Adults On The Autism Spectrum

Posted by Mamacita, Alumna Mentor @mamacita, Apr 29, 2018

Maybe you were really shy as a child. Perhaps you took home a huge stack of books from the school library, read them, and returned them the next day. Or did your best friend find you crying in your closet, unable to answer the question “Why?” At any rate, your life could be traced to the Self-Help section of the local bookstore. Unfortunately, most of the books were not much help. ADHD seemed to fit, at times. Your shrink said you might be Bi-Polar, although she wasn’t really certain. All you knew was that you rarely fit in, anywhere. One day at work, it hit you square in the face: I don’t speak these people’s language! Really, it was like you were all playing this game, and everyone knew the rules but you. You couldn’t tell a joke, and you never “got” any joke your co-worker tried to tell you. People started getting annoyed with you, because you had a memory like a steel trap. They didn’t appreciate it when you called them on the carpet. Who knew? This was my life, and worse. I finally aced several tests that pointed me to the answer to my questions. The Autism Spectrum. Guess what? Little kids with Autism grow up to be Adults with Autism. Diagnosed late in life? This is the place for you!

@marana1963

My husband and I are 76 years old, and we just learned he is on the spectrum. We were high school sweethearts so many years ago, but his Spectrum related behaviors pushed me away from him. We were each each went on to haveCareers and marriages, but we met again at our 50th high school reunion. The spark was stronger than ever and I fell in love all over again with this highly intelligent, handsome, honest, love a man. But those are not his only traits. The same traits that pushed me away as a teenager, threatened to push me away again now.

I’m happy to say we found a wonderful marriage counselor with experience and helping adults on the spectrum. Now that she’s helped us understand that his behaviors I find so difficult are not willful but cannot be eliminated, I have learned to understand and respect them. I accept them, but I still do not like them. Challenges remain, But I have a new confidence that we can chart a pass together.

I have two examples of the behaviors I’m still struggling with. My husband does not want to celebrate any birthdays or holidays. He does not want to give or receive gifts of any type at any time. OK, but I like giving and receiving gifts. Knowing he doesn’t, leaves me sad and Lacking a pleasure that I thought was available to everyone. I just bought him a gift and I don’t care if he’s happy to receive a gift or not, I’m giving it!

The second example involves having a dog. When my beloved King Charles Cavalier spaniel died earlier this year, it didn’t take long for me to decide I wanted to get a dog. That’s when I learned how much he hates dogs. He’s totally against it, doesn’t want it, and if it’s a problem he says he’ll get rid of it no matter how I feel. What?! This from a man who says he loves me? But now I understand from our marriage counselor That he lacks empathy. He cannot sympathize what he cannot empathize. I have not figured out what to do. What I want matters, but a lot of the joy that would’ve come from bringing home a new pet has just evaporated. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get a dog, but this is an example of the difficulty that remains even after understanding arrives.

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I am trying to find a gentle way to say that you should ask your husband to talk about empathy, and sympathy. I am an adult on the spectrum, and although it is difficult for me to show or recognize these emotions in other. I carry the weight of others burdens and pain on my shoulders. In fact after some frank conversations about this with family, I think I feel those emotions more strongly than most. I am not saying your husband is the same but many of us on the spectrum are. My husband also said no more dogs after the loss of my beloved tinkerbell, she came to us after hurricane Katrina and we had her 10 years. It was a crushing blow to me and he said, it was to him as well and he just can’t go through it again. He finally told me that after I was more insistent about why I couldn’t adopt another dog. Now I understand, and will respect his wishes.
The gift giving thing? I don’t believe this is absolutely about the spectrum. I am like you but I have to work harder to show how much that gift means, I also get very disappointed if my gift isn’t well received, although the other person will probably never know it.
Do you have other friends or family you can exchange gifts with to fulfill this need?
Can you have a conversation with your husband about empathy and sympathy without it being heated and without conversation about a dog?

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We have much in common. Reassuring to me. I have volunteer papers in hand for a dog shelter. I’ll move ahead eith that.

Here is our therapist info attached. Due to COVID, she does Zoom sessions. We love her. Perhaps she can help others, too.

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@auntieoakley

I am trying to find a gentle way to say that you should ask your husband to talk about empathy, and sympathy. I am an adult on the spectrum, and although it is difficult for me to show or recognize these emotions in other. I carry the weight of others burdens and pain on my shoulders. In fact after some frank conversations about this with family, I think I feel those emotions more strongly than most. I am not saying your husband is the same but many of us on the spectrum are. My husband also said no more dogs after the loss of my beloved tinkerbell, she came to us after hurricane Katrina and we had her 10 years. It was a crushing blow to me and he said, it was to him as well and he just can’t go through it again. He finally told me that after I was more insistent about why I couldn’t adopt another dog. Now I understand, and will respect his wishes.
The gift giving thing? I don’t believe this is absolutely about the spectrum. I am like you but I have to work harder to show how much that gift means, I also get very disappointed if my gift isn’t well received, although the other person will probably never know it.
Do you have other friends or family you can exchange gifts with to fulfill this need?
Can you have a conversation with your husband about empathy and sympathy without it being heated and without conversation about a dog?

