When a Host Parent Is Diagnosed With Asbergers, How Does This Reshape The Au Pair Relationship?

by cv harquail on October 13, 2013

We’ve had some wonderfully honest, thoughtful and insightful conversations here on Au Pair Mom about how to manage relationship dynamics with Au Pairs who have emotional challenges or histories,  and children who have cognitive or developmental ‘special needs’ — chronic cognitive or relational challenges that families need to support.

But we haven’t even talked about when a host parent– a person in charge of the whole family-  finds him or herself diagnosed with a cognitive challenge.

9984699414_9a384fd43eOur recent conversation about how Au Pairs who’ve engaged in psychological counseling might disclose this with a host family prompted one host mom to write me with her own family’s challenge.

It’s a delicate subject, so please be gentle as you read and (as per usual) assume the very best intentions.

Dear Au Pair Mom– 

My husband was been diagnosed with Asperger’s a few years ago.    We partly decided to try the aupair route because of issues and difficulties that are associated with his diagnosis. (For example, he gets stressed easily and finds looking after our daughter uncommonly difficult– despite his deep love for her and his connection with her.)   At the same time, he is extremely considerate, helpful and reliable to a degree that he will fail to look after himself and his own needs – at all.   I had hoped that having an Au Pair-   another person in the house, close to our child, and dependable in a range of ways — would help my husband feel more relaxed about household demands and able to do ‘his own’ stuff.

The Host Parent application forms here (New Zealand) always specifically ask whether anyone in the house has physical or emotional disabilities, and truth be told, his diagnosis should probably fall under this question. So far, we haven’t been honest; we’ve always answered ‘no’.  I’ve done this for the same reason as some au pairs omit information about their counseling history– I am afraid that our family would be disqualified, and at the same time I feel confident that my husband’s diagnosis is not unfair to an au pair or dangerous in any way.

That said, I feel bad about lying, since his diagnosis (and understanding it) is such an integral part of who he is/ we are.

Friends and even family always say that if they had just met him, they’d think he was geeky and maybe a bit odd; I think someone slightly more empathic would pick up on something being not ‘quite right.

A little more detail:

My husband is at the ‘high-functioning’ end of the spectrum, highly intelligent, focussed, excellent at his job (in science), not interested in many other things outside work, very black-and-white, quickly stressed, doesn’t like crowds and noisy places, needs a lot of his own space and time (which, as mentioned, he doesn’t always seek on his own accord) and likes to keep busy/ active and can’t sit still for very long…

We are still learning to live with it, and might be getting better at it but there are still issues (and disagreements) around communication and interpretation. Some of our arrangements and ways to conduct our relationship might seem odd to the outside and when measured by the conventional relationship yardstick.

When we were looking for an aupair, we increasingly (we weren’t so clued on the first time round) tried to emphasise in our profile that we lead a very quiet, home-based life. Although we do love the outdoors and to be active, we we spend a lot of our time doing separate things often while we’re both at home, etc. We need an aupair who has a natural desire to spend time by themselves (or with people their own age)… so that they don’t depend on us completely for emotional support, and so they give us a little space.

However, not being straight about the Asperger’s has made writing our application/ presenting ourselves difficult to a certain degree.

Describing my husband as ‘geeky’ doesn’t explain our relationship or the family patterns of interaction that we have developed to accommodate his challenges.

Being diagnosed so late in his life (at almost 40) meant that he developed a lot of coping mechanisms (emulating mainly, what he perceived / perceives as ‘normal’ or expected behaviour), that coupled with what I call the (British) English small-talk gene (I am originally from a less chatty European country) means most people who know him would never suspect him as non-neurotypical (and we usually don’t talk about it).

However– this is his ‘public’ persona —   Someone living in the house, someone who is somewhat empathic, would notice that there is more behind it.  When he was diagnosed, I wasn’t surprised, but of course I’d never said to him “I think you might be ‘on the spectrum’ of autism.”

My actual questions:

How is this handled in the US (same question about ‘disabilities’ on application forms?)?

How would you / do you answer such a question?

Would being completely upfront help us find a more perfect match? Or would this scare off agencies and candidates?

Is anyone in a similar situation (broadly: special needs / non neurotypical parent)? 

