'When I started six years ago most of our calls were made by parents about their children,' she says.'Now we get more adult-related calls than child-related.' As Asperger's seems to run in families, many women identify it in their husbands - or their husbands see it in themselves - only after their child has been diagnosed and they've read the literature. 'Often they've been experiencing difficulties for years without knowing why.'I'd almost say AS was a "relationship disorder",' she says.
'A huge number seem to meet on dating websites,' she says.Estimates vary enormously as to the prevalence, but one in 100 people is thought to be on the autism spectrum, and it is more common in males by a ratio of nine to one.People with AS normally have above-average intelligence but great difficulties with empathy, communication and social interaction.He's gentle, unworldly, highly attentive and charmingly old-fashioned. The very things that make Keith so attractive to Sarah are symptoms of Asperger's.Anna Moore meets the couples living with this surprisingly common condition Keith has just arrived at Sarah's home in Hove and they're clearly delighted by the prospect of the next few days together.
Aspergers dating problems
People with AS struggle to understand the unwritten social rules that help most of us act and speak appropriately.They find it hard to decipher figures of speech, facial expressions and tones of voice, and are frequently (but unintentionally) concise and literal to the point of rudeness.There's no way around it: Asperger's can be very hard to live with.'Maxine Aston, the author of Aspergers in Love (Jessica Kingsley, £14.95), is one of the few counsellors to work specifically with couples affected by AS. Her surveys and questionnaires from the past decade suggest that 75 per cent of such couples seek counselling.Keith seemed so untouched by needless fashion and peer pressure - I thought he was a Buddhist!
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'However, in Aston's experience, this appeal can wear thin.
'We spend a lot of time feeling smug,' says Sarah, 'because we see other couples who don't look very happy.'In a few days, though, Keith will drive back to Wickham, Hampshire, 50 miles away, where he lives alone and works as a computer programmer. Despite meeting five years ago, they won't 'progress' as other couples do. Although there's only a year between them, at 39 Keith is so gangly, gawky, boyish and cute that he could be ten years younger than he is.
Yet Sarah - who had a child at 19 and has two marriages behind her - is confident that few women could put up with him. The couple met through internet dating and the first stage of their relationship was fiery and fraught. He'd plainly state that their blissful weekends were enough for him, that he'd never live with her or even move nearer.
Ultimately, only one thing allowed them to start again from scratch - they uncovered the reason for Keith's 'insensitivity', his aloofness, the fact that he could see no future with Sarah nor seemed to want one: Keith has Asperger's syndrome (AS). Asperger's - a developmental condition that falls within the autism spectrum - was identified more than 60 years ago but became a standard diagnosis only in 1992 when it entered the World Health Organisation's diagnostic manual.
As a result, the majority of adults with the syndrome almost certainly grew up without knowing they had it.