David Finch turns Asperger’s diagnosis into best-seller

Kari Paige

One writer is coming to Iowa State to share his “special interests” with ISU and Ames community members


David Finch will be speaking about life with Asperger’s syndrome in his lecture “Life on Spectrum” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union.


The lecture is free and open to the public. David plans to speak with specific ISU colleges earlier in the day.


David, a full-time writer and speaker, diagnosed himself in 2008 with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by difficulties in interacting with others and repetitive behaviors. David used an online Asperger’s self-evaluation suggested by his wife, Kristen Finch. A psychologist later confirmed David’s self-diagnosis. 


Kristen is a speech and language pathologist, who had recently switched her focus from autistic children to children with Asperger’s syndrome. Kristen began to notice the similarities David had with the characteristics of Asperger’s syndromes she saw in children. 


According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Asperger’s syndrome is, “a developmental disorder. It is an autism spectrum disorder, one of a distinct group of neurological conditions characterized by a greater or lesser degree of impairment in language and communication skills, as well as repetitive or restrictive patterns of thought and behavior.”


When asked to describe Asperger’s syndrome, David explained how some individuals have unusual mannerisms that can differ depending on age. 


Some might have repetitive actions or “persistent, intense preoccupations.”


“You may call them your special interests,” David said.


People with Asperger’s might have trouble gauging a social interaction because of impaired social reasoning. David gave the example of having to remember that a party is a fun setting.


When David has trouble with these situations, he expressed how convenient and lucky it was to have his wife Kristen as a guide to social interactions.


David laughed when Kristen would give advice, such as “Be yourself. Don’t drone on about German Shepherds,” when he asked how to act at parties.


Clinical strength egocentricity is something David and others with Asperger’s syndrome have to deal with as well. David described it as an unintentional focus on one’s own needs and interests. 


“[It’s] a difficult time stepping out of your own head, your own self, and really assuming someone else’s perspective,” David said.


Many people asked if having Asperger’s was a shocking revelation, but David described his findings as “a moment of self-recognition” for both him and Kristen.


Their marriage had begun to hit snags and develop problems due to misunderstandings and miscommunication. When David’s Asperger’s syndrome was revealed to them, a new way of resolving their differences came about.


David took steps to become a better husband and father. He quit his job of 10 years as a semiconductor engineer and began to write as Kristen suggested.


He would write small personal notes to himself such as “not changing a radio station when [Kristen] was singing along.”


David started attending a creative writing workshop once a week in Chicago, and the editor suggested submitting his essay about dealing with Asperger’s and his marriage to The New York Times.


Expecting rejection, David submitted the essay. The next day he was contacted by one of the top literary agencies in New York. David was offered the option of turning his essay into a book. David’s book, “The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband,” became a New York Times Best-Seller.


His life has seen a significant turn-around.


“That’s really largely what the book was about; [it] was me trying to understand new behaviors that would make me a better husband,” David said.


Psychology Today also approached David to ask if he would write a blog for themTwo weeks ago, he became a featured expert.


“I try to write really meaningful, helpful blog posts for people,” David said.


David is currently working on proposing an idea for another book.