This is an issue I’ve found difficult to address. I’d like all of you on AuPairMom to know is that I am extremely grateful to you, and all the great contributions you’ve made from your experiences.

I’ve learned a lot (or so I hope) and you’ve helped a lot through the long months with two more or less unsuccessful aupairs over the last year. Reading people’s posts and comments here have made me laugh and cry (both, with/ about others and my own), helped me put difficult things in perspective, and especially helped me see how our family – au pair dynamics could be better — which is why we are giving it another shot with our 3rd aupair arriving in 2 weeks.  

I appreciate your advice, and I hope that you’ll have some thoughts to share with me.

Very many thanks, NZHostMom


Image: from Flickr, AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by amboo who?


Taking a Computer Lunch October 13, 2013 at 10:57 am

While this is not an issue in our house for HP, we do have a child with special needs. Over the years, we have hosted several APs who have siblings on the autistic spectrum, and in fact, their experience makes them attractive to us – even though our child is not autistic. While you may not toggle the “disability” box, I do think you should be open in your communication with potential APs, even if you do not spell out the diagnosis, so you match with an appropriate woman.

If I were a candidate to live with your family, then I would want to know that some things would upset my HF, and that I might see him stressed out in a way that he would not show in his public persona. I would also want to know ahead of my time that my role would be to make his life easier and his relationship with his child more enjoyable.

We’ve had discussions elsewhere here on TBI, cancer and military deployment. I am not indicating that they are the same, just show how families deal with their need for flexibility from APs.

Anne October 13, 2013 at 11:21 am

I am an au pair for an Aspergers diagnosed child. And the challenges with him is very difficult at times, but we always pull through. I knew from the beginning that he had autism, and tried my best to prepare for it.

So, well, what I am trying to say is: talk about your DAUGHTER when you apply for au pairs. That is it. Your husband’s Aspergers has nothing to do with the au pair.

Your husband has Aspergers, so what? A lot of people have autism – by working with a child with autism, I got to meet so many people with children that have autism and they are great. Usually one of the parents got diagnosed along with their children, because they also fell in the spectrum.

His autism should not be a reason why you cant find a great au pair.

Structure is important. (structure is important in all families, regardless of autism.)

Have a clear schedule.

Ask your au pair for help with those things if you need to.

Give her information about groups she can join in her free time, places that she can see – make it clear that you like privacy – you do not need to say that it is because your husbands autism.

Your daughter is the number one priority when appying for au pairs, the rest is just extra information.

If your au pair is not required to work with your husband – it should not matter if she knows or not.

Good luck!

Should be working October 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I’m not sure how many prospective APs would even really understand what Asperger’s is. And I’m not sure how many people IN GENERAL would understand this. I’m not even sure that I myself would know what this looks like in a successful, functioning adult. So I think you are ok with not naming it as a diagnosis. It might evoke more preconceptions and confusions than sheer description.

I would simply be really explicit about your husband’s style and needs–but not in a way that singles him out. Why not a paragraph per person describing each member of the family? And then for him, it can be something like “HD is a caring, gentle person. But we’ll be honest with you–he is a big geek and can get stressed out easily. He likes to have the house this way . . . he needs time every day to . . . When the kids get loud he tends to get overwhelmed and needs . . . If you find yourself puzzled over HD’s behavior sometimes, just talk to us, we know he can seem a little odd and we want you to be comfortable with his, and all of our, limitations.

kat October 13, 2013 at 7:20 pm

i think a paragraph about each family member is a great idea. actually my first family did just that, and than about what they like do as a family.
ps. just not sure whether ‘geek’ is a generally known word to foreigners. i had to look it up ( after lots of time spent in the UK).

