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

Woman holding man's hand looking down

Autism, Mindblindness and Relationships

June 08, 20232 min read

Theory of mind is the ability to perceive what the world is like from other people's perspectives.

What is mindblindness?

Adults with high-functioning autism have theory of mind deficits or “mindblindness” and theory of mind deficits have a major impact on marriage and adult relationships.

Theory of mind is the ability to perceive what the world is like from other people’s perspectives. People with autism are aware of their own perspective, but have a difficult time understanding where other people are coming from. Theory of mind deficits prevent a spouse with autism from understanding where a neurotypical spouse is coming from in social interactions. They prevent people with autism from easily understanding others’ emotions or intentions (Baron-Cohen, 1995; Frith & Happe, 1999). They affect the way the partner with autism speaks and behaves in the marriage.

People with autism tend to make decisions based only on the way they see the world, what they intend and how they feel. They tend to think that their positions are reasonable and others’ positions are unreasonable even when an objective outsider would adamantly disagree.

Neurotypical spouses who do not have theory of mind deficits are able to see the world from their own perspective and the partner with autism’s perspective and will try to take both positions into account when resolving problems or making decisions. Many times, however, the person with autism will not accept a resolution that takes anyone else’s perspective into account.

Neurotypical family members are generally incentivized to keep family members with autism feeling satisfied and peaceful. Neurotypical partners experience relief when partners with autism are feeling calm and well because solving problems in neurodiverse relationships can be so difficult that it may seem preferable to live with problems in order to keep the peace.

Partners with autism generally feel taken advantage of and exploited. Without easy access to their partners’ perspectives, their own wants and needs seem of much higher importance. They can feel manipulated, abused and controlled without understanding or perceiving their partners’ service and intentions.

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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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