Asperger's Syndrome is finally moving into the spotlight. Questions that have perplexed Asperger's (AS) and neurotypical (NT) family members alike are now finding answers. Marriages between Aspies and NT's can improve as more becomes known about how to bridge the neurological gap.
People with Asperger's are writing articles, blogging, and being heard. Their voices have been given a platform that's been long in coming. They certainly deserve this understanding.
One group, though, that seems to be under-represented in all this new information and support, are the neurotypical children of Aspie parents. There's a certain irony here. From what I've read, this has been the story of their lives.
A cornucopia of material is available, finally, for AS children, and Asperger's / NT marriages, and Asperger's in adults. But their NT child is — still — overlooked.
An Asperger's parent might say everything is fine. They're not aware of any problem for their child. However, there's that Catch 22. Neurologically, they are unable to be aware of it. But that doesn't mean there isn't a problem.
The neurotypical parent's view may be completely different. They'd see the hurt feelings the Aspie would miss. They'd be aware of the emotional distance the child faces. Inevitably, the AS parent would not.
Some NT children of AS parents, now adults themselves, would say that as children they felt unloved. Their Aspie parent wasn't able to be sensitive to their feelings and their needs. As NT children, they couldn't understand the neurological disconnect. The present generation of NT adults with Asperger's parents had no way of knowing what was wrong when they were small.
Children assume, and internalize, that there is something wrong with them, that it is somehow their fault when their parents can't show them love and affection in non-verbal ways they can understand. To compound the situation, Asperger's was unheard of at that time. Who knew?
Many offspring of Aspies are dogged throughout their lives with depression and low self-worth. In their early lives their thoughts and feelings weren't acknowledged so the ability to develop healthy relationships later in life was stunted.
They don't expect to be heard. They don't expect to be understood. They have no frame of reference for it. And though they don't have the Asperger's neurological profile, some never learned how to fully express and receive love and affection for those around them, and so the ripples of isolation spread.
- Due to a substantial response to this article from 2009 I wrote another for NT children of AS parents in 2015 called "NT Children of Parents with Aspergers: Looking for Information?" You can read it here.
Frequently Asked Questions About Asperger Syndrome. Aspergerfoundation.org.uk.
FAAAS, Inc. Faaas.org.
Asperger Relationships. Autism.lovetoknow.com.
About.com:Adults and Asperger Syndrome. Autism.about.com.
Feeling Invisible in the Asperger World. Psychcentral.com.
Children of a parent with ASD / Asperger’s Syndrome. Aspergerpartner.com.
Visit Jody's website and blog at http://www.ncubator.ca and http://ncubator.ca/blogger
Add a Comment201 Comments
Go for it, girl:)February 14, 2018 - 7:50am
I suffered the unfortunate double-whammy of being adopted by a father with Asperger's. He has never been diagnosed professionally, but the symptoms are abundantly clear. My adoptive mother is NT and completely submissive to her emotionally disabled husband. Apparently in 1975 it was enough to have a clean criminal background and a steady job if you wanted to adopt children. Nobody was bothering to give comprehensive psychological evaluations first. While it would be unfair to expect that people with Asperger's should be disallowed from procreating, I think they should be dissuaded from raising children. They definitely under no circumstances should be allowed to adopt a stranger's offspring. I agree with the other commenters who speculated that being raised by an emotionally vacant parent is a form of child abuse. In my case this compounded the myriad problems which were presented after being abandoned by my genetic family. My chaotic childhood left me with deep scars well into adulthood. Being raised by people who are not one's genetic mirrors is harmful enough. When one of those parents is also afflicted with Asperger's the results can be catastrophic. Fortunately my biological parents blessed me with strong genes, which gave me the intellectual fortitude to search for the real answers as to why my family always felt so insanely messed up. It was all there - my father's inability to understand my personal world view AT ALL, his permanent insistence that he knew best no matter what the scenario, his fixation with things the rest of us found trivial and unimportant, his inability to make any meaningful emotional connections, and above all else the epic, unnecessary and unpredictable meltdowns. This last piece is what really pushed my own personal despair over the edge. My father had no qualms about freaking out over the stupidest things at the drop of a hat. Many times these unexpected outbursts would come in public around my friends and complete strangers. I stopped counting the number of times people asked me what was wrong with him. I never had an answer for them. What made matters worse was that my NT mother would go along with him so as not to rock the boat herself. This left them with a permanent "us-against-the-kid" mentality. This is how I wound up being shopped around to various child-psychologists. I am convinced my parents kept looking for a professional to validate all their negative behaviors towards me. All the emphasis was put on ME and how MY actions contributed to the emotional anarchy in our household. Not once did a single family member, teacher, doctor, psychologist or other professional ever step forward and suggest that maybe, just maybe the imbalances laid with my parents instead of me. My personal desires were never taken seriously. My talents in art and music were brushed off as hobbies, when in reality I should have been encouraged to explore them professionally. Instead, my engineer father and schoolteacher mother incessantly pushed school on me in the hopes I would pick up on one of their pursuits. For instance - both my parents were teachers. I personally hate children, and have no patience. However, my father constantly asks why I've never considered teaching. I try to explain that music and art are the only things I'm interested in, yet anytime they have an opportunity to encourage me in that direction they show no interest. My father just gives me a confused look like "how do you think you'll ever become successful at that?" and then goes right back to suggesting pursuits that only he seems interested in. I have missed out on so many opportunities to better myself simply because their second-guessing has clouded my better judgement for myself. I have also lost out on friendships with people I admire, simply because the trauma of