Found on my computer from many years ago. I don't even know if I wrote this or I was copying it from someone else who did, but it sounds like me and I would have likely attributed it in my notes if I hadn't written it. All I can say is wow.
On labeling emotions to help Aspies relate better to others
I had a wife message me about her concerns with her husband, who is on the spectrum, misinterpreting her emotions. Her concern was:
“I have a husband, who is on the spectrum (somewhere). Everyday, he misreads or misjudges how I am feeling in response to a particular event or situation. For example, he will think I am *ill* (mad, not sick), when in truth and reality I fell nothing of the sort. He makes assumptions that are incorrect ALL THE TIME.
So, here are my questions:
Does this particular symptom of autism indicate only Asperger's or is this common with all forms of autism? And two, does anyone have an effective way of dealing with these misperceptions or dealing with his inability to accurately read my feelings? (I have tried to talk to him, but there is an obvious lack of language and social skills interfering with this. He walks out of the room while I am trying to talk to him; he won't look at me in the eyes; and he won't answer when I pose a simple question like: What made you think I was mad? And if he does answer, after my persistence for him to do so, he says "I don't know.
Thanks for your help,
Yes, people on the spectrum have great difficulty interpreting nonverbal communication and emotional cues. Probably the reason why he walks away and doesn't want to talk about it, is because he doesn't know what to say, and doesn't know why (especially if he is unaware of the deficit), and feels incompetent when you bring it up. When you ask "what makes you think that", it puts him on the spot and he probably does not know exactly what there was about you that lead him to think that way, or he is embarrassed to tell you. Direct statements about "why" often intimidate people on the spectrum.
In recognizing the spouse, on the spectrum, has difficulty reading emotional cues, you have to be very literal in communicating your emotions. I would recommend doing the following:
1. Your husband needs you to label your feelings frequently throughout the day, so he can associate what he sees (your facial expressions) with what you are feeling (emotion). So, as often as possible, try and label your emotions and connect them to the event that is causing them, "Wow, that really makes me happy (sad, angry, etc.). Do a lot of "feeling out loud." This way he doesn't have to guess, he can see what you look like when feeling that way, and he gets an understanding of your emotional reactions to things/events around you. People on the spectrum have to be literally taught, what comes intuitively to us.
2. Next, find ways to discuss how you perceive others around you are feeling (I bet that made that person feel ___ ), and when watching tv (Oh...he looks upset about that!"). This also shows him how you perceive emotions in others, and how you connect the emotion to the event that causes it.
3. Try and label how you see him feeling. Sometimes people on the spectrum have trouble labeling their own feelings. Especially if you think something makes him anxious, scared, or embarrassed; "wow...I bet that made you nervous...it does me!" Also, they think that everyone feels and thinks the same as them. They have difficulty realizing that the other person may be perceiving the situation differently.
4. When he misjudges your emotional reactions, try not confront the issue directly, "What makes you think that?" I would try simply telling him how you do feel, by first validating his interpretation first "Honey, I could understand how you might think that I am mad, but actually I am feeling confused." This way you are not asking him anything where you are putting him on the spot; simply reflecting how you do feel.
The above works on making "feeling" more vivid and concrete in your interactions. We tend to take intuitive understanding of feelings for granted. For your relationship with your husband you need to be very literal in "talking your emotions", so he can understand what others would intuitively interpret. People on the spectrum need to cognitively figure out what we interpret intuitively.
For a marriage where only one of the spouses is on the spectrum, the barrier in "emotion sharing" is one of the hardest difficulties. The neurotypical spouse needs to be more explicit in expressing their emotions, frequently labeling them, and connecting them to what makes you feel that way. Verbally discribing what you feel, is a good technique to get good at doing.
The same goes for the spouse who is on the spectrum. Often their outward expression of emotion, or lack of emotion, does not match what they are actually feelings. The NT spouse can actually perceive the person as “indifferent”, “angry”, “uncaring”, etc. when they actually are not feeling that way at all. So, it is important in a marriage like these that both parties clarify and verify literally for each other, and not “assume” the other is reading it right.
If you like this, please be sure to visit my other website, Accepting Asperger's. A lot of my older writing is stored here, including an editorial I once wrote for the Baltimore Sun. Click here to see it: Accepting Asperger's.
What's it really like to be a 20 something with Asperger's? On this blog, I hope to explore that question. But this blog is not just limited to an audience of people in their 20s - this is for anyone who ever wanted to know anything about autism. I plan to delve into the nature and experience of autism, and examine it from as many angles as possible. I would like to start a conversation between people with Asperger's or autism, parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders, and anyone who just wants to know more. Let's explore what autism means, together.
My goal is to start a discussion on and build a community of people affected by autism - parents and adults with ASD - so feel free to leave your two cents in the comments section of any post. If you're too shy for that, however, or want to speak to me personally, you may feel free to email me at KGoldfie@gmail.com.
Asperger's Book for Sale
Common Scents: Adventures with Autism and Chemical Sensitivity" is the story of a young woman's search for physical and emotional safety as she journeys through the mountains of the Cascades, small coastal towns on the Oregon coast, and out-of the-way towns in upstate New York. Along the way, she experiences things she would never have dreamed possible had she stayed in her Maine hometown, and begins to learn the power of human connection.
Common Scents is the story of the last three years of my life. It gives a gripping view of what it is like to experience the world as someone on the autistic spectrum, and some would say, is an entertaining travel story as well. Because of chemical sensitivities, I engaged on a three year journey for a place I could call home.
Comments from readers:
"The Asperger's element is remarkable. I feel that I understand my son better, so much better. I laughed at this part.... because I've stared at my son in the same way for the same thing." - mother of an Asperger's kid
"Your writing style is SO engaging and interesting. It brings me right into the subject and I always experience a little emotional punch towards the end. In other words, this is the third time I've teared-up reading your work. Kate, you've highlighted ALL the problems with how social skills are usually taught." - mother of ASD kid
"I stayed up entirely too late reading the first 14 pages. I can relate to so much of what you write. I really think you are expressing the true experience with MCS and autism in words that convey the experience." person with chemical sensitivity (MCS)
"Absolutely interesting, insightful and witty. You've blended together your three themes beautifully (Asperger's, MCS and travelling). It seems seamless."