COLUMBIA —David Finch said he finds it hilarious that he has been attached to the Exceptional Achievement Lecture Series, sponsored by the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.
"All I had to do was one, ruin my marriage, and one in two people do that,” he said at MU on Tuesday night. “Step two was I sat on a bed and wrote stories about how I ruined my marriage."
Finch is the author of "The Journal of Best Practices," a memoir about his efforts to improve his marriage after he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome as an adult, five years into the marriage.
During his presentation, Finch illuminated some common problems people with Asperger's syndrome face, including an inability to anticipate others' emotional needs.
"If I'm told 'I got a job promotion, I need you to be happy for me,' I can be happy for you," Finch said. "Otherwise I'm like, 'Why do I care?'"
Finch's presentation about the challenges of life with Asperger's was littered with jokes in every other sentence, and he laughed at himself constantly.
He described how in high school if he heard music, he had to walk to the beat of it. He demonstrated his hurried stride for fast music and his loping gait for a ballad in front of the audience.
He said he felt relieved when his wife first identified the possibility that he had Asperger's. He said it gave them a sort manual for dealing with him.
“It didn’t change who I am, it just explained who I am,” Finch said.
Finch attributes his success in life and in marriage to his willingness to adapt and learn about what is not intuitive to him.
Finch’s cousin, Julianne Germinder, of Columbia, said she attended the presentation because she wanted to hear what he tells everyone else besides her family.
“We were surprised when he was diagnosed, but he was always a little bit kooky, a little bit weird,” she said. “We thought it was just his personality, but it’s also part of the disorder.”
Wendy Ell, an occupational therapist who works in the MU psychiatric center's pediatric division, said she sees kids every day who are on the autism spectrum. She said people like Finch give her great hope for their future.
"It's great to see that as an adult he continues to adapt and learn those social cues that don't come naturally to him."