Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book Review: Cindy Ariel's Loving Someone with Asperger's Syndrome

Part guidebook, part workbook, Ariel's book for neurotypical partners is sure to be considered a boon for spouses who know almost nothing about Asperger's Syndrome. Written by  Cindy Ariel, a licensed psychologist who provides therapy for a variety of issues, including relationships, it is an easy-to-read guide to understanding Asperger's Syndrome and why partners on the spectrum behave in ways that may be hard for those unfamiliar with the syndrome to understand.

Much of this book is valuable for any couple struggling with issues dealing with miscommunication and unmet expectations. It does have a few areas of concern, though, that may make it unpalatable to some people on the spectrum: mention of Maxine Aston's Cassandra Syndrome is certain to rile those familiar with her speculations that neurotypical partners are victimized by their autistic mates and a failure to include any autistic voices in the text. To be fair, the voices of neurotypical partners are not included, either, and this lack of real-life examples both keeps this book at a manageable length and avoids any additional emotional entanglement. 

The best people, though, to explain what is going on in the autistic mind are autistic people. Therapists can certainly be helpful in negotiating compromise and fostering mutual respect and compassion, and this is something that Ariel does stress in her text, but in the end, each partner must be willing to offer his or her own insight and explanation for their actions and behaviors. 

In her concluding chapter, Ariel writes, "Make your life what you want it to be. If you want change, you must start by changing yourself." This is good advice for anyone. It isn't enough to want things to be different; we have to be willing to act, and gaining information and insight is a good first step towards effective action.

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