Presented to: The Couples Institute Advanced Training Group online. January 12, 2015
Couples that include a partner with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), now called High Functioning Autism (HFA) can be a confusing conundrum clinically. Many with AS/HFA were already adults when, in 1994, the syndrome was formally recognized in the U.S.A. Many adults with AS/HFA have spent a lifetime “pretending to be normal,” and do blend in quite well, especially those who are married or in long-term relationships. In addition, those with AS/HFA can function exceptionally well in a concentrated area of expertise, and become highly accomplished in their careers and quite financially successful. However, when presenting with relationship problems, their “pretending” falls short. Often, they can keep up the façade only as long as the marriage, or moving in together.
This pair can present with a confusing array of complaints. Those with AS/HFA can appear narcissistic, provocative, self-centered, disinterested, or pedantic. They can have comorbid diagnosis including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Social Anxiety to name a few. Only after accurate diagnosis, can the couples therapist begin to help both partners tease out the issues they present.
Dr. Kathy McMahon will begin by introducing the elements of this now “defunct” diagnostic category, as well as components of the signs and symptoms of social communication disorders. Next, she’ll present many case examples from her own practice, demonstrating the how AS/HFA presents in the relationship dynamics. Finally, she will discuss the types of adaptations the couples therapists has to make to work effectively with this pairing.
Interested in learning more? Contact Dr. K for more information.
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Dr. K is the President and CEO of Couples Therapy Inc. She maintains her Intensive Couples Therapy practice on the edge of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts.