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
I have also tried to understand my mother, while she didn't seem to put any effort in trying to understand me growing up. Now I see that she just doesn't function normally brain wise. It harmed me, and the lack of interaction at home made it very difficult to fit in socially - the rules were so different at home, at friend's places and in school. But most of all the feeling of being unseen and not loved and protected was the worst.
I also suffer from PTSD (from rape and attempted murder when a teenager, but also from prolonged neglect in my childhood). I have gone through years of therapy, and now finally I have put my relationship with my mother on hold until I feel I can cope. I've cut back on my contact with my siblings as well, and this has made me feel better. I realise there are no "have to be nice and loving" and "must cope" when it comes to family relationships that are just too infected by emotional abuse and trauma. Just surrounding myself with good relationships - friends, a loving boyfriend - and seeing other healthy ways to relate around me makes a world of a difference.
Wish you well,June 14, 2011 - 1:52am
This thread is interesting on so many levels. There is another thread on an Asperger's site that discusses some of the same issues. The Aspies on that site were upset and defensive at the mention that there are characteristics of Aspergers that suggest they will be poor parents. But, of course the very symptoms/criteria used to diagnose the disorder parallel those described by Attachment researchers as contributors to poor attachment between infant and parent and that are also linked to emotional problems in the child. Yes, it is possible that these deficits can be overcome and not all Survivors Of Aspie Parenting (SOAP) have problems or are unhappy but, as is the case whenever parents have major developmental deficits, the offspring are at higher risk than are offspriings of NT parents.September 5, 2011 - 10:32am
Thank you for this article. There definitely needs to be a forum for people who have been unintentionally abused by parents with aspergers. I'm glad to hear that some people with aspergers parents do have a happy home life, but I'm not one of them. I'm the adult child of a woman with aspergers. As a child I did feel loved, but I was always somewhat distant from other children. I believe my ability to be social was retarded via her parentage. Luckily it wasn't until I grew up that I became overtly abused by her aspergers, because while she was married to my stepdad (my real dad was never in the picture) she took all her anger out on him. But once he finally wised up and left, I became the punching bag. It was a revelation to me to realize she has a problem in her brain, because I was able to see why she keeps insisting that she loves me even though I almost never feel loved by her. She's extremely sensitive and living with her is walking on eggshells; the smallest thing can set her off. I try so hard to be a good daughter, to help her every way I can, to be generous and forgiving and always there for her. But there is no good- there is either perfect or nothing. If I ever make a little mistake, I get scolded like a dog. She is almost never able to be emotionally supportive, though she does give me money when she can and tells me she loves me. I am in deep need of therapy, my life is an utter disaster and I believe much of it is because of my undeveloped social skills and her lack of compassion. She even hates the word compassion because she doesn't understand what it is! I'm coming to realize that just knowing she has aspergers... isn't enough. I still need to protect myself by getting far far away and finding loving people who have the ability to teach me what was missing.June 13, 2011 - 7:56pm
Eureka!!!April 10, 2011 - 6:31am
Thank you for this post!! A post that has allowed me to understand not only my childhood (as a NT son of an AS mother), but most of my adult life! Oh sure, my As mother tried her best (and I congratulate all AS mothers and fathers who do their best), but something was and continues to be absent, namely a true, genuine connection. Going through the motions does not suffice!!! Saying you love your child but not feeling it.....not living it on an emotional level......not being able to empathize........is actually worse!! Why? For the confusion it brings!!! My mother appears to care for me.....yet, I don't feel anything!!!! I call it egg-shell love...it looks like love, but it is devoid of any content, of any meaning!!!
I now realize why as an NT child, I became a jester of sorts, always trying to elicit a smile, a laugh from both my mother and AS siblings!! I needed to relate on an emotional level and that's the only way I knew how!!
I also realize how my AS mother shaped my later life.....as I married an AS woman (now divorced) with whom I had five children all of whom I suspect are on the spectrum. I guess I had come to see my mother as the norm in so far as women were concerned!! Boy, was I wrong!!
Interestingly, I see enormous parallels between my life and that of my father who was NT (and my maternal grandfather who was also NT, married to my maternal grandmother who was AS-I firmly believe). My poor dad and maternal grandfather!!
