Wednesday, December 2, 2009

When the Aspie Doesn't Respond in Conversation

For many years I have struggled when my aspie spouse totally ignores something I have said to him. I may make a comment or ask a question and get absolutely no response. No nod, no glance, no verbal acknowledgement that I have spoken or that I even exist. My angry response to this is usually "Could you treat me like I'm a human and acknowledge that I'm speaking to you?!" Ummm . . . no, he can't. He doesn't think about it. He doesn't think about it at all. He sometimes doesn't think about me, at all. OUCH.

After searching asperger's forums I found that I was not alone in this. Aspies don't always know how to respond, so they simply don't. Especially if the discussion is heated, if the tone is emotional, or if he is distracted.

I've been pondering the command to repay evil with good, and to bless and not curse enemies when they hurt you. It's important to distinguish the evil from the person. My husband is not evil, and is not an evil person. The 'evil' that hurts me so much here is the autism, which honestly, he cannot help.

Another example is with a female relative of his who does not respond to my efforts in communication. I have written snail mail, shared photos of the children, emailed questions, and shared things about our family. Typically I get zero response. Not even a reply via email to specific questions I have asked. I sometimes say "I'm not sure your email is getting to you as I've sent several with no response." And then I ask the question again. When she does (rarely) respond to my questions, she responds with short bulleted answers. There is no greeting, closing, or personal word (not even a signature of her name at the bottom of the email). This used to be a slap in the face to me. Every effort seems to be in vain to try and build a relationship with her. She must hate me and not want anything to do with me, I would think. But then this understanding of autism surfaced. Now I am determined to keep trying even though I get nothing in return.

This 'evil' is painfully hard to handle. How am to I respond to this sometimes 'evil' aspect of autism with good? I need to be understanding, compassionate, encouraging. I need to keep my tone level and unemotional. I need to be patient and wait much longer than is considered reasonable to an NT for a response, patiently asking again if I really need an answer. All of which is impossible in my own strength. But God's grace is perfected in my weakness.

And these are very, very, difficult lessons to learn.