New York Times best-selling author David Finch shares struggles with Asperger syndrome
The book chronicles his efforts to understand and deal with Asperger's.
Mar. 13, 2012
David Finch, author of New York Times bestseller "The Journal of Best Practices," spoke March 5 in Fisher Auditorium about the struggles of living with Asperger syndrome.
The presentation, which was part of the MU Thompson Center Exceptional Achievement Lecture Series, gave Finch an opportunity to tell the story of how his Asperger syndrome tore apart his marriage and how dealing with the disorder strengthened it.
Finch said when he was diagnosed with Asperger's in 2008, the disorder had already torn apart his marriage. The struggles he and his wife endured to keep their marriage together inspired the book.
"A lot of work went into writing this (book)," he said. "Step one: I had to ruin my marriage. Step two: I sat on a bed and wrote stories about how I ruined my marriage."
Finch said living a successful life with Asperger's could be very difficult because of persistent and intense preoccupation, unusual rituals and behavior, impaired social reasoning and clinical strength egocentricity.
He led a life in which he would study, observe and mimic people to communicate effectively, he said. When he was dating his soon-to-be wife, he knew how to act out the character of a boyfriend because he had watched so many (romance) movies. But the act soon fell apart.
"You get married and things start to unravel quickly," he said. "It became harder and harder to conceal this condition."
After five years of fighting and dealing with communication problems stemming from his Asperger's, the couple was distant from one another, he said.
"It was like losing your best friend," Finch said. "It's that bad of a feeling."
His wife had worked with children on the autism spectrum and had her suspicions about his behavior, Finch said. After evaluations confirming the fact that he has Asperger's, the couple's healing process could begin.
"We hadn't spoken or laughed in months," he said. "And for the first time she was looking at me with this sparkle in her eyes. She said, 'Everything is going to be okay.'"
Through the support of others, Finch was able to slowly make progress, have discussions and learn to listen to others.
"Despite (these) abnormalities, people can achieve happiness in their life with love, understanding, guidance and, I like to add, adaptability," Finch said, "You need that willingness to adapt to be successful."
That attitude is what saved his marriage and inspired him to write "The Journal of Best Practices," he said. The book quickly became popular as a source of inspiration for those in struggling families and marriages.
"I expected people would say, 'Oh, I can really relate,'" he said. "What I didn't expect necessarily were emails that the book was affording people a sense of hope. It was a very nice surprise."
Junior Lindsey Finch, a cousin of Finch, said she learned a few things about relationships from her family member.
"(Keeping a strong marriage) is going to be something constant that he's going to have to (be) thinking about," she said. "(But) I guess relationships aren't as real until you spend a lot of time with somebody."
Graduate student Samantha Lewandowski said she learned to appreciate the fact that there can be differing viewpoints in a relationship.
"I think (the book) is something good for people to read," she said. "It's more than just Asperger's, it's communicating clearly."