"What experience tells me is this, just like neurotypical couples, neurodiverse couples have relationship issues that bring them into therapy. But with neurodiverse couples, although the issues may be similar — communication difficulties, intimacy issues, lack of emotional connection — the root cause is neurological. And the effective solution involves taking neurology into account in how you understand and treat these couples."
Grace Myhill, MSW, is a pioneer and leader in the field of neurodiverse couples therapy. Since 2004, she has worked with hundreds of neurodiverse couples together and separately in her private practice and through the AANE neurodiverse couples coaching program. She has developed numerous skill-building tools and lessons to enhance communication and emotional connection.
Grace oversees a variety of in-person and video support groups for the many facets of this unique population. Support is very important for these couples; it provides normalization and validation for both the neurotypical partners and the partners with an Asperger’s profile.
She has support groups for neurodiverse couples together and separately: groups for partners with an Asperger’s profile, groups for neurotypical partners who are currently in a neurodiverse relationship, and groups for neurotypical partners who are divorced from a person with an Asperger’s profile, to work on strategies for co-parenting. She also moderates an online discussion forum on AANE’s website for the neurotypical partners in a neurodiverse couple.
Together with psychodramatist Carol Feldman Bass, JD, Grace co-developed a relationship skill-building workshop specifically for neurodiverse couples that uses a variety of interactive action methods such as Psychodrama, Sociodrama, and Improvisation. In a small group, neurodiverse couples work in action to better understand perspective-taking, communication, and other aspects of their complex relationships. In a supportive environment with others who think and feel the way they do, they experience using new strategies which they can continue to use after the workshop ends.
Getting a formal diagnosis is an important component of being in a neurodiverse relationship for many couples. Grace diagnoses adults with Asperger’s/Autism Spectrum Disorder using a collaborative process together with their partner or someone who knows them well.
Grace trains professional clinicians about understanding and treating neurodiverse couples through individual and group consultations. Her webinars and podcasts include such topics as Courtship in Neurodiverse Relationships, Common Challenges and Realistic Strategies for Neurodiverse Couples, and Navigating Neurodiverse Relationships.
Together with AANE’s executive director Dania Jekel, Grace co-authored two articles for NASW Focus, Neurology Matters: Recognizing, Understanding, and Treating Neurodiverse Couples in Therapy, and Asperger Marriage: Viewing Partnerships through a Different Lens.
She currently holds the titles of Director of Couples and Partner's Services and Director of the Peter M. Friedman Neurodiverse Couples Institute at AANE.
The groundbreaking Neurology Matters in Couples Therapy training courses were developed by Grace in conjunction with AANE staff and volunteers, Six Ink graphic design, and with the support of an expert team of skilled professionals, who provided advice, in depth lectures, and shared their insights and knowledge.
The most critical part of Training 101 was provided by the many voices of neurodiverse couples. Thank you to the neurodiverse couples who so generously participated in our interviews, the partners who shared their stories in writing, and the hundreds of couples who participated in our neurodiverse couples survey.
Thank you to Andre and Rita Friedman for their vision and for taking action to fill the need for training Neurodiverse Couples Therapists.
Thank you to Stephen and Eve Milstein and other donors.
Thank you to the Peter M. Friedman Neurodiverse Couples Institute Advisory Team members:
Elsa Abele, SLP
Carol Bass, J.D., Psychodramatist
Brenda Dater, MSW (AANE)
Ethan Eisdorfer, Ph.D.
Eric Endlich, Ph.D.
Jamie Freed, LICSW (AANE)
Lynda Geller, Ph.D.
Michael Glenn, LICSW
Dania Jekel, MSW (AANE)
Peggy Kriss, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist
Suzanne McCarthy, Psy.D.
Barbara H. Rosenn, Psy.D.
Pat Schissel, LMSW
Leslie Sickels, LCSW
Harriett F. Simons, Ph.D., LICSW.
Carol Singer, ED.D., Licensed Psychologist
Remy Springer, LCSW
A special thank you to Ellen Lichtman, owner and principal designer at Six Ink Graphic Design, for her creative vision, comprehensive conceptualization, and beautiful graphic work.
AANE (Asperger/Autism Network) is one of the first Asperger-focused organizations in the United States. Established in 1996 by a small group of concerned parents and professionals, AANE was founded shortly after the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome first appeared in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, edition IV (DSM-IV).
AANE staff are professional social workers and educators with experience in Asperger profiles. Many of our staff have children, siblings, or other relatives or friends with Asperger profiles. Employees with Asperger profiles also form an integral part of our staff.
Our community includes extended family members, educators, clinicians, professionals, and friends as well as adults with Asperger profiles.
AANE services are as diverse as the community we serve—and, much like our community, they keep expanding! AANE provides family and professional consultations, referrals, and individualized coaching: educational seminars, lectures and conferences; support groups for adults, parents, spouses, siblings, grandparents, and more; social and recreational events; and a multitude of internet-based support forums and webinars for our virtual community.
Neurodiverse couples find it difficult to find trained therapists, or they struggle with therapists who don’t understand their complex issues. Because these couples are in need of therapists who are trained to work with them effectively, in 2017 the Peter M. Friedman Neurodiverse Couples Institute was founded as a program of AANE.
The mission of The Peter M. Friedman Neurodiverse Couples Institute is to increase awareness, support, and resources for neurodiverse couples—in which one or both members has an Asperger/Autism spectrum profile—by providing specialized training for therapists to recognize, understand, and treat this unique population.