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Asperger's Parents and Neurotypical Children

By HERWriter
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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

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Was your family's AS diagnosed when you were growing up? When were they diagnosed? Do they accept they are AS?

I am still reeling from this discovery. One of my greatest reliefs is that I can actually stop being filled with rage at my father for the horrible and inconsiderate way he treats me because I finally see that it is not deliberate.

January 9, 2011 - 2:34pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am 45 years old and after years of increasing estrangement from my father, I am just beginning to realise that, in fact, he has Aspergers.

It was my cousin's wife who first said the word to me less than a year ago. Her eldest child has Aspergers and she is reaching out to the rest of the family in an effort to understand his condition. She asked me if there was anything about my father's behaviour which I found bizarre or difficult to deal with - my answer was "pretty much everything."

I can hardly articulate what an immense relief it is to finally have an explanation for his behaviour. For years, he has pretty much blamed me for all our problems, telling me I am ungrateful, that I invent things, that I set "emotional traps" for him - oh, so many crazy crazy things.

All my life, he has had a maximum of two subjects of conversation at any one time - whatever his current obsessions are. At present, they are psychotherapy and rollerblading. Previously, they have been his "designing" (he spends hours, days, months working on inventions which he never completes) and the breakdown of his two marriages, the first of which was to my mother, yet he never sees how inappropriate it is to discuss their sexual problems with me, which he began doing when I was just 13. I have spent a full hour on the phone to him without speaking at all while he talks continually about himself. I even began putting down the receiver during these endless boring monologues and picking it up again only when it stopped squeaking - he was utterly oblivious to the fact.

However, the damage to both myself and my family is, I think, beyond repair. My sister and I are completely estranged, she supports him and believes his view of me, although my mother tells me that she (my sister) also finds his behaviour difficult. She is also very estranged from my mother and from my mother's family and I believe this is because of my father.

Talking to his former partner, I have discovered that she has said to him that he has the syndrome and he has angrily denied it, telling her that she was "victimising him in exactly the same way as his ex-wife." Apparently his ex-wife also told him the same thing (both women work with special needs children!) However, he self-diagnosed with ADD some years ago and then also decided that all his offspring also had this - that was a very difficult time. My sister accepted that she did but I think it's nuts.

For years, I have been in utter turmoil and, finally, to have an explanation that makes sense is such a blessed relief.

My question is, how do I even begin to cope with this knowledge and is there anything I can do to try to heal some of the damage that has been done. I am particularly worried about my sister, although she refuses to have any contact with me. Do I voice my concerns? I am fairly sure my father will be furiously angry if I do this and will energetically oppose me. Or do I just stick to trying to heal myself? And how do I even begin to do that?

January 8, 2011 - 1:26pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Hi Everyone - We now have a Groups feature on the site. If any of you would like to form a Group related to asbergers in families you are more than welcome to do so. It would make it easier to have discussions on a wide range of topics. Pat

October 4, 2010 - 5:22pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am a special education teacher with an enormous appreciation for the battles and obstacles that kids and teens with disabilities face in the school system(including but not limited to aspergers and autism). I am also very familiar with the ongoing grief that is experienced by the families of my students - parents, siblings, grandparents etc.who expected and planned for a very different reality. It seems to me that from this perspective, both individuals with disabilities themselves - as well as their family members and friends - need accessible forums for giving and receiving real support.

Personally, I also beleive my father has Asbergers. I know for sure that while growing up my emotional needs were not met. I have spent years in intensive recovery from the various complications of that. I have never googled the "asbergers parent" before, and am glad that tonite I did. Are there others out there who have longed for eye contact from a parent for (literally) decades? Or been brokenhearted and angry and accepting all at the same time of the "limitations" of a parent - or their tendency to get so completely worked up or stuck? How have other family members responded and what are the other family relationships like? My own family is quite fractured. Would love to hear back from other adult children of parents with (possible/probable) asbergers about their experiences....

September 16, 2010 - 11:31pm

I am an SOAP (Survivor of Aspie parenting). My mother alienated herself and her offspring (by trash talking and implying a need for loyalty) from her in-laws and their relatives the generation older than she is, the same generation and now the grandchild generation. An interesting part of it is the extent to which she appears to have a limited number of association slots. So, when she likes someone, she has to take someone else off the slot-and trashtalk them. Growing up and when her own children were growing up, she disliked her brother and sister. Once in older age, she moved them to the like slot and had no room for her granddaughter or her own daughter. All of a sudden, after dissing them for 40 years, her siblings could do no wrong and she contended that "people change" . But her own flesh and blood grand daughter got dissed from birth. The poor baby did not smile at her, did not run to her, etc. I think the beautiful baby girl did not even burp well enough to suit Artista Aspie. Not once has Artista Aspie considered that perhaps she is not someone anyone would want to run to or smile at--although throw up on ..well that would have been apt!

September 10, 2010 - 5:48am


Sounds like you have come down a long hard road. But it's good to hear that you are making some headway in dealing with it all and are getting a new take on life now.

