Author: arae

What is the Cassandra Phenomenon?

The Cassandra Phenomenon is a term describing circumstances in which legitimate warnings or anxieties are scorned or rejected. The term emanates from Greek mythology.[1] Regarding Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC), the Cassandra Phenomenon occurs when the partners or family members of adults with ASC seek help, and who are not believed by their partners, family members, professionals and community members, resulting in his/her reluctance to report the symptoms and/or resulting difficulties (Jennings, 2005; Rodman, 2003). The Cassandra Phenomenon is a condition of depression or ill-health that develops from the isolation and loneliness of knowing a truth, experiencing that truth, but not being believed (Simone, 2009). This then explains the hidden nature of the Cassandra Phenomenon, and often results in this aspect of ASC impairments remaining invisible (Jennings, 2005). As Rodman (2003) describes when discussing the experience of adults who are NT in neurodiverse relationships, “we were not believed or listened to by professionals or medical, spiritual, educational or judicial leaders” (p. 23). The lack of validation or invalidation by professionals further exacerbates the confusion of the partner, which can result in experiencing symptoms of the Cassandra Phenomenon.

Grigg (2012) states that, for NT individuals, attempts to find solutions in the context of the neurodiverse relationship “is like living in a constant state of unfinished business, combined with confusion, day in and day out and is probably quite a significant threat to our mental and emotional health, and our future outlook” (p. 63). The resulting unresolved disappointment, anxiety, depression, and anger for NT adults (Aston, 2003a; Jacobs, 2006; Marshack, 2009) has the potential to lead to the Cassandra Phenomenon (CP) and depression (Rodman, 2003). Dashnaw (2020) states that:

“the Cassandra Syndrome is another effort in the continuing attempt to describe the struggle of the neurotypical partner (NT) who too often can’t get validation from their Aspie partner, extended family, or helping professionals…Living with an Aspie partner with no external support creates intense internal conflict, poor self-esteem, frustration, rage, anxiety, depression and a constellation of other symptoms that thought leaders described twenty years ago as Cassandra Phenomenon or Cassandra Syndrome.”

However, Grigg (2012) suggests that the Cassandra Phenomenon is not an experience exclusive to people who are NT. Grigg proposes that autistic people can also experience the Cassandra Phenomenon. When adults with ASC are aware of their difficulties and choose to seek help, the lack of knowledge many professionals exhibit, may cause them to also remain “unheard, judged or misdiagnosed” and trigger similar feelings to those felt by NT individuals (p. 33). Grigg’s recommendation is that once a person receives validation and support, gains awareness that different neurologies are the source of difficulties, and confusion, and affronts have been identified, the journey toward moving out from under the Cassandra Phenomenon’s negative influence can begin (Grigg, 2012).

Dr. Bronwyn Wilson

Dashnaw, D. (2020). Cassandra Syndrome…the struggle to name the NT partner’s despair.  Retrieved from https://couplestherapyinc.com/cassandra-syndrome/

Grigg, C. (2012). ASPIA’s handbook for partner support: A collection of ASPIA’s best information for the support of partners of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome. Sydney: Carol Grigg.

Jennings, S. (2005). Autism in children and parents: unique considerations for family court professionals. Family Court Review, 43(4), 582-595.

Rodman, K. E. (2003). Asperger’s Syndome and adults….. Is anyone listening? London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Simone, R. (2009). 22 things a woman must know if she loves a man with Asperger’s Syndrome. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.


[1] Cassandra was a daughter of Priam, the King of Troy. Struck by her beauty, Apollo provided her with the gift of prophecy, but when Cassandra refused Apollo’s romantic advances, he placed a curse ensuring that nobody would believe her warnings. Cassandra was left with the knowledge of future events, but could neither alter these events nor convince others of the validity of her predictions (Aston, 2009; Jacobs, 2006). The Cassandra Phenomenon is also known as Cassandra Affective Disorder (CAD), Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder (CADD, Aston 2003a), or Affective Deprivation Disorder (ADD; Simons 2009) or Post-Traumatic Relationship Syndrome (PTRS; Vandervoort & Rokach, 2004).

What is Prompt Dependency?

