Book Reviews

“The Other Half of Aspereger Syndrome”
Maxine Aston, UK (2001)
Published by the National Autistic Society
Review by Edgar R. Schneider
Copyright © 2001
All Rights Reserved

 

 

I am a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, who has, in his wake, a failed marriage with a non-autistic woman. Given that, I found this to be an excellent book, well-written and easily read. It covered the topic thoroughly and was correct in what it said. If the non-autistic  partner were to follow the advice contained therein, I would imagine that the probability of a successful union could be as high as it gets. Ms. Aston does write almost exclusively for a union in which the man is Asperger and the woman is non-autistic, but she readily admits that this is because she herself has been in such a liaison; for a case in which the genders are reversed, she refers the reader to the autobiography of Liane Willey.

The author correctly stresses the fact that Asperger’s (as with other forms of autism) is a permanent condition that will not go away. Furthermore, it will not be susceptible to change by any form of psychotherapy. What you see is what you get, and it is essential that other partner thoroughly understands what it is that she sees.

Ms. Aston also, quite correctly, tells the other partner about the need to avoid ambiguity and to be explicit and specific in her dealings with the Asperger partner, because of the literal nature of his thinking regarding personal interactions. To do otherwise is to cause him to be unable to sort things out at all, and makes him feel as though he has wandered into the middle of a mine field.

The adjustments that a woman would have to make are neither glossed over nor minimized. On the plus side, she describes the kind of qualities an Asperger man would have that would, at first, cause her to be attracted to him, and, later, to have a rewarding and fulfilling union with him.

The only thing that keeps her book from being perfect, instead of merely excellent, is that it did not go far enough. While the author describes the condition quite accurately, and prescribes a list of thou-shall-nots and thou-musts, she does not go into the reasons why this should be so.

For one thing, I refer to the deficit in intuitive emotions caused by that part of the brain either to be improperly wired due to a genetic defect, or to become unwired due to damage caused by physical trauma or infectious disease. (In my own published autobiography, I go into this in no small detail.) This bit of insight brings her discussions of the Asperger personality into high relief. Another book, "Through The Eyes of Aliens," by Jasmine Lee O’Neill, explains such things as eye contact and repetitive behavior in ways that a non-autistic person would not think of.

When she discusses those traits that might cause a woman to want to be married to an Asperger man, one is that he will, to the best of his ability (which can be considerable), be a good provider for his family. One pitfall is not mentioned. Because autistic people tend to be neither ambitious nor competitive (both emotional motivations), and because they are not adept at politics (requiring adeptness with emotional game playing), they will not be corporate pyramid climbers. If the woman is a social climber, and she sees much of her own worth on his place in the pyramid, there will be lots of trouble. This would also explain "unusual" attitudes toward sex, because emotional bonding would be missing. There can be intellectual bonding which, even in this context, can be just as strong, if not more so.

In addition, in her depiction of some of the traits of the Asperger partner, I believe that she tends to blur the line between this syndrome and high-functioning autism. However, a deeper appreciation of the nature of the autistic spectrum should clear that up.

A final comment is that, in discussing ways to resolve any disagreements, the author gives short shrift to the use of e-mail. It is the principal method used by me and my current wife, who is high-functioning autistic. It furnishes a level playing field in which one can directly comment on what the other says, can ask for clarification of specific points, and neither can interrupt the other.

© Edgar R. Schneider - September 12, 2001

Maxine Aston's website

To Buy

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Asperger's Syndrome and Adults...  Is Anyone Listening - A Collection of FAAAS Writings by Karen Rodman

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Everyday Heaven by Donna Williams

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Love, Jean - Inspiration for Families Living with Dysfunction of Sensory Integration by by A. Jean Ayres, Philip R. Erwin, Zoe Mailloux

 

 

"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

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