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Essays on Autism, Neurodiversity, and Relationships

by David Finch

New York Times | Modern Love

Somewhere Inside, a Path to Empathy

Modern Love

IT wasn’t working, any of it. Our third year of marriage threatened to be our last. I’d become cynical and withdrawn, obsessive and preoccupied, dismissive and unhelpful.

“I don’t know when things got bad,” Kristen said, wiping away tears. “I feel like I’ve lost you and I don’t know what will bring you back.”

In reality she hadn’t lost me. She’d found me. The facade of semi-normalcy I’d struggled to maintain was falling away, revealing the person I’d been since childhood. I didn’t even know what was wrong with me, though my wife, a speech pathologist who works with autistic children, had her suspicions. Even so, it would be another two years before she would put all the pieces together and attach a name to what was ruining our marriage: Asperger’s syndrome.

The Gift was as Flimsy as My Rationale

Modern Love
Like most people, I try to be pragmatic when it comes to buying gifts. I’m told that I tend to over-think things like this, which may have something to do with my having Asperger syndrome, but I fail to see the problem with my over-thinking. On the contrary, devising a formal process for gift giving has made my life easier in a number of ways, especially when shopping for my wife, Kristen.

On the Path to Empathy, Some Forks in the Road

Modern Love

A few months before our 11th anniversary, my wife, Kristen, marched into the bathroom I was in and told me that our marriage was over. If you’d read the hope-filled Modern Love essay I’d published five years earlier, you might have been as surprised as I was to hear this.

More jarring still was how casually she said it. I’d often feared there might be a last straw, a breaking point, but in my head the breakup scene was always far more dramatic. After hours of yelling and slamming fists against walls, we’d face each other, eyes teary and sincere, and admit that ending the marriage was the right thing to do.

In reality there were no theatrics, no crying, just me examining a disappointing hole in my favorite underpants.

Self-Published Humor

Splitting Hairs

It is nine o’clock on a Saturday morning and, at my wife’s urging, I am headed to the spa for a little self-care—a haircut followed by a facial. But what Kristen promises will be a gratifying experience is tinged somewhat by the persistent, nagging thought that, as a guy, I shouldn’t be doing this.

Over the Edge: Conquering the Falls in a Barrel to Sell a Few Books

As I stand here beside my barrel, mounting a video camera to the top of my hockey helmet and trying desperately to ignore the roar of Horseshoe Falls a mere seven hundred feet down river, my mother’s words resonate stronger than ever: “You really should stick to writing fiction.”

Psychology Today

The Journal of Best Practices Blog | Psychology Today

For a brief period, I collaborated with Psychology Today on an autism and neurodiversity blog, which of course ventured into relationships and other related topics. I had a blast doing it because, unlike the typical PT contributors, I had zero subject matter expertise in psychology.


How to Give Good Gift


There is something a little creepy about people who, regardless of the circumstances, always give the right gift. That rare, uncorrected proof of your favorite novel, that hand-sewn quilt with a swatch of fabric from your great-grandmother’s wedding dress, that baseball signed to you personally by Derek Jeter. These sorts of gifts don’t happen by accident. Unless you specifically request them (providing SKU numbers or, better yet, URLs being my signature move), they are the rare fruits of an empathic giver, someone capable of getting inside your head and snooping around.

How An Asperger Syndrome Diagnosis Saved My Marriage

The Huffington Post

It was my wife Kristen, a speech therapist who had worked with autistic children, who was most suspicious about my behavior. After we were married and living together, she started noticing little “things” about me that were consistent with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism.


ZOOM: Autism Through Many Lenses

When we accept, we are able to see things and people for what they, how they are, and who they are, and only then can we love them purely.

Releasing Gifted Kids Into the Wild

ZOOM: Autism Through Many Lenses

For all they knew, my parents had raised a well-adjusted young man. Bright, funny, ambitious — at the age of eighteen, it seemed as though I possessed all of the adjectives a person might need in order to be successful in life.

Growing Confident: Parenting to Shatter Boundaries

ZOOM: Autism Through Many Lenses

Relentless focus on worry and dread has been my approach to parenting since my children we born.

Love Is Blind; Marriage Is the Eye Opener

John Elder Robison’s Look Me In the Eye

When people meet me for the first time, they’re often surprised to learn that I have Asperger syndrome. “Oh, my,” they say, sometimes slowly and clearly, as though they’re now addressing a child. “It is really remarkable how well you’re able to handle yourself socially.”

Snakes Attack When You Least Expect It

John Elder Robison’s Look Me In the Eye

I was out for my afternoon walk one day last September when I spotted a dead snake lying belly-up on the side of the road. He wasn’t big, this snake, maybe eight or ten inches long if you stretched him out. Still, I gasped, leaping sideways into the road to avoid stepping over it.