German Au-Pair October 16, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I have to agree with kat. This just sounds like HD is weird in a very disturbing, uncomfortable way and I would not want to match with this family for two reasons:
1. If HD is so weird they need to say it in the letter, how will it make me feel? How will it affect me?
2. If the au pair has ANY experience with any disability (which is probably what would suit you most…) she’ll feel like this is a sugarcoated description of a diagnosis that you either know about and hide or don’t know about and might lead to trouble later.
I’d think you’d want an au pair is is able to pick up stuff like that…if she’s really oblivious to a paragraph like that she might not be your best match.
My HF said something about my HC’s Asperger’s in their letter. It was something like “He’s super sweet and funny but he aslo has Asperger’s. That’s a form of autism and means x,y and z for your every day life.”
That’s what I would do. I would feel betrayed if I figured out later. Of course in general HD is not my business, BUT especially in this case it would affect my every day life and I just wouldn’t feel comfortable being lied to like that.
So I’d be upfront about it. If not in the letter, definitely in an email. Write down what it is in general, what it means for you husband, how it affects your family life and the au pair’s life and job.
Not just is that fair to a candidate who’ll have to call your home HER home for a year, it will also help you maintain a good, open relationship (and not set an example that hiding things is kinda okay sometimes…) but also to find a good match in the first place!

Claudia October 13, 2013 at 11:14 pm

I am an Au Pair and to be honest, I would be more put off by a family letter that says “If you find yourself puzzled over HD’s behavior sometimes, just talk to us, we know he can seem a little odd and we…” than with a letter that is actually being honest and giving a name to his condition. Even if I were not able to understand said condition I would know that there IS one instead of thinking the HD is just “weird”.

I would be honest to my would-be-Au Pairs. Makes it easier for everyone cause girls who know they wouldnt be able to handle this situation would automatically rule themselves out. Wouldn’t you prefer an Au Pair who thinks she can handle this situation and wont be deterred by your husbands behaviour?
And also, if I came to your family and noticed that something is wrong and then found out that there is a medical condition that has been withheld from me, I would feel like I’ve been lied to and that would possibly be a reason for me to go to rematch as I think honesty is a very important factor in the Hosts / Au Pair relationship. You also wouldn’t like your Au Pair keeping something like that from YOU.

LookingForwardToBeAP October 14, 2013 at 12:10 am

I also think the paragraph about each member is a great idea! Actually in CC the HF profile is in this way and I loved that.

Nevertheless, I think the diagnosed should be disclosed later on an email or inteview, because if I read a paragraph like this I would definitely think that there’s something being hidden and would my self try to talk about it if the HF didn’t.

anon this time October 13, 2013 at 1:25 pm

My husband is also the weird scientist type. He can do things as a family but we prefer to do our own things on weekends because he is absorbed in his work/projects. He doesn’t like big parties so our wedding was very small. I don’t think it is a disability, i.e. he can if he has to, but he prefers a different lifestyle.

He is not diagnosed with anything but his communication style takes getting used to, and he can be intimidating in person (tall, strong, talks in a straightforward way). I have to explain to my au pairs that he is a gentle caring person who wont’ hurt a fly, he cares about his family and about them, but he is the “weird scientist type”. I personally believe he is a true genius in his field, but like in many geniuses, if God gives too much in one part of the brain, he may not fully give in the social interaction/sensitivity part. They understand because I am sure they have encountered such personalities in their country, it is not so uncommon.

Seattle Mom October 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm

After reading all the comments so far, I think I agree that you should be honest in follow-up communication (not necessarily the profile) about DH’s diagnosis. It would seem weird and cagey to describe it without naming it, since you have a name. And by being honest you will help APs who are not right for your family self-select out of your pool. It might take you more time to find an AP who you like and who wants to match with you, but I think you’re much more likely to find the right AP. Kind of like the “I dare you to match with me” letter that has been referenced here so much (TACL’s invention?). It sometimes feels crappy to be rejected (trust me, i know, I’m trying to match and I am experiencing it a lot now- I get rejected as much as I reject potential APs!) but in the end I think it’s for the best.

BTW as far as I know my husband is neurologically typical.. but he is definitely quite quirky and doesn’t always get along well with others. He is sort of a “weird scientist” type though he would never admit to that- he grew up in a very social family and thinks he’s Mr. Party Guy, which I think makes it harder for him. People tend to love him or hate him- he’s very earnest but if he doesn’t like something he lets you know, for better or worse. And is brain runs at a mile a minute and he’s so intellectually curious about everything- life with him goes back and forth between being really fun and really exhausting. He’s also the one who interfaces most with our AP (because he’s a professor and works from home a lot), so I do have to keep his quirkiness in mind while looking for someone. He’s also super athletic and active in every way, doesn’t watch TV or play video games (or ANY games), so he’s not a typical geek and is actually quite turned off by computer people (even though his graduate degrees are in physics & math and he’s done his share of coding- he refuses to own a cell phone and doesn’t like gadgets). I don’t really suspect that he is on the spectrum in any way because he likes crowds and loud music, and does really well with our children. He’s just very smart and a little weird. So far it has been ok with our APs.

