ‘on’ when he’s socialising. Managing social situations comes with great difficulty. Talking to more than one person is exhausting as it takes too long to analyse how to interact with each person. So if he picks up and leaves mid-conversation: it’s not you, it’s him.
There are other things such as how he takes things literally so some humour can be lost on him. It took my husband decades to understand sarcasm and he still needs clarification.
Asperger’s syndrome is not just a punch-line in a sitcom, it’s a real way of thinking for hundreds of thousands of people. However while they are labelled diverse, most would shun that label as their way of thinking is the only way they have ever understood.
My husband has many wonderful qualities, but being with someone who thinks so differently to the typical population has unique challenges. Studies show that about 80 percent of Asperger’s partners with non-Autistic partners divorce. The number could be even higher than that considering de facto and other partnerships.
The ASD mind cannot properly understand the needs of others, when they are concentrating on making sense of this crazy world for themselves. Deemed the Cassandra phenomenon by Professor Tony Attwood, partners of the Asperger’s person are often not believed in regards to challenges with their partner (including sometimes abusive behaviour).
If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, Asperger’s men are from another galaxy entirely and the sooner awareness is raised about ASD, the better the chance for the next generation to have fruitful relationships.
It is important for us to realise that there are no differences in Christ – from Romans chapter 10, verse 12 (paraphrased) – there is no difference between Jew and Gentile and Asperger’s, the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him. We are equally created in the image of God, but in a fallen world where some things go awry, people’s humanity is sometimes expressed differently. Jesus died for Aspies as much as for everyone else.