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Roger N. Meyer "...of a different mind "
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ASPERGER SYNDROME PARTNERS GROUP
A COUPLES' SUPPORT GROUP
IN PORTLAND

 

 Why an AS Partners Group?

     Research and articles published over the past half dozen years suggest that where a child has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, there is a strong likelihood that an immediate member of the family "may be somewhere" on the autistic spectrum.  In addition to some likelihood that other children may have autistic traits without being "full blown," family dynamics between all primary family members may take on an "autistic tone."

      In an intact family where an AS parent is involved, having an "autistic family" presents its own unique challenges to both partners.  While it is rare that two persons with Asperger Syndrome might marry and have children, it is not at all unusual for a non-spectrum spouse to marry one with AS.  The spectrum-sitter (usually the husband/child's father--a factor determined by the genetic incidence ratio of approximately 4:1 males to females) invariably requires a degree of partner's attention that is akin to raising another autistic child.

      The fact that persons with Asperger Syndrome become adults doesn't make them any less autistic.  While it is possible for them to "pass" in the world of work--although often with great effort--and to provide for their children, the unique social and behavioral demands of marriage with an autistic child or children "thrown in" guarantees unusual arrangements and stress between spouses.  Stress often encompasses the extended family.  Even if both spouses weren't on the spectrum at all, having an autistic child invariably has the effect of "making the family autistic."

 Where to go for Help on the Internet

      There are two long-established Internet listservs that address marital and partner concerns, but from a different perspective.  One listserv, maintained by Karen Rodman, the founder of Families of Adults Afflicted by Asperger Syndrome (FAAAS) tells the reader much just with the title of the organization, which has not changed since its inception.  Listserv members of FAAAS, nearly all women, seem stuck in the early stages of discovering they have an AS spouse.  The list is primarily characterized by venting and/or mutual support for non-spectrum spouses "getting over" relationships with an AS partner.

      Many partners do wish their relationships to survive and prosper.  For them, there is a second list.  maintained by ASPIRES, is now composed of over 250 members, many of them coming to a list "for the first time anywhere" is called ASPIRES.  It is at  http://www.aspires-relationships.com

     The orientation is positive, supportive, and practical.  The quality of posts--genuine matters of substance--is extraordinary and very mature.  There is no other list like it.  Membership is limited to partners on and off the autistic spectrum, and family members interested in understanding more about adult AS.  It is not a "parents list" except as parenting issues with an AS spouse or near relative come up in the discussion.  No professionals of any kind are not allowed to participate because of the chilling effect of members "being studied."  The list is international, having members from Europe as well as the US.

      Spouses on and off spectrum are encouraged to contact Linda Newland, list administrator, at OPU@DiskSpaceOnline.net.   It is rare that both partners join the discussion list, but if they do, their discussion must follow all the rules of civil discourse expected of the other list members. Before joining, individuals interested in exploring the discussion list are referred to the lists of rules.  They must agree to them before being added by the list administrator.

 The Portland Partners Group

      The Portland AS Partners Group has met continually since July 2000.  It is for couples with one or both members on the autistic spectrum.  There is no formal requirement for the spectrum partner to be medically or professionally diagnosed as long as a self-diagnosis can be peer confirmed and the individual accepts the diagnosis.  While there are individuals conducting marital therapy with one spouse or both spouses on an individual basis, this is the first known support group anywhere for couples.  This is not a therapy group.  Co-facilitated by Lisa Lieberman, LCSW and Roger N. Meyer, the group was established to enable couples to share their survival techniques, strategies and challenges with each other as a learning experience.  Emphasis is placed on practical problem solving based on issues each person brings to the meeting.  Most of the issues center on communication between the partners that has broken down or has never started.  The group setting offers an ideal opportunity for looking at the communication and problem-solving issues between couples at all stages of their relationship.  Notes are taken of each meeting and distributed to group members prior to the next meeting for correction and as the basis for continued discussion, if warranted.  Notes and membership are not shared outside the group.  Privacy and confidentiality of members is of utmost importance.

     At present, the group has a steady membership of five couples.  We have found this to be an optimum size.  When an opening occurs, we expect new partners to be committed to coming regularly.  We have set an attendance floor of THREE couples in order for the group to meet together.  The group meeting must be attended by both partners, although once the couple is "established," exceptions are made if only one member can attend.

     We recommend that the AS partner attend the Portland Asperger Syndrome Support group.  The adult group meets the second Sunday of the month.  The AS Partners group meets the third Monday of the month at the same location. 

Contact Information:

     Couples interested in joining must first contact Roger N. Meyer at:

Roger N. Meyer
"...of a different mind"
Disability Advocacy, Representation
and Comprehensive Case Management
18162 East Burnside
Portland, Oregon 97233
Phone: 503-666-2776
Email: rogernmeyer@earthlink.net
Web Site: http://www.rogernmeyer.com

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