It is well established that children on the autism spectrum frequently experience difficulties that result in a lack of independent task initiation skills and inhibit their capacity to stay actively engaged in academic tasks  (Hume, Loftin, & Lantz, 2009; Milley & Machalicek, 2012).  One strategy to address these difficulties and facilitate learning, has been the use of prompting (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). Prompting is defined as antecedent stimuli (e.g., instructions, explanations, gestures, and illustrations), designed to produce a target behaviour that otherwise would not occur without the prompt (MacDuff, Krantz, & McClannahan, 2001; Shabani et al., 2002). Prompting has been successfully used with children on the autism spectrum to compensate for their challenges.

Within teaching situations, a prompt is usually offered after a cue has proved to be unsuccessful. Although the terms cues and prompts are often thought of as interchangeable, in most cases a cue is given as a “first step” which is not expected to lead the student to a direct answer and/or behaviour. A prompt, on the other hand, is considered to be more explicit and designed to lead to task completion. According to National Professional Resources (2009), a cue is an “action intended to encourage a student to initiate or continue a task that he or she has previously performed” whereas a prompt is an “action taken to directly assist a student with the completion of a task” (p. 111). Simply put, a prompt is a temporary learning aid used when precise instruction is required. It is designed to help children respond correctly during the acquisition phase of learning when they require additional help.

Prompt Dependency

For many children with ASC however, the cues and prompting strategies aimed at managing their difficulties frequently result in an over-reliance on adult support and development of prompt dependency (Bryan & Gast, 2000; Milley & Machalicek, 2012). MacDuff et al. (2001) explain that “prompt dependence means that a person responds to the prompts instead of responding to the cues that are expected to evoke the target behaviour” (p. 43). In other words, an ongoing and explicit step-by-step instruction is required in order to produce the target behaviour, each time it is required. In the case of prompt dependency, self-initiated behaviour does not develop. Over time, prompt dependency not only inhibits the learning of new skills, but also reduces the ability to function without adult help (Mesibov, Shea, & Schopler, 2004). Subsequently, learned helplessness; the belief that one’s own behaviour does not control outcomes, can develop (Sternberg & Williams, 2010). Similar to the prompt dependent characteristics children with ASC display in school, it was found that adults ASC can also display prompt dependent characteristics within their close relationships (Wilson et al., 2014; 2017).

What Prompt Dependency Means for Adult Relationships

Within typical relationships, the giving and receiving of prompts is an ordinary aspect of life. From reminding someone of that appointment with the doctor, to encouraging a call to a family member for a special occasion, prompts are a necessary strategy to jog another’s memory or to organise life’s events. We all need prompting from time to time. However, since “affectionate communication is a key interpersonal tool to fulfill the basic human need for close, successful relationships” (Hesse & Tian, 2019, p. 2), requiring prompts to give affectionate types of communication is considered atypical. Becoming dependent on these prompts could be deemed all the more unusual.

Findings from the Masters and PhD studies, however, suggested that prompt dependency can be a significant component of the communication differences and resulting difficulties between those involved in neurodiverse relationships. The NT participants in both studies reported that they were required to prompt their partners/family members by triggering responses in order to activate reciprocal interaction. Prompts took the form of reminders, instructions and explanations, and were expected to resolve their partners’ and/or family members’ lack of responsiveness, and improve personal and affectionate interaction. The belief was that, the necessity to prompt would ultimately cease. However, it was found that this strategy, while only partially successful in the attainment of the intended outcomes, continued to be a requirement, rather than coming to an end. Whereas the prompts were intended to sustain personal and affectionate interaction, and at the same time increase unprompted responses, the NT participants reported that the desired outcomes were often thwarted by a chain of behaviours exhibited by their partners/family members that prevented communication. These behaviours also negated further interaction.

Thus, when not able to avoid unwanted interaction, adults with ASC became dependent on the prompts that facilitated their responses. Unprompted responding only occasionally improved. The intermittent success of prompting, especially in regard to personal and affectionate interaction, tended to intensify the concentration of prompting from the NT participants, as it became the main way that any personal or affectionate interaction occurred. Accordingly, rather than using “declarative language”, that is language defined as a statement or comment, it became necessary to use mostly “instrumental language” with their partner/family members with ASC.

Instrumental language is speech that requires a particular response, whether that is an answer to a question or following a direction. The aim of instrumental language usage is to influence the listener for certain purposes intended by the speaker. As a result, the data suggested that repeated guidance, supervision, and explicit step-by-step instruction, became necessary practically every time interaction was desired, especially emotional interaction. Prompting by means of extensive explaining, instructing, teaching, training, guiding, or advising, in attempts to solve the issue as best they could, was reported by NT participants as their only option. At the same time, the failure of their partner/family members with ASC to independently commence the actions that were sought meant that, unfortunately, dependency on the prompting became the custom. At other times, avoidance of the prompted actions was the preference. This avoidance of, and/or dependence on, prompted actions appeared to become a pattern in the majority of conversations seeking connectedness.