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Thank you so much for responding and for contributing to my understanding of this complex topic. Everything is nuanced and sometimes I jump from step A to step C.

My husband, too, sympathizes strongly to the pain others feel…if he has ever felt something remotely similar himself. Otherwise he says, shrugging his shoulders, I just don’t get it. That’s OK. There are a lot of things that I don’t get. But now I can stop being disappointed that he just doesn’t feel Things that are remote to his own experiences. It does not mean he doesn’t care about me. And, That doesn’t keep him from sympathizing with the pain sees me going through.

Thank you.

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Dogs can open up a person with autism but in general they impact people with sensory issues. And like with children, just because you had one doesn't mean you're willing and able to handle another. Dogs and children both create chaos and messes. A yappy dog is a torture from hell. Hair can be felt on surfaces, especially bed, the smell of their foods.
Accidents when new to household, destruction of cherished item (I literally came minutes away from grabbing and drowning the weasely runt of our service dog's surprise litter, when at 5 months squeezed into vent to go to forbidden room where she tore open boxes and chewed photos and a cherished at by my daughter.) They can be rude.
I OCD vacuum 3x a day, vacuum my all my clothes in closet. Have zap collars, baby wipes at door.

My X and I are both on spectrum, but he had habit of bringing things home then dumping them on me for the next shiny. Often things that were alive

You don't mention if spaniel was unilaterally or joint previously, or a gift. Obviously with length of marriage not grandfathered in. Situation.. ie., my x let me keep a pommie gifted after our first son died though he hated toy dogs. I was home alone all day and he was working/commuting 5/12 so wasn't in proximity. He got rid of him 18 months later while I was convalescing at his mother's pregnant with our daughter. He would feed and play but who didn't know he hated him except me?

The gift thing…. I love gifting thoughtfully selected things. My x and his father hated it. My mother and her father hated it. And one of my sons. 4 didn't like birthday blowouts,

PS My son absolutely had no interest or liking for dogs for 3 years after his second service dog died of Valley Fever at age 4. Even hayed them until he saw the current amiable corgi mix

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@dowagerginger

Dogs can open up a person with autism but in general they impact people with sensory issues. And like with children, just because you had one doesn't mean you're willing and able to handle another. Dogs and children both create chaos and messes. A yappy dog is a torture from hell. Hair can be felt on surfaces, especially bed, the smell of their foods.
Accidents when new to household, destruction of cherished item (I literally came minutes away from grabbing and drowning the weasely runt of our service dog's surprise litter, when at 5 months squeezed into vent to go to forbidden room where she tore open boxes and chewed photos and a cherished at by my daughter.) They can be rude.
I OCD vacuum 3x a day, vacuum my all my clothes in closet. Have zap collars, baby wipes at door.

My X and I are both on spectrum, but he had habit of bringing things home then dumping them on me for the next shiny. Often things that were alive

You don't mention if spaniel was unilaterally or joint previously, or a gift. Obviously with length of marriage not grandfathered in. Situation.. ie., my x let me keep a pommie gifted after our first son died though he hated toy dogs. I was home alone all day and he was working/commuting 5/12 so wasn't in proximity. He got rid of him 18 months later while I was convalescing at his mother's pregnant with our daughter. He would feed and play but who didn't know he hated him except me?

The gift thing…. I love gifting thoughtfully selected things. My x and his father hated it. My mother and her father hated it. And one of my sons. 4 didn't like birthday blowouts,

PS My son absolutely had no interest or liking for dogs for 3 years after his second service dog died of Valley Fever at age 4. Even hayed them until he saw the current amiable corgi mix

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I am so thankful to hear your point of view. You help me understand some things. It seems that dog barking is particularly annoying to my husband, as are the leaf blower‘s working throughout our neighborhood. Only recently how I begin to understand it might be the quality of sound that is so unacceptable to him. I did have the two dogs from a previous marriage, but my husband doesn’t like any dogs, so I don’t think jealousy was at the root of it.

Your writing here Helps me to try to remember that my point of view on dogs is not the Only point of view. My opinion still matters, but it’s not the only one.

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Member Spotlights feature interviews with fellow Mayo Clinic Connect members. It's an opportunity to learn more about members you’ve connected with and some you haven’t met yet.

I know many of you in the Autism group have exchanged posts with auntieoakley, so I thought you'd like to see today's featured Spotlight:
– I shall pass this way but once: Meet @auntieoakley https://connect.mayoclinic.org/blog/about-connect/newsfeed-post/i-shall-pass-this-way-but-once-meet-auntieoakley/

Nominate a member to be featured. See more Member Spotlights here https://connect.mayoclinic.org/blog/about-connect/tab/newsfeed/

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