Parenting With A Partner With Asperger’s: A Book Review

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IMG-1023All this time, I have been blabbing about my OCD. How totally selfish….so, lets talk about Asperger’s!

As I have mentioned before, my husband has Asperger’s.  His Asperger’s, to me, is just something that makes him unique.  I love that his brain processes information differently than my own; however, it seems to be a bit glitchy when it comes to parenting.  So much so, that parenting is the only thing we ever bicker about; or more accurately, that I ever bicker about…

I “get” my husband’s brain.  I studied biology and psychology; plus, I am extremely opened minded to the fact that everyone is different and I strongly believe that everyone, regardless how quirky they might be, still deserve love and respect.  So, for the most part, my husband’s so-called “odd” social behaviors doesn’t bother me; but I am beginning to see how his Asperger’s is affecting our children.

Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!

My husband simply does not exist.  He is here, but not; and David Copperfield has nothing to do with it!  I think the biggest problem is that, my husband doesn’t acknowledge when spoken to; something I had to get used to.  When prompt to provide a response, you can certainly tell that his brain is searching for a “script,” a go-to, catch-all phrase that works for any kind of situation.  His usual response, for everything, is either “neat-o” or “oh-goodness.”  If the subject is not about him or something he is an “expert” at (areas in which he can confidently express himself), the tone is off and sometimes emotionless, making him sound rude, disrespectful, or a bit harsh.  Not knowing how to appropriately and quickly respond, the brain becomes anxious, and the tongue does its best to interpret and translate.  So, my husband never means to sound rude, disrespectful, or harsh; it’s just rolls off the tongue that way.

I am sure there is more to it, but I am guessing, this is one of the biggest reasons as to why our kids prefer to come to me, instead of their dad, even when he is standing two feet away from me.  They either feel their dad ignores them or their feelings get hurt, by his not-so compassionate responses.  Communication may not seem to be my husband’s forte, but he sure does know how to make the kids laugh!

Parenting Requires Social-Skills

Although, we are both biological parents, I am “the” parent.  I often struggle with this concept, because I personally believe parenting should be a joint responsibility; however, my husband’s Asperger’s makes it difficult to parent together.  As I have mentioned in prior posts, our joint efforts resulted in a “good” cop / “bad” cop parenting style.  It was confusing for everyone and we decided it was best that I just take lead for now on.  It isn’t that my husband doesn’t care or is lazy about parenting, he just doesn’t have that communication-bonding ability with the kids.  Parenting requires social-skills; something I am beginning to learn more about in this new book I started to read this month, called, “Out of Mind-Out of Sight,” by Kathy J. Marshack, Ph. D.

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About The Author and Why I Enjoy This Book

Out of Mind-Out of Sight,” by Kathy J. Marshack, Ph. D., has thus far, been an insightful read.  Kathy J. Marshack is a licensed psychologist who specializes in Asperger’s Syndrome and high-functioning Autism; understanding Asperger’s on both a professional and personal level.

I am really enjoying this book, for that it has all that I like about a book: scientific-based facts, personal experiences, and great humor.  There is nothing dull about the way this book is written, making it much more relatable and easier to retain important concepts that will help me better understand and work with my husband during our parenting adventures.

Cognitive and Emotional Empathy

What have I learned so far?  Well, lots of things, really.  But one thing that truly sticks in my brain is the difference between Cognitive Empathy and Emotional Empathy.   Although better explained by Kathy J. Marshack, I think I got the gist of it.

Empathy is complex; however, Marshack explains there are two types of empathy.  Cognitive Empathy, to my understanding, is when the  brain assesses a situation factually, instead of emotionally.  Emotional Empathy is looking at a situation with emotions.  Those who do not have Asperger’s Syndrome, respond to situations with both Cognitive and Emotional Empathy; whereas, those with Asperger’s Syndrome, generally, only express one type of empathy at a time (not both at the same time).

Say, my kid comes to me with scrapes on their knees from falling down at the park.  They are crying and their knees are bleeding and require medical assistance.  I respond by expressing my concern for their emotions and provide comfort by expressing my understanding that scraped knees totally suck; and then attend to the scrape.  My entire response consisted of both cognitive and emotional empathy.

However, my husband would respond completely differently, whereas he would not be as comforting and skip straight to the fact that it “just” needs a band-aid.   He is responding with Cognitive Empathy, where he recognizes the facts of the situation (scrape on knee), but not the emotional situation (kid being upset).  Or, he may respond with Emotional Empathy instead, where he may respond extremely emotionally and irrationally by dramatically swooping the child up into his arms, rushing them to the band-aid box, and making a dramatic scene, in which only scares the child.

But, like I said, Marshack explains it way better by sharing a personal, yet relatable,  story from one of her clients; in which I strongly encourage you to read about in her book.

After I have finished the entire book (still have a couple chapters left to go), I will be posting an update on this review at the end of the month.  Maybe great changes will come or at the very least, I have gained, yet another perspective to share with you about mental health.

Have You Read A Good Book Lately?

I love to read when I am not busy being a mom.  If you have any book recommendations regarding Asperger’s Syndrome, Parenting, or Mental-Health in general, let me know!  I’d love to check them out! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Parenting With A Partner With Asperger’s: A Book Review”

  1. Interesting. I’ve heard different ideas about cognitive vs emotional empathy though (see here), that emotional empathy is feeling what other people feel and cognitive empathy is about understanding what other people feel and predicting their responses; people with autism have emotional empathy, but not cognitive empathy.

    I’m attempting to get an autism diagnosis for myself, but I actually volunteer with young children. I find very young children easier to relate to than adults. I have what I call mental “algorithms” in my mind to consciously guide me through my personal interactions and to compensate for the innate knowledge of social cues that neurotypicals have. The algorithm for dealing with a young child is much easier for me than the one for small talk with an adult. Much easier! With a child I say, “Is that your teddy? What’s his name?” With an adult I would have to have a five minute conversation trying to find things to say about work, family, politics etc.! And children often don’t mind if you don’t say anything and just supervise, whereas adults can get annoyed or think you’re weird if you just sit there without saying anything.

    I don’t know what I would do with a child who had a major problem, though. Fortunately there are always other adults around where I volunteer, so I could get help, but I don’t think I would be very good in a crisis. When I was a child, I remember when we were on holiday once my Mum banged her head on a low rafter in a holiday home and I didn’t know what to do, I just kept asking if she was OK when she clearly wasn’t. When the pain had subsided, she said I should have just hugged her, which would never have occurred to me. I didn’t have an algorithm that dealt with it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! My husband can relate to what you call “mental algorithms.” He often tells me that he thinks with algorithms. In fact, his entire world is all about algorithms. With a better understanding about algorithms (dabbling in computer programming-largely encouraged by my husband) I have been able to better understand another side of him. Unfortunately, I am terrible at computer programming, but I get what he means.

      I think it is great you volunteer with children! 🙂 Good luck on your diagnosis.

      Liked by 1 person

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