Skny October 13, 2013 at 6:24 pm

While I can see the problem for the family I do think the au pair deserves to be aware of the particularities of host father personality that will affect her.
This is not a 8-5 job where if she doesn’t get along with HD personality she can go home and relax. She lives with the family. An au pair with understanding of what is going on will be more sympathetic and helpful. I believe if not on application, disclosure should be done during interview. Explaining all implications and expectations (I.e. we need au pair to do things on her own during weekend, or independent individual, etc).

LookingForwardToBeAP October 14, 2013 at 12:04 am

Dear NZHostMom,

I think that telling about this in one way or another would help you get a great match! Be sure that most au pairs will immediatly google Asperger’s Syndrome, some may be scared, but some will not, and I am sure it is the second kind you want in your home. You may even find someone with experience with people with the same condition.

I have matched with a family that told me many times that they weren’t perfect, that they have defects but at the end of the day are good people. I would have never matched with a family that seemed perfect, because I think that does not exist. For me your story would have been a plus, what I think when I read is that you are standing by your DH’s side on this, that you are trying to find ways to make his life easier, improve his relationship with your daughter, and above all that you love your husband. I would definitely want to be in a family were love arises when there’s difficulties.

Don’t be afraid of being rejected, would you match with someone if you knew that person would reject you for this? I think you probably wouldn’t want that in your home.

Little M. October 14, 2013 at 3:54 am

Don’t be afraid of getting rejected.

If they reject you, they were not the right match! I am pretty sure you will find an aupair ready to take the challenge and to step up to the chance.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 14, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Agreed. We’re not bent out of shape when an AP rejects us because they can’t imagine spending a year changing our teenagers dirty diapers. We almost always match with the woman who’s best suited for us – and all 9 APs have risen to the occasion of caring for her well.

TexasHM October 14, 2013 at 8:19 am

How have you handled it with the first two APs? Do you feel like that strategy was successful? (I’m guessing not since you are writing in here!). Why were the previous two unsuccessful matches? (Anything to do with dynamics with him or completely different issues? How has your husband responded to having an AP? If not well, is it because you haven’t found the right match or does having another person living with you increase his stress level?
I personally think there are likely many HPs with conditions whether that’s a variation of something like this or being bipolar, terminally ill, suffering from depression, etc etc. I agree there is no perfect HF (we certainly aren’t them!) and I think you being candid and clear is actually an advantage. It shows you understand his condition, can manage and it’s not a mystery she will have to tackle alone. Best of luck!!

Momma Gadget October 14, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I agree that it is not necessary to write this in your family profile. However, if the the HDs condition is serious enough to have him evaluated, then it is serious enough that it should be discussed with a potential AP.
For sure there is an AP out there who is flexible, caring,independent and be the right fit for your situation. In order to find her/him, you need to be upfront and truthful about what your situation is, and how it could possibly affect your AP.

Ex-aupair October 14, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I think you should be honest :) from my experience there’s a lot of needy girls who wants to be part of a family who want to too hang out with there families Etc and take offence and get hurt if there not …

Maybe consider an aupair who’s a professional nanny in there home country , who will respect it as a job and leave you guys too it ( I was one of them I never wanted to spend time with my host family , they were the ones who took offence

It’s important for you husband has the right match too , because personalities may clash … I’m a special needs teacher who’s worked with autism etc maybe look for an Aupair who has some background in asperers ….so she has an understanding about his behaviour etc. As well as finding a good match for your little one

Aussie mum October 14, 2013 at 4:47 pm

My son has aspergers. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, just a different kind of brain. We tell au pairs. If they are too scared to be around some one who is slightly different I don’t want to live with them anyway.

