"Light bulbs over my head the more I read," she said. "My husband had been living a lifetime with two neurological-biological-developmental disabilities -- and no one knew it except his family, behind closed doors." She boils down her existence as a "neurotypical" -- a term for someone not on the autism spectrum -- spouse to one word: lonely.
In 1997, Rodman founded the international support group Families of Adults Affected by Asperger's Syndrome.
Holliday Willey's father also had Asperger's for most of his life, but only discovered that as an older man.
"My father was 75 when he was diagnosed," she said. "At that point, he said, 'Now I understand why I was bullied. Now I understand why I was never promoted to management.' He was a brilliant engineer. But he didn't have that social communication, that nonverbal communication, those sensory problems adjusted for."
Her mother -- the neurotypical in the family -- had a lot to deal with, Holliday Willey said.
"My mom was under the impression that I didn't like her, didn't love her, didn't respect her. I didn't hug her," she said. "Now that she knows it was not her -- it was our neural wiring -- she'll say, 'Give me a hug if you hate it or not; it's for me.' So I'll hug her and go, 'Eww, that's enough, let go,' and she'll tease me about it."
To learn more about living with Asperger's, visit Families of Adults Affected With Asperger's Syndrome.
SOURCES: Liane Holliday Willey, senior editor, Autism Spectrum Quarterly, and autism consultant, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Brian R. King, L.C.S.W., relationship coach, Illinois; Eric Lipshaw, college student, Oakland University, Rochester, Mich.; Karen Rodman, president and founder, Families of Adults Affected with Asperger's Syndrome
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