being around my family's perpetual psychological drama have proven to be too exhausting. My aunt is a clinical psychologist, and has watched our family's dynamic from the sideline for decades. She was the one who confirmed my father's illness for me. To all the commenters on here who are saying "its not an illness" or "you just don't understand people with Asperger's" I say this - call it what you will, the truth is the truth. My father, and his emotional deficiencies, destroyed any chances of me having a happy childhood and a well-adjusted adulthood. My mother's co-dependency sealed my fate. At 43 years old I can honestly say I am finished trying to compromise a healthy relationship out of the rubble. They never should have been allowed to adopt me. My best hope right now is walking away from this ugly situation so I at least have some shot at the rest of my life not being remotely as dysfunctional as the first part was. My only feelings lately are anger, frustration, resentment and loneliness. Having a parent with Asperger's was 100% responsible for this...January 24, 2018 - 5:03pm
I hear what you are saying. You have every right to say it. This is your experience and it has affected you in profound ways. It sounds like you have a pretty decent handle on it, you are able to express yourself in a clear way. This bodes well for you:)
If you need to walk away from them, there's no reason you can't do that. You know what is best for you. Follow your gut. It's not too late to make a better happier life for yourself. I wish you well!February 14, 2018 - 7:57am
The overwhelming negativity towards people with AS/ASP in these comments is staggering and quite frankly makes me sick; as well as the fact that AS/ASP is constantly reffered to as an illness is quite frankly disgusting. AS/ASD is a neurological difference not some illness to be cured. Furthermore as the child of a loving carring parent with AS/ASD i can say that i am just as maladjusted as any person with a neurotypical parent.October 16, 2017 - 8:36am
I could not agree more with you. This is especially sick considering that most of these people do not even have official dx of ASD so the assumption is that if it is bad behavior == to ASD. Talk about pure bigotry. Most people with ASD have plenty of ability to be great parents and being a bad person or parent is not due to ASD.January 3, 2018 - 11:40am
Sorry, but you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Try having a conversation with a parent who never believes your side of the story. Try exhibiting deeply personal emotions around a parent who does not possess the mechanism to process an appropriate response. Try being a happy musician around a parent who always tells you that you should just be a nerdy academic like they are instead. Try explaining to a parent that their verbal and physical mannerisms make you incredibly uncomfortable, only to see them refuse to change any of the offending behavior. Try living with a professional hypochondriac who convinces themselves that everybody else needs to share in their perpetual gloom and doom. Try making childhood friends around a parent who flies off the handle at the slightest infraction to the rules. Try surviving category 5 meltdowns in public by a parent who has no internal barometer for other peoples' discomfort. Try living in a world where every family member, teacher, authority figure and professional tells you "their your parents, you have to do what they say" even when it's beyond obvious that the parent themselves is the source of the constant disquiet. No, unless you've personally suffered a lifetime of these emotional and psychological indignities, you really have no grounds to contest the notion that people with Asperger's should be kept away from the business of child rearing...January 24, 2018 - 5:22pm
Lucky you! I am not. I was raised by a single mother with aspergers but no awareness of it and no other relatives that really participated in our lives. I am nuerotypical and deeply troubled emotionally. I believe it is better for people like my mom not to have children. It is abuse to raise children without being able to perceive their emotions and being self centered and having meltdowns from nothing. Perhaps you had an AS parent who knew their diagnosis and had developed coping strategies, and other family members to offer the care and emotional connection that your AS parent could not. I didn’t.January 2, 2018 - 6:19pm
I'm glad that your experience with your parent has been a good one. The comments you are reading are the feelings of people whose experiences have not been good. They should be able to talk about these things. So often in their lives they have been shut down. They need to talk about these things.October 19, 2017 - 6:23am
I really get that one person might enjoy their marriage with an AS person. I don't feel it is fair to say that, that is good. 99.9% of relationships are toxic, abusive and over the top stressful with an AS partner, unless that partner is also AS - even at that - I've read stories of utter exhaustion and co-dependency. Some women ( majority are men) give up some aspect of themselves, their needs, dreams in order to "stay". I question the fact that someone says they are in a healthy relationship with an AS man. It might be, but nothing to hold above others that have not. As it is so rare. Really, there is so much damage done to a NT person. I know! This damage can be un-done, nonetheless a journey back to ones self. I'm watching my daughter grow up with a AS father ( we are not together anymore) and I see. how hard it is. Though it certainly is not close the insanity I had with ( and continue to have) with my AS father. Their brains just cannot activate in certain areas, they struggle to be " normal" with areas working that are able to do the task of the areas that are not working. Therefore it feels impossible, because it mostly is. Yes, it is a mental illness, just like a brain trauma, Bi-polar or any other mental illness. It isn't something to be glorified. The brain has inflammation on top of the areas that do not work. Indeed, it is damaged brain. When someone comes on and tries to glorify it, make light of it, make it normal, I scream! It is NOT. Please do not patronize someone else because you happen to be someone that either suffers through it, or has found some way of accepting the challenges and not having a relationship with an NT. Very few people can deal with an AS partner, very very few. If you truly are happy, awesome! Don't tell other people it can be done, b/c that is unfair.September 7, 2017 - 11:45am
I grew up in a household where my mother was a loner with super low self esteem and my father has AS....it was terrible...my father was very abusive.. emotionally, physically, sexually...my mom did nothing to stop him.. I have just recently been able to even talk about some of the things I experienced in my young life... ( I am not in my early 30's)September 16, 2017 - 5:35pm