What a difference it makes knowing that parents with Asperger's HAVE Asperger's -- that the seeming indifference and lack of love was not as it seemed.

There would have been less pain to cope with if the information had shown up earlier. But thank goodness it has shown up at all and you can re-shape your own life.

You are brave and strong, having gotten therapy and being determined to make needed changes for yourself. I wish you great peace and great well-being.

May 22, 2010 - 2:15pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Jody Smith)

Do your kids have an Aspie grandparent? Don't know? Well it may be hard to tell sometimes but probably not too often, Here are some clues that are true only for middle class Aspies-when money is not the issue behind any of the events. Also, smile as you read this because it is meant to be a funny stereotype and most people need fun moment when they lighten up and enjoy the silliness and irony in life.

The Aspie grandparent boasts about getting the best health care available==with no interest in whether his or her own grandkids have similar access. The NT grand parent makes sure that the grandchildren have the best care. The Aspie grandparent reacts to any new interest of their grandchildren by either showing no interest at all or by declaring that she too wants to take it up. The Aspie grandparent does not immediately notice the wonderful and unique characteristics of each grandchild. Instead the Aspie grandparent picks one grandchild as the 'ideal" and hunts for reasons to dislike the others. When challenged, the Aspie can rattle off all the reasons her own grandchild is unlikable although she will not admit to the problem being herself rather than the child. The Aspie is the one criticizing her own flesh and blood while elevating some other kid to god status while The NT grandparents are the ones talking about the love-ability of their grandchildren. A NT grandparent walking with grandchild when a car veers towards them protects the child no matter what-even placing him or her self between the car and the child. The Aspie grandparent throws the grandchild into the line of the car in order to save what she is carrying-her latest "thing" (read intense isolated interest-collectable, artsy thing whatever nitnatcrap). The NT grandparent puts concern for her children's and grandchildren's health and well being above her own, The Aspie grandparent makes sure she has the best health available, will boast about her latest trip to the Mayo or Cleveland clinic and will be clueless about whether her grandchildren even have a doctor or health issues. The NT grandparent is the one the grandkids look forward to seeing. The aspie grandparent is the one the kids beg to not see. The NT offspring of the Aspie is the one who brings her kids to see the Aspie grandparent because it is the right thing to do-driven by guilt and the kind of feelings that foster survival of the species. The Aspie is the grandparent who did not foster positive feelings in her offspring of her husband's parents because she has no such feelings and experiences no guilt but has a talent of using the guilt of others to drive their behavior to get what she wants. The Aspie grandparent complains about the grandchild who does not welcome him or her . The NT grandparents is concerned about the grandchild when the child is not bubbling over with joy at every encounter. The NT grandparent often has to be reigned in by the NT parent of a NT child because of the NT grandparent's desire to give the grandchild the world. The Aspie grandparent is the one that has to be encouraged to make a phone call to a grandchild on the occasion of a birthday.

July 18, 2010 - 8:58am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Sounds pretty familiar!

October 3, 2010 - 11:46pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Has anyone here heard of the book I Love Yous Are for White People by Lac Su? (see http://www.amazon.com/Love-Yous-Are-White-People/dp/0061543667 )?

"Instead the Aspie grandparent picks one grandchild as the 'ideal" and hunts for reasons to dislike the others."

...and if this grandparent's reason for picking this child as "ideal" is studying (especially math and science) more and making friends less than the others do, then the stereotype could just as easily be "Asian [Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Pakistani, whatever] grandparent" instead of "Aspie grandparent."

"The Aspie grandparent is the one that has to be encouraged to make a phone call to a grandchild on the occasion of a birthday."

...and if this grandparent does that quietly instead of going on and on and on about what s/he hates about this grandchild, then the stereotype could just as easily be "strong, silent type grandfather" instead of "Aspie grandfather"

Interesting how so much of the behavior we're explaining away as "undiagnosed Asperger's" has also been explained away as "part of Asian culture" (tells you to stop crying and study harder), "machismo" (doesn't show affection apart from trying to get laid, is cold to his wife outside of bed, etc.), "they thought it was OK then/they think it's OK there" (see all the stuff about racial slurs at http://life-with-aspergers.blogspot.com/2010/02/some-thoughts-on-intolerance.html ), arrogance in general (all those claims to be so superior to more average people), etc.

How many neurotypicals are getting away with treating other people badly in the name of "undiagnosed Asperger's" now that older excuses like "boys will be boys" are becoming less popular?

July 20, 2010 - 4:18am
(reply to Anonymous)

Oh please! Yes when you change words you change meaning. The original words were chosen because they are true and your substitutions aren't. See, if you change one word here you change the meaning "Hitler hated Jews". If you change hated to loved don't you get something else?

Read the post as it was intended and stop substituting. The Aspie Grandmother is not a stereotype of an Asian, She is an Aspie grandmother and the symptoms are a function of her Aspieness and nothing else. She was not castrated but....

September 10, 2010 - 5:39am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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