The ladies husband not being “able” to look after his daughter because of his aspergers sounds like a bit of a cop out. My husband has I diagnosed aspergers and was no help at all with our first too because he “couldn’t cope”. No 3 came along late and he’s hands on dad? Hmm. I think maybe it was partly not wanting too – people with Aspergers can be quite selfish sometimes. Could hubbie do a parenting course and man up a bit?

Also it is not a medical condition, aspies are not sick. It is a different cognitive profile that stands out because a minority has it. It comes with bonuses and many aspies are highly talented successful people.

Aussie mum October 14, 2013 at 8:10 pm

BTW Seattle Mom, your husband sounds like he is so on the spectrum – but an aspie not autistic, the desire to be social is the differentiating factor. But that’s probably why he’s a successful academic, and is so passionate about his interests!

Seattle Mom October 16, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I have a feeling he would come up positive for something, if he were tested. But he’s doing well in life, so I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s really hard to tell where his quirks come from- he had kind of a messed up childhood with an unempathetic mother, so that’s behind a lot of it too. He is good at working through his own problems.

CHItownmama October 14, 2013 at 11:14 pm

In the US the term disability is so widely used for many different conditions. I’m not sure if it’s entirely “accepted” in society but many people I know have “disabilities” For example, my daughter has an allergy to nuts and this is considered a “disability” as far how she has to be treated at school. i.e. she cannot be banned from a school and has to be treated fairly with accommodations because of her allergy or “disability” – my allergist explained this to me citing the American with Disabilities Act.

That being said, I would never have (and did not) click on the disability box for my child. I agree with all previous posters that honestly is the best path – you will eventually find the right match. I probably would explain it in the host letter and then during the interviews/emails. It’s a lot easier to keep searching and be rejected until you find the right person than getting someone that doesn’t “get it” and is unhappy with the situation. She’ll figure it out eventually when she is there and the rematch process is a b***h.

Anonymous in CA October 15, 2013 at 1:07 am

Integrity. I support your being really straightforward with the AP.

Neither you nor your husband has anything to be ashamed of. In my first few AP endeavors, I made the mistake of not being totally forthright about my son’s special needs – they’re not so visible and there was a part of me that was afraid to speak openly about the diagnosis – I rarely even refer to him as having special needs; doing so feels like a betrayal of my son somehow – I prefer that a person meet my son first, rather than giving someone preconceived notions of what he will be like based on a label.

I also know that for my family, we’re more a-typical than we realize. We don’t really know what goes on in families with typically-developing children, so we don’t really grasp the ways in which our family functions differently ….. but when we had an AP come into the mix, we sure started to become more aware. I think the same could be true in an HF where one of the HPs has some extra challenge…the rest of the family adapts and accommodates in a way that might fall to one side or another of a bell curve, only the family doesn’t even realize just how far from the center of the curve they realy are.

In retrospect, and of course it’s easy to have good vision retrospectively, we would have done much much better to act with the same integrity that we expected from the AP.

Momma Gadget October 15, 2013 at 9:38 am

Very interesting point about the accommodations we make that we aren’t even aware of.
My son has twins in his class that are both on the autism spectrum. I find them both delightful individuals. Their mom is the most amazing organized, proactive woman I have ever met.

Skny October 15, 2013 at 8:12 am

Just thought I’d add that my 20yo brother has been living with us and he is an extremely high functioning Asperger’s.
He has babysat our girls multiple times and does very well. While things are really black and white and I do have to point out some obvious (I.e. yes, I did say no snack after x hr, but dinner will be late and child skipped snack… Or when we said organize kids stuff we meant the ones in the basement too), he is learning and doing very well.

Aussie mum October 17, 2013 at 12:04 am

That’s funny about not being able to bend the rules re snacks if dinner is late, im sure my son would do that too, as would have several German aupairs I’ve had!

Aspergers has been always around, just it’s being looked for more now that educational success is so important. Previously if school was difficult there were so many job opportunities it didnt matter, kids just left early and the smart obsessive aspie kids became successful under their own steam once they found their niche. My husbands probably one, my dad and a cousin also, but kids didn’t get sent off for testing back then. They have all had productive lives.

My son is proud of being a nerd and freely shares his diagnosis!