Further, it was found that the need to impart prompts on the part of the NT participants coupled with the dependency that adults with ASC developed on these prompts, formed a cycle within the interaction of these couples. The need for reciprocal interaction on the part of the NT participants and the opposing need to avoid reciprocal interaction on the part of the AS participants resulted in prompt dependency cycling between them. Predominately, the prompt dependency cycle had negative impacts on both partners although lower degrees of prompt dependency contributed to better outcomes within the relationship (Wilson et al., 2014; 2017).

Dr. Bronwyn Wilson

Bryan, L. C., & Gast, D. L. (2000). Teaching on-task and on-schedule behaviours to high-functioning children with autism via picture activity schedules. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(6), 553-567. doi:0162-3257/00/1200-0553$18.00/0

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis (Second ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.

Hesse, C., & Tian, X. (2019). Affection deprivation in marital relationships: An actor-partner interdependence mediation analysis. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 026540751988369. doi:10.1177/0265407519883697

Hume, K., Loftin, R., & Lantz, J. (2009). Increasing independence in autism spectrum disorders: A review of three focused interventions. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(9), 1329-1338. doi:10.1007/s10803-009-0751-2

MacDuff, G. S., Krantz, P. J., & McClannahan, L. E. (2001). Prompts and prompt-fading strategies for people with autism. In Making a difference: Behavioral intervention for autism (pp. 37-50).

Mesibov, G. B., Shea, V., & Schopler, E. (2004). The TEACCH approach to autism spectrum disorders. New York: Springer Science+Business Media Inc.

Milley, A., & Machalicek, W. (2012). Decreasing students’ reliance on adults: A strategic guide for teachers of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Intervention in School and Clinic, 48(2), 67-75. doi:10.1177/1053451212449739

National Professional Resources. (2009). Hierarchy of Cueing and Prompting. In RTI-Paraed-p111 (Ed.), NPR. Inc: Dude Publishing.

Shabani, D. B., Katz, R. C., Wilder, D. A., Beauchamp, K., Taylor, C. R., & Fischer, K. J. (2002). Increasing social initiations in children with autism: Effects of a tactile prompt. Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis, 35(1), 79-83.

Sternberg, R. J., & Williams, W. M. (2010). Educational psychology (Second ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

What is Autism?

The autism spectrum is a set of complex neurodevelopmental disorders that until recently included autistic disorder (AD); high functioning autism (HFA); Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). Controversy and confusion have surrounded the diagnosis of AS and whether it is distinct from, similar to, or identical to a diagnosis of HFA. Following the 2013 release of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the replacement of these subdivisions into a single diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder has created considerable worldwide disagreement, especially in regard to the integration of AS (Posar, Resca, & Visconti, 2015). Autism Spectrum Disorder is now more commonly referred to as Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC).

The term autism is derived from the Greek for “self” and signifies persons living in their own world rather than the world of others (Tantam, 2012) . Current psychoanalytic theorists of autism deem the defining feature to be a lack of social and emotional reciprocity resulting in the “objectification” of other people, who are treated essentially as the means by which the individual’s needs may be met. This disconnection from social interaction; an isolated self, is a characteristic of all ASC, which is quite distinct from other disorders (Tantam, 2012).

While the ASCs were considered rare just two decades ago, autism is now known to be relatively common, affecting the lives of millions of people across the world (Pellicano, 2014) . Understanding of the autism spectrum has undergone numerous adaptations since being first formally identified early in the twentieth century. However, autism existed long before it attracted a label. Autism Spectrum Conditions are found worldwide, with considerable evidence to indicate their existence throughout human history (Deisinger, 2011). Characterised by early-onset difficulties with social interaction, social communication, and imagination, and together with rigid and repetitive patterns of interests and behaviours, ASC exist from very early life and have life-long effects that influence how the brain processes information. The ASCs are conditions in which there are no sharp distinction between normality and pathology with a range of functioning ability that varies in combination and severity, between and within individuals. People with autism have atypical cognitive profiles, such as atypical social cognition and perception, executive dysfunction, together with atypical perceptual and information processing (Lai, Lombardo, & Baron-Cohen, 2014). Although each person on the autism spectrum shares similar difficulties, the degree, extent, and quantity of these difficulties influences how well, or not so well, any person adapts, functions, and interacts with others. Individuals on the spectrum who have high intellect and proficient capabilities in some areas of life, will always have noticeable social impairment together with profound egocentricity, which will affect their abilities to interact with others. The apparent inability to reflect on their own thinking and the thinking of others; known as mind-blindness (Baron-Cohen, 1997), is seen to contribute to impairments in social interaction, communication, and imagination. Mind-blindness is lacking the ability to put oneself into someone else’s shoes, to imagine their thoughts and feelings. Without this ability, it can be difficult to understand how to respond in any given situation.

