It Gets Better – by Aspie Columnist Jeffrey Deutsch


I’ve been there, done that and gotten the proverbial T-shirt. As an Aspie who grew up pre-ADA, never mind pre-Aspie acceptance, I was unemployed, underemployed and lonely for years.

In fact, I’d probably still be that way, if it wasn’t for Emily – my first and only girlfriend ever (now she’s Mrs. Deutsch). We met when I was 29 1/2, and a few years later, after Googling my more…interesting…traits, she figured I may be an Aspie.

She made me aware of my condition and how it was driving me to do and say things that pissed everyone else off and closed doors to me.

As a result, I came to see that I really could re-shape my own future – by re-shaping my behavior.Just like with gays, it can get better for us too – if we make it so!

“Congratulations, you’ve been voted Most Individual and Most Controversial!”

(“You have no friends, and you’re only still breathing because murder’s actually a felony in this state.”)

“We’re going to have to let you go.”

(“You’re fired!”)

“Thanks for asking, but I need to shampoo my rugs that evening.”

(“I wouldn’t go out with you for a million-dollar role on a reality show – even if they’d been invented yet!”)

“I’m sorry, but we’re going to need the room back.”

(“Namely, to rent to someone else – anybody else instead of you!”)

(The sound of my phone never ringing with, say, friends inviting me out.)

As an Aspie, I’ve been there, done that and gotten the T-shirt.

Now, I have my own practice doing what I love and getting paid for it, by helping fellow Aspies navigate this bewildering NT world. I’ve been happily married to Emily, an NT, for over seven years now, and we’re living in a nice townhouse. I also have regular social engagements (especially through Toastmasters) and good friends.

I’ve certainly been trained for it – decades of Home-based Experiential Lifelong Learning (HELL)! I grew up and went to college and my first years of graduate school before Asperger Syndrome (AS) was even recognized as an official diagnosis. In fact, I first heard about it from Emily while we were dating – at the age of 34. She then…insistently asked me, let’s just say, to read articles and books about AS.

After I read a few books – especially by Maxine Aston, who counsels Aspie-NT couples – my eyes opened. I saw for the first time how my being inflexible, getting hung up on little details and missing anything that’s not spelled out in so many words, among other things, were upsetting people and burning bridges.

As I started to understand how NTs tend to think, feel and express themselves, I softened and otherwise changed my words and actions. And then – to my surprise – some people actually liked me back. People asked for my help with projects. In Toastmasters, a senior district official (who has since become District Governor) recruited me to join her club, and I’m now in my second elected office there.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned a lot in my marriage to Emily. I’ve learned to compromise, take another person’s viewpoint and even anticipate how she’s likely to react to something. We’ve lasted longer than many NT couples, and we’re not quitting anytime soon!

If someone had told me at age 15, 20 or even 25 that things would get better – and in fact I could make them better myself – I would have thought they were nuts. But it’s true. And you can do it too!

Jeff Deutsch is an Aspie, who draws on his decades of Home-based Experiential Lifelong Learning (HELL) to help fellow Aspies better relate to NTs and vice versa. Now happily married to Emily, an NT who first told him about Asperger Syndrome (AS), he gives inspirational talks, group training for Aspies and also for Aspies’ families’ and partners’ support groups, employers, service providers, first responders and others, and individual life coaching for both Aspies and NTs. He helps Aspies better get along with NTs, and NTs better recognize and deal with Aspies, on the job, through social situations, in personal relationships and other aspects of daily life.

After graduating from high school, and then Cornell University less than three years later, Jeff subsequently earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from George Mason University. Years later, at the age of 38, he was diagnosed with AS by both a counselor and a psychiatrist.

Jeff’s practice, A SPLINT (ASPies Linking with NTs), is registered in the State of Maryland.

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