Life Beyond the Spectrum
Definition according to the National institute of Mental Health
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a group of developmental disorders. ASD includes a wide range, “a spectrum,” of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability.
People with ASD often have these characteristics:
• Ongoing social problems that include difficulty communicating and interacting with others
• Repetitive behaviors as well as limited interests or activities
• Symptoms that typically are recognized in the first two years of life
• Symptoms that hurt the individual’s ability to function socially, at school or work, or other areas of life
Some people are mildly impaired by their symptoms, while others are severely disabled. Treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function. Families with concerns should talk to their pediatrician about what they’ve observed and the possibility of ASD screening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) around 1 in 68 children has been identified with some form of ASD.
What is the difference between Asperger’s syndrome and ASD?In the past, Asperger’s syndrome and Autistic Disorder were separate disorders. They were listed as subcategories within the diagnosis of “Pervasive Developmental Disorders.” However, this separation has changed. The latest edition of the manual from the American Psychiatric Association, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), does not highlight subcategories of a larger disorder. The manual includes the range of characteristics and severity within one category. People whose symptoms were previously diagnosed as Asperger’s syndrome or Autistic Disorder are now included as part of the category called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
After the inventor was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome I began watch his moods and temperament and noticed a pattern in his behavior. There are times life feels almost "normal" but there are also times he goes through what I consider an "Aspie flare".
The inventor was determined to treat me kinder after the diagnoses. With the help of an amazing counselor he realized the pain Aspergers had caused me and agreed to go to focused therapy. Because of this, our communication and intimacy has and continues to improve regularly.
He works very hard to help me feel connected, heard and valued. There are times that this seems more difficult than others. Times of high stress, illness, a single huge task or multiple things happening at the same time seem to trigger a flare.
The inventor describes a flare as if a heavy thick cloud has settled in his brain. All of the tools and strategies to function in a neurotypical world he gained from therapy and practice seem to get lost in the cloud.
It usually starts out small. He withdraws, begins to be pushy and inconsiderate. He also pours himself, almost obsessively, into tasks around the house. The behavior isn't always noticeable to everyone, but it's the little inconsistencies those of us living with partners on the spectrum can understand that build up. His behavior becomes more erratic and unpredictable. At times, his arguments become a hurtful accusations towards me.
He has given me permission to say, "I feel disconnected and I think we are in the beginning stages of a flare." If I tell him early enough he responds well. We make extra time for him to finish tasks, cut back obligations and try to be more intimate. Intimacy helps!
If I wait to long or circumstances do not change, he will begin to argue with me if I approach the subject. Past a certain point, I just have to ride the wave of the flare without saying anything. I try to give him space to process and focus.
It is difficult. I begin to withdraw from him which doesn't bother the inventor because he doesn't notice. I try not to withdraw but at a certain point, I have to protect my heart. I fight bitterness, loneliness, and disappointment.
The thing is, flares push us away from each other and
we have to fight to get our closeness back.
Whether the flare lasts a week or many months, we have made a determination to not let it break us. We both fight our way back anyway we can. I try to stay open and communicate. He slows down and implements the tools he has been taught.
We just do our best and choose to think well of each other, remembering we love each other.
This is the initial quiz the Inventor took to see if he tested on the spectrum. There are a few other tests available online as well. These tests are not designed to label or diagnose Aspergers or Spectrum Disorder. They are just a starting point in your diagnosing journey.