Since research continues to focus heavily on children, autism is still largely undiagnosed in adults. Few people have a concept of how autism manifests in adults. Mental-health professionals often lack the skills or experience to distinguish autism in adults, from diagnosed disorders with which they are more familiar (Lehnhardt et al., 2013). Consequently, many adults on the autism spectrum have spent much of their lives struggling to fit in without knowing why, with the wrong diagnosis, consigned to psychiatric institutions, or overmedicated for disorders that were non-existent (Wright, 2015). These and other aspects, such as inadequate services and insufficient professional assistance and information (Hagland, 2009), has meant that whether an adult suspects that they may have an ASC, or whether a diagnosis is gained or not, many adults with ASC may not achieve the understanding or specialised help that they require. The result is that they and their families are often obligated to bear the responsibility of this lack of awareness.

Dr. Bronwyn Wilson

Baron-Cohen, S. (1997). Mindblindness. An essay on autism and theory of mind. London: The MIT Press.

Deisinger, J. A. (2011). Chapter 10 History of autism spectrum disorders. In A. Rotatori (Ed.), History of Special Education (Vol. 21, pp. 237-267): Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Hagland, C. (2009). Getting to grips with Asperger Syndrome: Understanding adults on the autism spectrum: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Lai, M.-C., Lombardo, M. V., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2014). Autism. The Lancet, 383(9920), 896-910. doi:10.1038/mp.2012.106.http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61539-1

Lehnhardt, F.-G., Gawronski, A., Pfeiffer, K., Kockler, H., Schilbach, L., & Vogeley, K. (2013). The investigation and differential diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome in adults. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 110(45), 755-763. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2013.0755

Pellicano, E. (2014). A future made together: New directions in the ethics of autism research. Paper presented at the A future made together: New directions in the ethics of autism research, Social Sciences Lecture Theatre  UWA Perth.

Posar, A., Resca, F., & Visconti, P. (2015). Autism according to diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders 5 th edition: The need for further improvements. Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences, 10(2), 146-148. doi:10.4103/1817-1745.159195

Tantam, D. (2012). Autism Spectrum Disorders through the life span London Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Wright, J. (2015). Autism’s lost generation. Retrieved from LinkedIn: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/12/the-lost-adults-with-autism/419511/?utm_source=yahoo

What is Autism in Adulthood?

People do not grow out of autism. Autistic children become autistic adults. However, research continues to focus heavily on children, and as a result, few people have a concept of how autism manifests in adults. Recent population-based studies estimate that 40% of primary-school age children who need to be diagnosed with autism go unrecognised, resulting in many reaching adulthood without a diagnosis (Lehnhardt et al., 2013). Mental-health professionals often lack the skills or experience to distinguish autism in adults from diagnosed disorders with which they are more familiar (Lehnhardt et al., 2013). Therefore, many adults on the autism spectrum grow up without understanding their “difference.”  A distinct feature of that difference is that many adults with autism have a higher intellectual capacity together with a lower social capacity (Deisinger, 2011).  Consequently, they have spent much of their lives struggling to fit in without knowing why, with the wrong diagnosis, consigned to psychiatric institutions, or overmedicated for disorders that were non-existent (Wright, 2015). These and other aspects, such as inadequate services and insufficient professional assistance and information (Hagland, 2009), have meant that whether an adult suspects that they may have an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), or whether a diagnosis is gained or not, many adults with ASC may not achieve the understanding or specialised help that they require. The result is that they, and their families, are often obligated to bear the responsibility of this lack of awareness.

