Hi. I’m Dave, and the enchanting woman in the photographs above is my wife, Kristen. Kristen and I had been best friends for fifteen years, had been married for five, and had two kids when we learned that I have Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum condition.
In fact, it was Kristen — who, at the time, was a speech therapist working exclusively with autistic children — who brought this to my attention one evening. In her pajamas. Over a slice of pizza. And only after harboring suspicions for years. A psychologist would later confirm Kristen’s armchair diagnosis, but by that point, a formal diagnosis hardly seemed necessary. Given my challenges in emotional regulation, social communication, and so-called executive functioning, it would have been just as easy to diagnose a nosebleed or a second head.
Receiving an autism spectrum diagnosis as an adult might seem shocking or unsettling. It wasn’t. Eye-opening, yes. Life-changing, yes. But not distressing in the least. On the contrary, it was rather empowering to learn I had this particular neurological composition. In fact, the diagnosis ultimately changed my life for the better.
A year and a half later, I shared how the diagnosis helped me — and transformed my marriage — the way anyone might: by publishing a personal essay in the New York Times. Appearing in the Sunday Times’ popular Modern Love column, Somewhere Inside, a Path to Empathy struck a chord with readers. It became one of the Top 10 most popular Modern Love essays of all time, and the essay was later performed by Daniel Radcliffe for the Modern Love podcast. (Everyone can say they’ve read Harry Potter, but how many can say Harry Potter has read them? Heyoooo!)
A New York Times – Modern Love Essay by Dave Finch
The essay inspired a book, which I loved writing. Two years later, my memoir, THE JOURNAL OF BEST PRACTICES, was published by Scribner and debuted on the New York Times bestsellers list. Turns out, Kristen and I were not the only people having difficulty navigating their neurodiverse marriage. Marriage and Family Therapists started prescribing the book to their patients; couples were given copies of my book as wedding gifts. Not because I’m some amazing writer but because someone finally had come along and written a story about autism and relationships that was filled with hope and celebration — without sugar-coating the real challenges attendant with autism spectrum conditions.
The Journal of Best Practices
A memoir of marriage, asperger syndrome, and one man’s quest to be a better husband
The warm and hilarious bestselling memoir by a man diagnosed with Asperger syndrome who sets out to save his marriage. Filled with humor and surprising wisdom, The Journal of Best Practices is a candid story of ruthless self-improvement, a unique window into living with an autism spectrum condition, and proof that a true heart can conquer all.
“What makes the book compelling is how funny Mr. Finch is about himself. He’s great company.”
— Susannah Meadows, The New York Times
“In this hilarious memoir (which also gives some of the finest explications of Asperger’s out there), Finch approaches trying to be a better husband and father with the determination of Sherman marching on Atlanta.”
— Judith Newman, People (4/4 stars)
“David Finch’s memoir is a quirky heart-warmer about his valiant, stumbling, ultimately winning quest to rebuild his crumbling marriage.”
— Lisa Shea, ELLE
The book grabbed the attention of some media people. Most notably, Howard Stern, my conversational role model; Ira Glass; and Oprah.
Listen to Howard Stern talking about the Journal of Best Practices!
Howard Stern has cured Asperger’s! (Kidding.) Listen to Howard and Robin discuss my book, The Journal of Best Practices, on The Howard Stern Show. Just hit “play” on the audio player thingy.
Ira Glass invited Kristen and me to share our marriage story on This American Life, an opportunity to share with a global audience that neurodiverse relationships CAN work and CAN totally kick ass if both partners are focusing on the right things.
Abbe Wright wrote the most wonderful review and Q&A about The Journal of Best Practices for O the Oprah Magazine. Check it out!
Kate Snow filed a feature for Rock Center, an NBC News program, about the work Kristen and I put into healing our neurodiverse marriage after I was diagnosed with autism.
The year my memoir was published, I began speaking all around the country at autism and Neurodiversity conferences and events. Between the large university appearances and intimate bookstore gatherings, I shared a positive message about the autism experience with thousands of people among hundreds of audiences.
“A great speaker. David held the audience captive with a deeply moving personal story, filled with humor and poignancy. Definitely one of our best talks yet! I would highly recommend David for any event that needs a healthy dose of inspiration.”
Daniel Marleau, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine
“Delightful, inspiring, witty, honest, direct. David is a breath of fresh air. His comedic approach, quick delivery and humorous sarcasm keeps the audience engaged as he shares his message of hope and achievement.”
Gail J. Richard, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Eastern Illinois University
“David captivated the audience with his life story. He described the day-to-day challenges of living with an autism spectrum disorder, weaving in humorous and heartwarming details. David is a top-notch storyteller who pulled us in, kept us laughing, and taught us strategies for successful relationships.”
Janet E. Farmer, Ph.D., ABPP, University of Missouri
“Without hesitation I recommend David as a speaker. He is great for college audiences, families, and certainly adolescents and adults. He brings hope, understanding and humor — he is just fantastic!”
Abbe Benowitz, Ramapo College
“What a pleasure and an honor to have David as the keynote speaker for the Eastern Illinois University Autism Conference. The audience of 400+ was awed by his personal story. His insight and humor is a true gift, and we are much richer for having had a peek into his world.”
Dwight Vaught, Eastern Illinois University
“David Finch is hilarious.”
Michael Palascak, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show, Comedy Central
Today, I am an autism consultant for ABC’s new hit show, Not Dead Yet, and before that, I consulted on Atypical for Netflix. I also produce and co-host a popular podcast called Uniquely Human, with Dr. Barry Prizant, which illuminates and celebrates autism and Neurodiversity.
With more than 40,000 downloads per month in more than 120 countries, Uniquely Human: The Podcast expands the conversation on autism and Neurodiversity by amplifying the voices of autistic individuals and thought leaders in providing insightful, cutting-edge and practical information about the autistic experience.
And this whole time, while I’ve been publishing essays and writing books about myself, Kristen has been building a coaching practice to help as many people as she can. She teaches women and men to “calm the f*ck down,” as she puts it. What can I say? Being married to me has given her such mastery in patience and willful calmness that she now teaches others how to do it. Kristen also publishes a podcast with around 15,000 downloads per month, Calm AF, which offers weekly coaching to the over-thinkers, people-pleasers, perfectionists, and over-achievers.
Calm AF is the podcast for people who are hard on themselves: the over-thinkers, people-pleasers, energy managers, perfectionists, and over-achievers.
In the end, ours is a love story. No crazier or more fun or messier or happier or harder than anyone else’s — and I believe this is why people connect so readily and strongly to it. We all have our shit, our expectations, our blind spots. What probably makes this relationship unique, though, is how Kristen and I both do the work we need to do, and re-up our commitment every day, to reclaim a happy marriage. And it is so worth it.