My partner has Asperger.
Asperger is the name given to one of Autism’s spectrums. With spectrum a variation of Autism is implied. Asperger is actually the name of the Austrian doctor who started an important research about child psychological disorders, or as they were called then, ‘abnormal’ children. The name Autism itself was invented in 1911 by Eugene Beuler, as a manifestation of schizophrenia. Since then several books have been written about the subject. On the internet you can find them as well as many websites covering the issue but the most comprehensive of them all is, no doubt, Tony Attwood’s, The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. Autism differs from Asperger in the sense that this spectrum won’t affect an individual’s cognitive functions. That is, it won’t affect his learning abilities. On the contrary, it will help. This spectrum is also known as high functionality autism. People who have this spectrum usually have an excellent IQ and consequently good jobs. Undoubtedly intelligent people from the past as Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein are supposed to have had Asperger.
People with Asperger are also considered people with unique and special tastes who dig into them. They may be excellent in specific areas of exact science or humanities but seldom both at the same time. They show a kind of sensitivity towards specific subjects which attract their interest. A non-spectrum run-of-the-mill person (a neurotypical) might not be able to do it. To understand this better, I read the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. It’s moving and pleasant read, even for those who don’t have the habit of reading books very often. The main character is a 15 year old boy called Christopher, very intelligent for his age. His view of the world is so pure and naïve. But at the same time also very one-sided and his own. Chapter 181 explains this:
I see everything…For example, I remember standing in a field on Wednesday 15th of June 1994 because Father and Mother and I were driving to Dover to get a ferry to France and we did what Father called Taking the scenic route which means going to little roads…and I had to stop to go for a wee, and I went into a field with cows in and after I’d had a wee I stopped and looked at the field and I noticed these things:
1. There are 19 cows in the field, 15 of which are black and white and 4 of which are brown and white.
2. There is a village in the distance which has 31 visible houses and a church with a square tower and not a spire.
3. There are ridges in the field which means that in medieval times it was what is called a ridge and furrow field.
4. There is an old plastic bag from Asda in the hedge, and a squashed Coca-Cola can with a snail on, and a long piece of orange string.
5. The north-east corner of the field is highest and the southwest corner is lowest…
6. I can see three different types of grass and two colours of flowers in the grass.
7. The cows are mostly facing uphill.
Christopher doesn’t possess the same flexibility as the other people around him to see the world. And this inaptitude will finally get him into troubles when the neighbour’s dog, Wellington, was brutally murdered with a digging fork during the night. People with Asperger, also called Aspies, have their own way of seeing the world – it’s like they lived in their own world, with its own rules – and in this view it’s not them the excluded ones, it’s us, the neurotypical ones. One example, you and I, neurotypicals tell a white lie now and then not to offend anyone but an Aspie simply can’t do that.
The resemblance between Asperger and Autism is that those who have Autism tend to develop a big inability for social skills. An Aspie will understand a joke but will find it hard to understand how he will apply it into his life. Another example: we neurotypicals will laugh about joke connotations (practical jokes) but a person with Asperger won’t; at least, not in the very beginning. It takes them longer to ‘literally’ grasp the subject and analyze the joke’s analogy. Most of the time, a person with Asperger will get fed up of trying to keep up to a conversation’s dynamics in a group and end up somewhere else doing something else, like reading a magazine.
In the present year, the subject is no taboo anymore. There are help groups throughout the world and for sure near you. But it is also possible to participate in group debates like the ones of asperger’s awareness page with almost 20,000 members in the very comfort of your home, if you are a Facebook member. It always gets me to see how many people are desperately looking for information, sharing experiences and listening to other members’ advice. None of this will replace a professional, of course but it’s interesting to see how many people out there are in the same situation as I am. Most of them are only looking for more practical information on how to help their children who have Asperger. Once in a while there’s a parent who reveal to also have the spectrum or recently having been diagnosed but they limit their questions mostly to their children. There are heterosexual women who mention to ever have been married to men with Asperger and that that was the main reason for the divorce. I am not mentioning here in details the newspapers mentioning Asperger as a criminal characteristic, like what they say about hackers.
After pondering those things, I decided to read the book Asperger Syndrome – a love story by Sarah Hendrickx and her partner, Keith Newton. The book hasn’t been translated into any language yet (as far as I see) but it is a definitely unmissable guide for everybody who has a partner with Asperger. The book’s frank and candid approach kind of shocked me at first but at the end of the read I couldn’t but totally agree that there can’t be two ways of talking about Asperger. When it comes down to relationship, it takes being as inflexible as the very Aspies are. It is romantic but also familiarly heartbreaking to read from Sarah how confused she was about it all in the beginning. It’s all about one person but after all it’s two in one: with a desirable and an undesirable side. She says how loving Keith is and how he always succeeds making her feel the most important person in the world when they are together. But the opposite is also true when they are not together. Saying the truth is something desirable but it may hurt your feelings. Being in a relationship and in love is very good but at the same time it is not easy living with other person’s ‘weird’ characteristics. And that makes us, partners of someone with Asperger, special beings for we learn from the very beginning that the convenient formula we have been given about relationships is nothing but a fallacy. We learn every day that we must keep our minds open and stay sober about our choices. No apologies, no regrets.