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Translating the worlds of the autistic and neurotypical partners

Woman Standing on Dock
Woman Standing on Docks

A warm welcome to you!

Have you ever said ...

  • My partner seems to lack empathy and doesn’t care how I feel
  • My partner misjudges me all the time - I can’t do anything right
  • I can’t seem to find a way to communicate with my partner
  • My partner feels attacked and criticized if I disagree
  • We argue all the time and never resolve anything
  • My partner just walks away when things get emotional
  • We've been together for a long time and I am lonelier than I have ever been in my life

If these comments sound familiar, it’s because they come from couples like you - neurodiverse couples who can’t figure out what to do about their challenges.

All relationships face challenges. There is no doubt about that. But the challenges faced by a neurodiverse couple are unique because they derive from structural differences in the brain, not from personality differences or mental illness. This is why the counsel of well-meaning friends usually feels off the mark: they really don’t understand what makes your relationship different from theirs and from other neurotypical relationships.

It also explains why much traditional couple counseling is often ineffective. It assumes both partners are equally adept at focusing on emotions and sharing insights. This can present a problem in the neurodiverse relationship with two partners whose way of perceiving the world and responding to it are fundamentally different.

But what do we mean when we speak of neurodiversity? Neurodiversity describes variances in the structure of the human brain that result in very different ways of experiencing reality. The term generally refers to the convergence of the autistic and non-autistic, or neurotypical, perspectives.

Because autism exists on a spectrum, it is possible for an individual to have some of the characteristics without meeting the full diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder. As far as our coaching relationship is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether there’s a diagnosis if the behaviors and descriptions simply make sense to you. We start there, because clashes are common in neurodiverse couples and they are unique and significant. We will begin with sound clinical information to sort fact from fallacy, and to be certain we are not assigning blame when we speak of differences.

How does coaching differ from counseling?

Coaching starts where you are. We identify your issues and I support you in developing skills and a road map for a more successful relationship. I will offer information and recommendations, provide tools for problem resolution, and help you be accountable for what you say you will do during the process. Together, we focus on solutions to the issues you identify as key in your partnership.

I highly recommend visiting my website entitled TheNeurodiverseCouple.thinkific.com before you schedule a session with me. This is where you will find a series of courses designed especially to help you get started in understanding neurodiversity from both sides, and the courses also include skills and strategies that you can bring into your relationship right away. You will be able to read more about the courses and enroll on the site. Once you do so, you will have permanent access for repeat viewing, and you can progress through the material at your own pace.

Each course runs three hours, which is the more than the equivalent of three in-person sessions at the fee of a single session. You can access them from any device.

The courses are all created to help you develop a newly focused understanding of your own relationship. 

Here are YouTube links to previews of three of the courses you might take: 

Maybe My Partner is Autistic

Sorting It All Out: The Autistic and Neurotypical Worlds

The Neurodiverse Couple: Challenges to Love and Intimacy

Then please complete the new client information forms and return them to me. After you send me your forms, we will schedule a session to discuss your goals and how we can work together to address them. Then I create a four-session plan tailored to your specific needs. We meet for four sessions at an interval that meets your schedule and mine.

My practice is exclusively online through an encrypted video chat program that safeguards your confidentiality. This allows you to join me from the privacy of your own home or office, or from the road if you are traveling. We can also work together from three different locations with a split screen. This also frees you from commute time and the challenge of parking in the city.

Many of my coaching clients also work with therapists for personal counseling and psychiatrists for medication support for anxiety or depression. I welcome the team approach to wellness and frequently consult with the other professionals who support my clients.

I am glad you found me. My coaching practice is international. That means that no matter where you live, if you can use English as your primary language for communication, we can work together. If your first language is Italian, German, or French, we can use that as well to supplement our conversations in English. We will find a way to work with the time zone differences and any possible language considerations.

I am here when you are ready, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sarah Swenson 

Licensed Mental Health Counselor

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