I read Asperger’s Syndrome and Difficult Moments to learn respectful methods of helping my overwhelmed son. One of the most helpful interventions was “proximity control.” This formal sounding action is simply being next to an Asperger child without engaging with them. Your presence is felt, but does not require specific interaction for either of you..
Adult Aspies benefit from proximity control. I feel agitated and restless when I am alone. Having the kitty for company is soothing, but having my husband blinging away on the guitar is best. Many women married to Aspies struggle to understand why their husband wants to have them nearby.
My grandmother was married to a man who had both Asperger’s syndrome and bipolar disorder. She spent her life trying to understand his “nervous spells.” Yet, in her letters, she realized Grandpa felt organized and strengthened by her quiet presence:
My father likes the same quiet company. Before he retired, he faithfully earned a living for his family. The anxiety he coped with on a daily basis would give the most courageous pause. After work, my mother’s companionship settled his nerves so he could sleep and go to work the next day.
As a child, my mother emphasized how much of a Southern Gentleman Dad was. He would not touch his food till she sat by his side at the table and picked up her fork. Despite father’s impeccable cordiality, I know his behavior runs deeper than upbringing. Dinner is simply more delicious with Mom beside him for company.
Aspies and neurotypical people both crave company. But we preffer differnt types of company. An Aspie’s ideal companion is subliminal. We don’t need words to maintain companionable peace, being is enough—as if radiated body heat bears secret messages only we comprehend. Too much talking clutters our minds and disturbs our mental symmetry.
My husband and I share a tacit harmony. We don’t make small talk or ask polite questions. We address relevant issues; make plans, and express affection. Goofy interludes persist. We sense each other’s presence across the household. Each knows the other is close by—this is a comfort.
Understanding this helps me to appreciate my son’s most frequent request: “Be with me, Mama.” So, I sit on the couch with my doodle pad and just “be.”