There is also considerable evidence to indicate that autism has existed throughout human history (Deisinger, 2011). It has been said that many famous historical figures would probably have been diagnosed with an ASC if they had lived today. Albert Einstein, Amadeus Mozart, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Michelangelo are among many celebrated and brilliant figures who have exhibited considerable behaviours suggestive of autism (Elder & Thomas, 2006; James, 2005). Therefore, there are most likely countless adults with an ASC throughout the world, of all ages, who largely continue to be unknown.

Adults with moderate to high intellect are not only more likely to have partners and children, but are also more proficient at hiding their symptoms (Attwood, 2015). Often, adults with ASC have learnt from an early age to compensate for their underlying difficulties by camouflaging, that is modifying their behaviour in order to blend in, or appear neurotypical, by using their intellect to mask deficiencies in public (Livingston, Colvert, Bolton, & Happé, 2019). The verbal IQ abilities of many adults on the spectrum have meant that they are often able to mask their deficits in social communication, to some extent, by learning social rules and scripts, in order to suppress autistic behaviours (Lehnhardt et al., 2013; Livingston et al., 2019). An appearance of being socially skilled can hide impairments, to a degree (Lingsom, 2008). The special abilities, talents, and interests that adults with ASC often display, means that they have the potential to do well in their vocational pursuits and frequently rise to the top of their field (Howlin, 2000).

However, within relationships, it is a different story. Due to their camouflaging abilities, first impressions of the communication abilities of adults with ASC often can be inaccurate (Aston, 2003). Many are quite articulate, especially when they are talking about their work or interests and since they do not disclose their difficulties, the courtship stage may not provide an indication of actual communication problems (Aston, 2003; Attwood, 2015). After a relationship moves to a deeper level, whereby compensatory strategies cannot be maintained over time (Attwood, 2015; Lingsom, 2008), difficulties with social interaction, social reciprocity, and social imagination (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), may impact on the capability to do well within the everyday interaction requirements of close relationships. Due to the hidden nature of adults with ASC, regularly others do not see the struggles, they, and their families confront. Consequently, these difficulties impact on the quality of life for those with ASC, and their significant others (Pallathra et al., 2018). As a result of the lack of awareness or understanding of the particular difficulties associated with ASC for adults, the responsibility to cope is placed on the adults with ASC, and their significant others (Attwood, 2015; Hendrickx, 2009; Mendes, 2015).

Dr. Bronwyn Wilson

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (Fifth ed.). Arlington, VA: APA.

Aston, M. (2003). Aspergers in love. Couple relationships and family affairs. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Attwood, T. (2015). The complete guide to Asperger’s Syndrome (Revised ed.). London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Deisinger, J. A. (2011). Chapter 10 History of autism spectrum disorders. In A. Rotatori (Ed.), History of Special Education (Vol. 21, pp. 237-267): Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Elder, J., & Thomas, M. (2006). Different like me: my book of autism heroes. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Hagland, C. (2009). Getting to grips with Asperger Syndrome: Understanding adults on the autism spectrum: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Hendrickx, S. (2009). The adolescent and adult neuro-diversity handbook: Asperger syndrome, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and related conditions. London;Philadelphia;: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Howlin, P. (2000). Outcome in adult life for more able individuals with autism or Asperger syndrome. Autism, 4(1), 63-79. doi:10.1177/1362361300004001005

James, I. (2005). Asperger’s Syndrome and high achievement : Some very remarkable people [1 online resource (226 pages)]. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ECU/detail.action?docID=290867

Lehnhardt, F.-G., Gawronski, A., Pfeiffer, K., Kockler, H., Schilbach, L., & Vogeley, K. (2013). The investigation and differential diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome in adults. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 110(45), 755-763. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2013.0755

Lingsom, S. (2008). Invisible impairments: Dilemmas of concealment and disclosure. SCANDINAVIAN JOURNAL OF DISABILITY RESEARCH, 10(1), 2-16. doi:http://doi.org/10.1080/15017410701391567

Livingston, L. A., Colvert, E., Bolton, P., & Happé, F. (2019). Good social skills despite poor theory of mind: exploring compensation in autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 60(1), 102-110. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12886

Mendes, E. (2015). Marriage and lasting relationships with Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder): Successful strategies for couples or counselors. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Pallathra, A. A., Calkins, M. E., Parish-Morris, J., Maddox, B. B., Perez, L. S., Miller, J., . . . Brodkin, E. S. (2018). Defining behavioral components of social functioning in adults with autism spectrum disorder as targets for treatment. Autism Research, 11(3), 488-502. doi:10.1002/aur.1910

