May 30, 2010
In the case of Asperger’s Syndrome, the now well documented Cassandra Syndrome (7) often comes into play where parties seek help. Mental health professionals often exacerbate the party’s troubles by falling into the pattern of blaming the acutely distressed neuro-typical partner for being an alarmist, for having inappropriate anxiety which feeds into problems and for having unrealistic parenting expectations of the other parent. The more the non-neurologically impaired parent is blamed for the pseudo-conflict the worse it becomes. Mental health professionals and other professionals have a role to play in not understanding Asperger’s Syndrome itself or the role of the Cassandra Phenomenon of which they are a part. Only when they understand the impact of this and other pervasive development disorders have on marriage will they be able to help parties to resolve and manage their post-separation conflict.
It is axiomatic that a problem needs to be identified before it can be resolved. In the classic couple with Asperger’s Syndrome the neuro-typical partner has anxiety and is usually the party who winds up being investigated as being the source of the conflict.(8) This is more than ironic. It places children at risk and it places the neuro-typical parent at-risk of depression or despair.
Separation With a Significant Communication Disorder: The separating high functioning parent on the autistic spectrum and their partner separate with significant discordance, frustration and difficulty. There may be threats and bizarre behaviours. There are commonly stalking-like behaviours.(9)
One AS individual was found by his former wife two years after they had separated in her living room when she came home from shopping. The ex-wife noticed that her computer was humming and she knew it had not shut down properly. The AS partners explanation was without guile “I want to know what you are saying about me to other people.” Two years earlier, this same individual had hacked into her AOL account and confessed later with an apology. He explained, again without guile, that “I wanted to know how you were feeling.” The wife felt violated but she also knew that there had been no intention what so ever to violate. This has also been documented in the literature. (10) Post-separation conflict profile with Asperger’s Syndrome manifests as something that looks like high conflict , but, as noted with the stalking example above, is inherently different in certain key areas.