Asperger’s & Neurodiverse Couples
Dr. Thomas coaches couples around the country who struggle with Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s is unique in the world of couples therapy and coaching. It is important to work with a coach or therapist experienced with this neurological difference. Many couples struggle with coaches and therapists who don’t understand the world of Asperger’s and especially the pain of a neurotypical or non-Asperger’s partner who has had years of ongoing trauma. With the right treatment and a motivated couple there is hope. Dr. Thomas has seen results and knows how to navigate this challenging path which can, despite taking time, lead to a new way of being in relationship that is fulfilling for both partners.
What is ASD and Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is a high functioning form of autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is comprised of a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that are characterized by two categories of symptoms: repetitive behavior patterns and social impairment. Some symptoms of adults with ASD include
- Difficulty making friends
- Unusual or repetitive use of language
- Abnormal intense focus on a topic of interest
- Rigid adherence to routines or rituals
- Difficulty initiating or sustaining a conversation
- Impaired ability to be creative or imaginative
Despite these symptoms, people with AS are gifted in many ways. They tend to have a superior intellect and an amazing ability to focus which may lead to impressive accomplishments in life. People with AS have a different kind of brain. Yet it’s the “best kind of different” as Shonda Schilling writes about in her book with the same name. See Dr. Thomas’ resources page to view her book. Please keep in mind that all ASD and AS individuals are unique and will have different levels of severity of symptoms or possibly none at all in some areas. Dr. Thomas will assess the presenting behavioral symptoms and gear treatment and coaching towards your specific case.
Neurodiversity – Positives and Negatives
Neurodiveristy is when an Aspie and a neurotypical (NT) person enter into a relationship. When an Asperger adult (Aspie) makes his or her partner their object of obsession it is flattering. A neurotypical (NT) partner can be impressed with the Aspie’s intellect, stability, focus, and accomplishments. Aspie’s appreciate how their NT partner manages social situations and deals with conflict. It can seem like a match made in heaven. Problems with neurodiverse couples surface when the Aspie’s object of focus moves away from his or her partner. It is when this happens that the differences in each partner seem more problematic than complementary. Part of treatment with Dr. Thomas is processing the emotional wounds that have accumulated over the years due to social disconnect. These wounds can be experienced as:
- No reciprocity in communication
- Avoidance of conflict
- Stonewalling and shifting blame
- Unwillingness to compromise and be flexible
- Disregard for family chores and tasks
- Feelings of frustration and loneliness
- Lack of empathy and fundamental disparity in how each partner feels about emotions
Over time these painful relationship patterns can gradually destroy the relationship.
Healing Wounded Neurodiverse Relationships
With proper treatment or coaching and investment by both partners it is possible for neurodiverse couples to have a sustainable, rewarding, and fulfilling relationship that celebrates the good and manages the challenging aspects of their different personality characteristics. It is critical to work with a therapist or coach that understands Asperger’s. For example it is a mistake to believe that AS adults cannot feel empathy. Dr. Thomas has helped many neurodiverse couples get to an experience of empathy from both partners. It takes work and practice and depends on the Aspie’s symptomatic acuity but emotional progress is possible.
Hope and Change Through Coaching and Therapy
The perceived rigidity and self-focus of the AS partner can change – there is hope. The therapy work we do together will create hope right from the start. This happens through understanding, awareness, and accountability. The first step is to create an individualized treatment or coaching plan for your specific needs. Immediate crises are addressed up front along with a thorough assessment of your collective and individual histories. From there the work begins as we do cognitive and experiential exercises to create a new way of being in relationship together. The therapy and coaching work with Dr. Thomas is not limited to weekly or biweekly sessions. Homework is assigned to keep the progress moving forward outside of session. This is done in a collaborative way so the speed of change is appropriate for each partner and couple. Creating new was of relating must go beyond the cognitive realm and into real behavior change. For this reason Dr. Thomas includes many behavioral exercises designed to increase intimacy. Some of these exercises are based on the 14 steps described by Eva Mendes in the Asperger Couple Workbook. Dr. Thomas is an objective, supportive, caring, and even curious presence in your relationship. He exemplifies the 8 qualities of the self, commonly called the 8 C’s of the self, that is stated within Internal Family Systems theory:
Medications and Co-occurring Disorders
There are no medications for Asperger’s but there are medications for other symptoms that can be co-occurring to Asperger’s. Anxiety, depression, OCD, addiction, and psychosis are examples of co-occurring conditions that may warrant medication. If hyperactivity or impulsivity are present in an Asperger individual it may mean they need medication to treat an attention deficit disorder such as ADD or ADHD. Behavioral or substance use addictions (alcohol, drugs, porn, gambling, etc.) are also cases where additional treatment or coaching may be necessary. Dr. Thomas is skilled in many of these areas and also works with a board certified psychiatrist to assist with assessment and prescriptions for medications.
Diagnoses and Assessments
How do you know you or your partner has Asperger’s Syndrome? As with many diagnoses, Asperger symptoms occur on a spectrum and each Aspie is different. While professional nuero-psychological testing is the most reliable for determining a diagnoses, it can be costly. Another option is to use online assessments to get a reasonable understanding of the presence of Asperger’s. The following two tests are free to take and don’t require any account registration. Dr. Thomas will look at your results to help you understand them as an initial step towards determining a diagnosis of Asperger’s:
- Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) Test (a result of 33-50 indicates Asperger’s)
- Empathy Quotient (EQ) Test (a result of 30 or above indicates the absence of Asperger’s)
Invest in Your Relationship
Dr. Thomas has worked with hundreds of individuals and couples to resolve conflicts and move to a place of harmony and well-being. When you are looking for help with couples therapy or coaching it is critical that you work with a therapist or coach that understands the differences between couples and individual work. Dr. Thomas is a couples therapy and coaching specialist.
Get Help Sooner than Later
Couples therapy or coaching can be life changing. You owe it yourself, your partner, your family, and your community to work on the loving relationship which you intended from the beginning. Contact Dr. Thomas for a consultation to learn how you can transform your relationship into one that grows and thrives.