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Operating Room




It is easy to get trapped into the idea that my spouse is not "normal" or at least my marriage is not "normal".  But what is normal anyway?


The illusory nature of normal is captured in the following quote:


“I wonder if we recognize the irony of telling people to act normal, because to "act" is to perform a role that isn’t real.

And I wonder if we truly understand what it does to a human being to tell them to pretend to be someone, or something, they are not, and how this demand requires people to repress, efface, and cover up who they really are.”

― Jonathan Mooney, Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines




With the help of neurodiverse-sensitive therapy, most couples come to the realization that that "abnormality" is not the problem; rather, the difficulty is rooted in trying to fit into their own concept of what a "normal" couple should look like. This shift away from "normal" can free a couple the shame that comes from the message that one or both of them is the problem. If we can reorient the ways in which we view diversity, abilities, and disabilities, each partner can begin to feel accepted for who they are; and, paradoxically, this acceptance makes room for real change.


Neurodiversity refers to the idea that the human brain can function in a wide range of different ways, and that these variations should be recognized and respected as a natural part of human diversity. The most common conditions people think of as neurodiversity are:

  • autism (1-2% of the population), 

  • ADHD (4-5% of the population), and

  • dyslexia (the most common type of neurodiversity).


But it also can include Tourette's, dyspraxia, synesthesia, dyscalculia, Down syndrome, epilepsy, and chronic mental health illnesses such as bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, and depression.

At some point, we recognize that all brains are different so rather than thinking one way is good and another bad, let's understand the differences and how to work with them.

It's important to note that neurodiversity is not a medical model, but rather a social model that recognizes the diversity of human brains and the ways in which they function. This means that neurodiversity is not about "fixing" or "curing" people, but rather about creating inclusive and accommodating environments that support the unique strengths and abilities of each individual.

Some of the key principles of neurodiversity include:

  • rather than viewing autism and other disorders as unfortunate errors or to be corrected, we should view these conditions as treasured parts of the genetic legacy of humanity,

  • we work to recognize the value and contributions of neurodivergent individuals to the development of culture, society and technology,

  • different individuals may have different experiences and needs,

  • there is no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting neurodiversity,

  • we have the opportunity to challenge negative stereotypes and discrimination, and

  • we can set a goal of creating inclusive and accessible environments for all.


Identity-first versus Person-first language

Since 1994, the psychology profession has used the term "Asperger's Syndrome" (AS) to describe a certain group of people with neurological differences that impact social interactions, how the world is experienced, and verbal and nonverbal communication.


In 2013, the diagnostic criteria changed and AS became part of a high-functioning autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD). 


Our team of therapists and coaches generally use identity-first language rather than person-first language. To illustrate:


  • identity-first language:

    • refers to our neurodiverse clients as Aspies, AS partner, or autistic partner. 

    • PRO: suggests that autism is a core part of a person's identity (like being a Canadian) with all the strengths and weaknesses that come with that identity. Implies that you are OK with having autism as the core of who you are. For many, this is a clearer path to a more positive and realistic identity.

    • CON: some people don't like to be define this way.

    • Quote:

      • Autism isn't something a person has, or a shell that a person is trapped inside. There's no normal child hidden behind the autism. Autism is a way of being. It is pervasive; it colors every experience, every sensation, perception, thought, emotion and encounter - every aspect of existence. It is not possible to separate the autism from the person – and if it were possible, the person you'd have left would not be the same person you started with. 

Jim Sinclair​

  • person-first language:

    • refers to clients as the partner with Asperger's or the spouse on the spectrum.

    • PRO: you are not only your Asperger's symptoms. Autism is a modifier, not what defines you.

    • CON: the assumption usually is that one's autism is a burden that gets tacked onto a person (like a person who is saddled with a disease). This ignores the many strengths of being on the spectrum.

Although our team usually uses identity-first language, we understand the different reasons for both approaches and will accommodate whichever you are most comfortable with.

Neurodiverse versus Neurodivergent

Often, the word 'neurodiverse' is used interchangeably with 'neurodivergent'. However, if considered carefully, an individual person technically is not neurodiverse.


The term 'diverse' means 'varied', so while a group of people with different neurotypes can be considered neurodiverse, an individual is either neurotypical or neurodivergent.

Since a couple is made up of two people, the term neurodiverse is a better fit. 

Autism Spectrum "Disorder" vs "Difference"

Although the psychology profession (and we used it in the writing above) uses the term "Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)", we much prefer "Autism Spectrum DIFFERENCE".

When considering all the strengths and weaknesses, our clients are no more "disordered" than other people. In other words, there is no 'normal'; rather, there are different neurotypes, some more prevalent/common than others.

Normal Sucks book about Autism
God Created Autism Because Normal was Too Boring
Hugging Couple in Nature

“Showing kindness towards those who are different and embracing our imperfections as proof of our humanness is the remedy for fear.”  



Emma Zurcher-Long of Emma’s Hope Book

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