The thing that kills me about AS spouses is their proclivity to blame the other for the problems in the marriage. My grandmother, my mother and my wife!!! Three peas in the AS pod!! With the benefit of hindsight, I now realize that their narratives were all factually wrong, extremely self-serving and mean-spirited.
On another note, AS is a terrible disease!!! And pernicious as those affected appear to be normal. Which only contributes to the confusion.
I feel sorry for those with AS.....however, I have a life to live....I want to be happy.....and if God willing, I will be!!
Thank you and God Bless
I'm glad to see my article has made a difference and has brought some light for you. Beginning to understand a thing can make all the difference in dealing with pain and frustration. I hope the confusion and hurt gets sorted out further for you because of having this new perspective. Good luck!
JodyApril 10, 2011 - 7:48pm
Ooops I am not first in the thread after all, but the special ed teacher from a few comments back who longed for eye contact from her dad for decades. I just read over everything in the whole thread, including the original article, and am very very grateful for this supportive site. The night I wrote my first comment I was bawling, and had just found out that a close but very challenging - and chronically suicidal - friend had just been diagnosed with Asbergers. I knew he was ALOT like my dad, and this seemed to confirm for me my own suspicions, and make my very real and lifelong greif come together in some way. So glad for the chance to put that together then, and to reflect on my own recovery now. Thanks again to everyone here.January 12, 2011 - 12:41am
And thank YOU for your feedback. It is very gratifying to know that the site has been helpful to you. Thanks so much for your contributions to making this a safe, supportive community.January 12, 2011 - 4:25pm
Wow. I wrote the first comment in this thread and am amazed by the number and variety of responses. Thank you all for letting me know that there are others out there with similar kinds of experiences - loss at having such a limited relationship with an AS parent for so long, and estrangements with other family members because of differing perspectives/opinions/loyalties. Re: recovery - I think that maybe knowledge is power, but less so when we are committed primarily to persuading others. I know that my dad would never accept such a label at this point in his life - especialy from a daughter - and that all of my other family members would dismiss my suspision of AS as unhelpful and extremely biased. This would put me right back into the very lonely position of unwanted whistle-blower in a family that is otherwise fine... So I suspect/know alone, and work on accepting myself and all of them - as is. In my case this seems like the most realistic way to build connections within existing (and ever-un-named) limitations; and ultimately it is not consensus but connection that I am really after anyway (I finally see...). Accepting limitations in other peoples ability to connect is no longer a starting place for my own suffering - okay thats not true yet, but it is an important ongoing goal. Plus, finding others in the world who are more capable of the kind of connection that I always did and still do need, will maybe put me in a position to learn how to also respond more fully to that different way of being, and make me a participant in actually getting my needs successfully met. These are my aspirations rather than my accomplishements, of course. Again, I thank you all for your thoughts, and look forward to more..January 12, 2011 - 12:10am
I recognise your stories of the lack of relating to an AS parent. As a child you have emotional and physical needs of protection that an AS parent won't understand. For eg I got anorexia at age 14 after the stress of my AS mother joining a cult and allowing the cult to brainwash my siblings. She never asked me what was wrong, why I lost weight, or how I felt, she only once got annoyed that I was eating special and expensive food. I never had an emotional attachment to my mother, and that had to do with her AS, not that I was unloveable or unrelatable as a child.
What helps to heal is a good therapy. I had to really rebuild myself, and understand that I had the same value as any other person, that I have the right to exist, and that emotions are the fundament of a person, not superflous nonsense as my mother interpreted emotional expressions and needs... So there is some self-esteem work and emotional healing to be done if you know you have been damaged by an AS parent's lack of relating to you. It takes time, but it's very liberating.January 9, 2011 - 2:28am
I'm an NT child surrounded by 2 AS parents and 4 AS siblings. I promise you that I had a traumatic childhood and my family thinks that is simply ridiculous. They say "of course they love me" and point to that I never wanted for food or shelter. oh, they also refused to ignore my medical needs and told doctors they were wrong about my allergies. I suffered with allergies until I was 25 y/o because my AS parents refused to believe things contrary to their beliefs. They also dismiss my mother writing me a letter where she disowned me due to my close relationship and thus bad influence on my youngest siblings (jealousy). Everything that ever upset me they say was my fault. I now know that it's okay to have feelings, okay to express feelings, and that I am reading people and situations right/better/differently than my family.January 8, 2011 - 9:36pm