Wright, J. (2015). Autism’s lost generation. Retrieved from LinkedIn: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/12/the-lost-adults-with-autism/419511/?utm_source=yahoo

What is a Neurodiverse Relationship

Relationships that involve people with an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) are often described as neurodiverse. Neurodiverse relationships can include either, both people who have an ASC, or else one person with an ASC and one person without an ASC (i.e., a person who is considered neurotypical). Neurodiverse relationships that include one person with an ASC and one person who is neurotypical (NT) may encounter considerable challenges, given that autism is a condition that impacts on an individual’s communication and social abilities, whereas people who are NT tend to have instinctive social skills. The giving and receiving of emotional support through reciprocity is a fundamental component of interpersonal interaction for NT individuals in their relationships. However, the opposite is usually the case for autistic people. They can experience a great deal of stress and anxiety when faced with the conventional expectancies of engaging in social interaction and reciprocity in close relationships. Thus, the different interaction capacities and requirements between autistic and NT individuals, when integrated in one relationship, may be an extensive source of miscommunication.

Although a common misconception is that adults on the autism spectrum do not want romantic relationships (Moreno, Wheeler, & Parkinson, 2012), many autistic adults are usually as interested in such relationships as NT adults. Consequently, many adults with ASC initiate romantic interest, form romantic attachments, progress along the relationship continuum, and enter into long-term relationships (Henault, 2006; Moreno et al., 2012). Not only are the higher functioning adults with ASC likely to have partners and children, but they are often proficient at hiding their symptoms (Attwood, 2007, 2015). By using their intellect to mask deficiencies in public, the coping skills of these adults can contribute to the hidden quality of many adults with ASC (Attwood, 2007, 2015).

While forming healthy, loving relationships is cultivated through the ability to give and receive healthy reciprocal interaction, individuals with ASC have difficulties with the social aspects of life, such as social interaction abilities and social functioning. Therefore, they have social impairments that can interfere with their capacity to engage in, contribute to, and persevere with, the ongoing reciprocal interaction necessary to sustain relationship health. The day-to-day reality of living with high skills in certain areas coupled with low skills in others may cause unseen turmoil behind closed doors. Edwards (2008) reports that, “all people with ASD have problems with communication…[often] giving a false impression of their comprehension” (p. 52). Consequently, many extremely able autistic adults may commonly struggle with day-to-day life skills (Edwards, 2008). Given that adults with ASC can often feel most comfortable within the intimate relationships of a family, they may exhibit more of their ASC characteristics in private. An outcome of this unseen aspect is that, others outside the confines of the home regularly do not observe the resulting struggles that they, and their families confront. At the same time, their special abilities, talents, and interests can help them to rise to the top of their field (Howlin, 2000). While this often means that they do well in their vocational pursuits, their struggles within the home environment with seemingly simple instructions, and their inabilities to perform what is generally viewed as straightforward mundane tasks, can perpetuate the hidden quality of ASC (Bresnahan, Li, & Susser, 2009; Edwards, 2008; Elichaoff, 2015; Howlin, 2000). The result is a divide between the public and private manifestations of neurodiverse relationships, with the healthy reciprocal interaction that NT adults usually expect, challenging to achieve in these relationships.

Dr. Bronwyn Wilson

Attwood, T. (2007). The complete guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Attwood, T. (2015). The complete guide to Asperger’s Syndrome (Revised ed.). London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Bresnahan, M., Li, G., & Susser, E. (2009). Hidden in plain sight. International Journal of Epidemiology, 38(5), 1172-1174. doi:10.1093/ije/dyp293

Edwards, D. (2008). Providing practical support for people with autism spectrum disorder: supported living in the community [1 online resource (192 pages) : illustrations]. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ECU/detail.action?docID=350373

Elichaoff, F. (2015). What’s it like being you? Growing old(er) with Autism Spectrum Conditions – A Scoping Study. The European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, 13(2), 1851-1864. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.ecu.edu.au/docview/1682443834?OpenUrlRefId=info:xri/sid:summon&accountid=10675

Henault, I. (2006). Asperger’s Syndrome and sexuality. From adolescence through adulthood. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Howlin, P. (2000). Outcome in adult life for more able individuals with autism or Asperger syndrome. Autism, 4(1), 63-79. doi:10.1177/1362361300004001005

Moreno, S. J., Wheeler, M., & Parkinson, K. (2012). The partner’s guide to Asperger Syndrome. London: Jessica Kingsley.