Hostmum in NZ October 17, 2013 at 5:39 pm

OP here. Thanks all for your thoughts, suggestions and support! I’d like to ad and clarify a few things:

He decided to get assessed after he listened to a documentary about a lady with Asperger’s who is a highly successful scientist working in a similar area to his. She described a lot of his personality traits and this was a moment of recognition for him. He felt different all his life and never knew why. The “outside” world would never guess his condition because he has learned to behave like neuro-typicals by emulation. It doesn’t mean he understands many of the conventions or that he’s content doing it. It’s only been a few years since the diagnosis so he’s still coming to terms with it and his ‘new’ personality.

Yes, we do describe our different personalities in our ‘Dear Au Pair’ letter: we talk about our interests, how we spend our spare time and what we need from our aupair without mentioning the issue of Asperger’s directly. I definitely want to be open and honest and want the aupair know and we are more worried about the agencies’ reaction than the aupairs’ and if you don’t bring it up right away (in the application) when is a good point in time without seeming to hiding anything?!

We don’t feel ‘ashamed’ but probably unsure and afraid of being misunderstood, and also try to avoid too many opinions from “experts” (the usual reaction when telling friends/ family was: “no, I don’t think the diagnosis is correct”; I don’t really want to point out in detail how weird/ unusual my husband and our relationship are)

One thing to appreciate is that New Zealand is very small and this extends to the ‘aupair market’; there are only a few agencies and some of them are 2 or 3 women enterprises. This means there is a lot of interaction between applicants and the agency, including feedback about interviews with families plus they will be aware of all information in the application forms and the HF letters. I have held back on discussing Asperger’s with the candidates because they will be asked how the interviews are going and would most likely inform the agency about it if this was a reason for them not to consider our family, and the fact that we didn’t enclose the information to the agency would come out…

The previous 2 aupairs didn’t work out for reasons unrelated to my husband – first time round we were inexperienced, too kind and accommodating, didn’t ask the right questions and ended up with someone slightly narcissistic / entitled who didn’t bother to put in enough effort or stick to the rules, esp. once she found a local boyfriend. We saw her through to the end though.
Second one was a young man who turned out to be a total personality mismatch to me (still improving those questions!), a bit slow on the uptake (there some issues we identified during interview that weren’t perfect and where we thought: ‘this can be learned’ – turns out if someone’s incapable or unwilling to learn there is not much you can teach) and not very intuitive with a 2 to 3 year old (not his fault but unsuitable for us). It also rubbed me up the wrong way to have a 19 year old tell me when being reminded of household duties/ rules/ expectations: you can’t expect me to change; I’ve done it this way all my life! … He had to go.

Lastly, I want to assure you that ‘getting stressed when looking after our daughter’ is not a cop out – he gets stressed but he does pitch in regardless. He helps a lot more in the household and with childcare than most other dads I know. So the issue is not that he doesn’t or doesn’t WANT to help, he just finds it extremely challenging. To be honest, it would be easier if he did make excuses and didn’t try so hard. He finds it particularly hard to deal with a toddler being a toddler – noisy, unpredictable, messy, sticky, moody, and slow; it is in contrast to everything he needs for personal sanity – order/ routine, quiet, clean, rational behaviour, no conflicts, efficiency.

anon for this one October 29, 2013 at 3:33 am

I’m going anon for this one just because….

We’ve recently just had a diagnosis of autism in the family – for one of my kids – is no biggie – I’ve known it from around year the first year and was very sure of it by the third – (of course the child is getting all appropriate supports etc).

The reason I bring it up is because why I’ve known – simple – the child is just like me – reacts like me to certain things i.e. smells, loves routine, cannot deviate from a plan, etc.

So without being tested etc, I would say that if I was tested I would probably also fit into that spectrum…

Now here’s the thing – I’m also very high functioning and although I have my moments where I do get very stressed I’ve learned to deal with it and cope with it…

So what do I tell au pairs… nothing … I like to make plans, to see them through, to do things, I like order..

I’m also very fun loving, love company, love music, etc.

