MacMillan's 10-Step Neurodiverse Family Systems Approach:

A Comprehensive Framework

to support neurodivergents and their families throughout adulthood.

Anne MacMillan, MLA

Author of the 10-Step Neurodiverse Family Systems Approach, Consultant, Coach, Educator and Expert Witness

About Anne

I grew up in a neurodiverse family knowing nothing about Level 1 autism or attention neurodivergence (ADHD). Then, unbeknownst to myself, I married a Level 1 autistic man. That means I have a lifetime of experience with Level 1 autism, attention neurodivergence and close family relationships as well as over two decades of experience with Level 1 autism in marriage.

I was so confused about what had occurred in my family of origin that I studied developmental psychology as a young undergrad. After having children, I completed a research-based master's degree in clinical psychology at Harvard University. It was during my graduate studies that I finally realized that my husband was autistic.

From there, I did some of the world's first quantitative research on Level 1 autism and intimate life partnerships. Then, in 2017, opened a private coaching and consulting practice attempting to see if there was anything I might be able to do to actually help this underserved and under-recognized population.

All this work and life experience has enabled me to finally offer a foundational 10-Step Neurodiverse Family Systems Approach to help professionals across the world understand how to serve all members of neurodiverse families.

I take some of my own clients, too. Please reach out if you're interested!

I self-identify as a high body empathetic neurodivergent who just might also be a bit attention neurodivergent (ADHD). I am not autistic.

Our Services

Level 1 autism has a significant impact on dating, marriage, parenting, separation and divorce. Yet many individuals in neurodiverse intimate life partnerships (or life partnerships between autistics and non-autistics) had no idea that one partner was on the spectrum before tying the knot. Professionals, confused by the autism and Neurodiverse Relationship Dynamics (NRD) have offered misdiagnoses and poor advice, adding to the burden Level 1 autistics and their family members have faced.

Likewise, Level 1 autistic adults have little career support, facing the work world with little to no recognition that their autism affects their professional relationships.

R.E.A.L. Neurodiverse seeks to provide services that support these unmet needs.

Level 1 Autistics and their Families

Professionals support level 1 autistic children through school, but once adulthood rolls along, almost no services are available. Until recently, a majority of level 1 autistic adults were completely unaware that they had autism. As more and more adult diagnoses take place, level 1 autistic adults and their families are still left without appropriate support.

Level 1 has a significant impact on dating, marriage, parenting, separation and divorce. Yet many individuals in neurodiverse marriages (or marriages between autistics and non-autistics) had no idea that one partner was on the spectrum before tying the knot. Professionals, confused by the autism and they dynamics of neurodiverse communication, have offered misdiagnoses and poor advice, adding to the burden level 1 autistics and their family members have faced.

Some of today's most successful tech entrepreneurs have level 1 autism, creating a new world in which autistic innovation has an impact on everyone's daily lives. Yet level 1 autistic executives still struggle with the social difficulties associated with their neurologies, sometimes facing career and family roadblocks that impede the successes they desire.

REAL Neurodiverse seeks to provide services that support these unmet needs.

Anne MacMillan, MLA

Author of the 10-Step Neurodiverse Family Systems Approach, Consultant, Coach, Educator and Expert Witness

Recent Blog Posts

Man in suit in front, woman in white dress behind

10 Things to Know about Neurodiverse Relationships

July 13, 20232 min read

Neurodiverse marriages look very "normal" from the outside.

The basics:

  1. A neurodiverse relationship is a relationship between a typically developing, or “neurotypical,” person and a person with high-functioning autism. High-functioning autism in adults can be difficult to recognize. Many older adults on the autism spectrum were never diagnosed as children. Many grow up, get married and have successful careers without knowing they are on the autism spectrum.

  2. Neurodiverse marriages are every bit as much mixed marriages as mixed-orientation marriages or mixed-faith marriages. In neurodiverse marriages the incompatibilities are neurological incompatibilities rather than sexuality or religious incompatibilities.

  3. Autism affects communication and communication is an essential part of marriage and adult relationships. Communication is an essential part of marriage and both partners in neurodiverse relationships tend to experience distress related to communication difficulties. Neurotypical people and people with autism communicate differently.

  4. As autism has a genetic component, many neurodiverse couples have children on the autism spectrum. As autism is more easily recognizable in children than adults, many parents on the autism spectrum are diagnosed only after a child is diagnosed. The presence of children on the autism spectrum contributes more stress to the parents’ marriage.

  5. In the early days of neurodiverse relationships, both partners may believe they have found great compatibility. The neurotypical partner often finds great enjoyment in helping the partner with autism navigate social situations. The partner with autism may find the neurotypical partner to be more accepting than other people.

  6. Later on in relationships, both partners tend to experience great dissatisfaction. Neurotypical partners feel deprived of emotional, social and sexual connection. Partners with autism feel controlled and manipulated and as if typically developing partners aren’t doing enough for the marriage. Neurotypical partners, meanwhile, finds themselves feeling drained because they give too much.

  7. Neurodiverse marriages look very “normal” from the outside. Extended family members, community members and colleagues usually have little idea that so much distress is going on within their friends’ and loved ones’ marriages.

  8. Neurotypical marriages are vulnerable to domestic abuse, most often psychological, sexual and financial, although sometimes physical abuse does occur. While marriage is a foundational component of society, it is inappropriate for professionals, clergy and loved ones to encourage individuals to remain in abusive relationships.

  9. Neurodiverse marriages are vulnerable to high-conflict divorce. Sometimes, mixed divorces cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Attorneys are the only ones who benefit. Both partners and their children experience extreme duress.

  10. Autism is not easy. It is not easy for people who have it and it is not easy for their loved ones. Both partners in neurodiverse marriages need resources and support — not only the partners with autism. Both partners are equally important. Neurodiversity includes everyone.


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Anne MacMillan, MLA

Anne MacMillan is the founder of REAL Neurodiverse Marriage. She has 21 years of experience with autism and marriage, a lifetime of experience with autism and close family relationships and has been coaching and consulting individuals managing autism and marriage since 2017. She has a master's in psychology from Harvard University where she did some of the world's first quantitative research on autism and marriage. She is neurotypical.

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