In the early days of their relationship, Jessica Offer says she and her now husband Chris Offer would argue over his discomfort in looking people directly in the eye. Then there was the sensitivity to social overload. And after moving in together, the absurd neatness of their kitchen pantry. But it wasn't until seven years into the Australian couple's relationship, when their oldest of now four daughters was diagnosed with autism, that some of Chris' "unique" behaviors began to make more sense in the framework of autism, reports Today. As Jessica writes on her blog GirlTribe, "We chuckled over just how many things were there that we had automatically adapted to without even noticing."
His own eventual diagnosis also explained why the concerns Jessica had over some of their oldest daughter's behaviors starting around age 4—her reluctance to be touched, her sensitivity to noise—were seen as normal by Chris. And while his diagnosis has been a shock, the 33-year-old tells ABC News it's also a relief: "Imagine that all your life you're trying to be ... held in this normal box, and no matter how hard you try, you find it hard. And then someone goes, 'Well, that's because you're not normal.' It's freeing." Jessica notes in another blog post that two of her four daughters have now been diagnosed with autism, and while parenting such a child can be almost unbearably hard at times, "you want them to grow up in a world that is tolerant, understanding, and loving. So you model this as often as you can." (One study finds that most cases of autism are down to genetics.)