I write this blog, and I also share social and relationship solutions on my Spectrum Solutions blog for Psychology Today.
I think of Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism as being like living in a different culture. Most of society is geared toward “neurotypicals”, who don’t have Asperger syndrome. So, if you are Aspergian or autistic, you may feel as though you’re living in a different culture.
When you live in a different culture, you can feel lonely.
I had this longing, yearning, and sadness within me.
When I was in fourth grade, I got on a plane Boa Vista, Brazil, and travelled 500 miles south to the Amazonian city of Manaus.
I was excited, nervous, scared. My parents were missionaries to Brazil. They left all they knew in Connecticut and New Jersey, and were among the first Caucasian people ever seen by the Yanomami people, a Stone Age tribe in northern Brazil.
You may think it strange that my parents sent me to an English speaking boarding school in the interior Amazonian jungle, on the banks of the Amazon. But that’s just what missionaries in the 1960’s and 70’s did. There was nothing strange about it.
The Amazon River- where I took my daily bath
I loved boarding school, but I missed my parents terribly. Of course, I was a 4th grader, so how could I really put words to what I was feeling.
At times, when the yearning was overwhelming, I would go into the jungle where there was a clearing and a well (part of the water supply for our school).
There, staring up at the trees and the sky, I would wordlessly reach out to my Maker. I did not have the words to pray, but I longed to connect.
I know now that I longed to connect to my God, to my fellow students, and to my parents and two sisters.
Loneliness followed me as I graduated boarding school in the remote Amazon jungle and prepared to travel to the United States of America to start college.
United States and Culture Shock
Can you say, “Culture shock!?"
I’d been to the US a couple of times before, when my parents were on furlough, but I never grew up in the culture, so I was confused by pop culture, how to date the American way, and so forth.
As I started college, I realized I faced low self-esteem, anxiety, and that I lacked dating skills. I said the wrong thing a lot of times in conversations, feeling pretty foolish.
Overcoming Culture Shock
It’s been 24 years since college, and it took the following for me to start feeling comfortable in my own skin:
Finding a faith community where I could truly share my inner struggles and loneliness with a group of other men and women who accepted me and loved me.
Starting my own personal counseling with a counselor to better understand my personal loneliness from growing up away from my family since 4th grade, and learning to reach out to others.
Participating in group counseling (it was part of my counseling psychology internship).
Studying counseling skills to learn, practically, how to listen to and care for others.
Today, I have a beautiful family, with whom I am still learning to connect.
Your Cross Cultural Trip
Maybe you, like me, have felt like you were living in a different country. You want to connect with other people, make friends, date, marry, and have a fulfilling life.
But you may have felt varying degrees of rejection or bullying growing up. The hidden social rules of group interaction, the social awkwardness of small talk and conversations, let alone friendship and dating, have frustrated you.
Over time, rejection and misunderstanding may leave you feeling lonely and insecure, like I felt when I arrived in Wheaton, IL, after growing up in an Amazonian rainforest for 18 years!
Like me, it’s not that you lack intelligence or empathy, but rather there are skills you haven’t quite been able to learn.
Learn Relationship Skills to Thrive with Aspergers
I’ve made it my life mission, based on the struggles I’ve gone through and the grace I’ve found, to provide hope, understanding, and solutions to as many people as I can, both to my friends, and to my clients.
First, for my B.A., I studied Sociology/Anthropology, with some Communication classes. I didn’t know at the time what I wanted to do with my life, but I was interested in studying society and cultures.
After graduating from college, I enrolled at Trinity International University (then Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). My faith is important to me, and I wanted to study both theology and psychology in my Master’s program.
After graduating from my master’s program, I worked in a number of clinical and educational settings.
Then my son was born, and when he was diagnosed with autism at age 3, he launched me into a journey of trying to better understand autism.
Since then, I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading, attending conferences, and learning from Aspergians and autistics offline and online.
I’ve learned a lot, but I myself am not Aspergian. So I learn from Aspergians who’ve found success in relationship skills, and I summarize and package that information for you.
I share, on this blog, techniques I’ve used to help my counseling clients form better relationships.
I am constantly reading and curating the best research and articles I can find to help you improve your social and relationship skills.
Join me on your journey to improved relating skills by joining the Thriving with Aspergers community!