Does it make life difficult or different to live with me … I don’t think so and I’ve never had any complaints…

Taking a Computer Lunch October 29, 2013 at 6:55 am

I think you could, in your family letter, reveal a bit about your personality, like you did here, “I like to make plans and see them through,” which is positive, as opposed to “I’m not a spontaneous person,” which is negative. (As an aside – we ask candidates whether their preference is to be spontaneous or plan ahead. Our family needs an AP who is flexible, because we never know when The Camel will through the family into a tailspin with a serious illness.)

I do urge you to self-identify as a special needs family. I can’t tell you how many complaints I’ve heard from 18-year-old APs who were not prepared to deal with a challenging child. As a parent of a special needs child (affectionately called The Camel because she protects her airway by launching food during mealtime), I find that matching with a candidate who has some experience with people who are atypical is preferable to someone who says they are willing but then freezes. My child has a tough time during the weeks around AP switch-out, but has learned to adjust. After all, the teachers and therapists at her school change frequently, too.

icsamerica November 1, 2013 at 9:51 am

I don’t think your Au Pair will care that host dad like him self. Many guys from Europe are exactly like him too…so it’s no big deal. I’ve noticed generally speaking, European girls, are less judgmental and more tolerant. Generally speaking…Au Pairs are curios, loving and accepting…that’s why they want to get out and explore the world. Your Au Pair will most likely be concerned with the children, seeing America, making friends and going out her own or with friends. She probably won’t care one bit one way or another if your husband is as he is.

Additionally I don’t think there is anything wrong with you husband and I don’t think he has a “Challenge”. He sounds normal to me. You’ve accepted, loved him and appreciated his character long before he was “Diagnosed”. So will others.

I really don’t get this…. So he’s abnormal because he doesn’t like meaning less small talk? He’s abnormal because he doesn’t sit in front of the TV, talk and veg out? He’s abnormal because he’s intelligent, productive and into science. He’s abnormal because he can focus on his own and doesn’t need drugs to do it? He’s abnormal because he’s black and white and can clearly see right from wrong and left from right? This is all ridiculous and you should not burden your au pair with a fabricated issue. Highly functioning Aspersers is a made up condition the medical establishment uses to justify that part of their existence. You should consider yourself fortunate. He has an excellent job, a functional marriage and has a connection with his daughter.

I feel sad for your husband that he has been labeled with this “disability”. It’s almost discrimination and it’s a terrible commentary on our society that successful people like your husband are labeled defective in some way. Would you feel obligated to tell the Au Pair if your husband was lazy sat on the couch and watched football all day, over social, loved crowds and noise, couldn’t focus and was on Aderol…and engaged in frequent useless small talk? Your husband is not abnormal and its terrible society has labeled him. Other people like your husband include Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and Warren Buffet. Many Au Pairs would have jumped at the opportunity to be with their families. Just say it like it is…Say your husband is into science, keeps himself busy and has a great connection with his daughter.

future au pair December 3, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I would urge you to be straightforward about your husband.
Maybe you would like to get an au pair who knows some aspergians too.
So you could have a good match with someone who knows a little bit how to deal with it.
Besides please keep in mind that not just HFs could be different from other families, but also AP could have uncommon families. Im an AP like that and I would be happy to fit into a family who knows what it means to be different.
My father and brother are also aspergians and I am very nervous that I couldnt fit into my future HF cause of my own lovely, amazing and uncommon family.
So to me your HP sounds just great to me, althoug I know that everyday life will not be always easy.
Im sure that there are other APs who feel a little bit like me about that.

@icsamerica: i guess it doesnt matter how to name it: asperger-syndrome or intelligent +…
A name is a way to express how we think we are. And to me he sounds not normal/neurotypical. To be different or “anormal” is nothing bad at all. But it can be difficult. To my brother it was hard to accept that he coudnt do some things as easy as others (being stressed by noises and lots of people). After my mum told him that he could be aspergian he was that happy to name his “way of think and feel”. Now he is proud to be different.

OP December 11, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Thanks, future aupair! :-) it’s just like you say: the ‘label’ has made life a lot easier and easier to understand. suddenly the ‘difference’ is real, it has a name and that makes all the difference. it’s not ‘you’ being weird, having to try so hard to fit in, or be like others; you can be you, different and maybe even happy and it’s because you know who you are and what you are!

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