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
"The original words were chosen because they are true"
...and the original words *also* end up describing behaviors that are *also* done by some NTs for other reasons like cultural customs, male privilege, etc.
"Read the post as it was intended"
I'm not a dittohead. I have every right to not only read the post as it appears to have been intended but to also *think* about what the words in the post remind me of and speak up about that too. :DOctober 14, 2010 - 9:44am
"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."
*Sigh* Being an Aspie (quick, bring on the pitchforks & torches), I fail to see the humour in this. It sounds terribly sad. I have no doubt that there may be some grandparents like this, but to treat a child in this way isn't "Aspie"- it's something else altogether (I'm not sure what).
I appreciate this attempt at humour, and it would be funny if, unfortunately, it wasn't for the fact that many people will probably believe with great certainty that what you have described is, indeed, what it means to be an Asperger grandparent or parent.
Then I read all the comments to this article. I've no doubt that many children growing up with AS parents had a desperately hard time (the same could be said for quite a few children of NT parents). This is truly tragic. All children should grow up with lots of love.
I truly wish to help educate people about what being a woman living with Aspergers is like. Males & females with Aspergers present very differently. (Depending on the percentages & ratios used, there are at least 5 million girls & women worldwide living with AS.)July 20, 2010 - 5:18am
This also describes Amy Chua's behavior in http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html , except Chua did it in the name of China, not in the name of Asperger's.November 21, 2011 - 7:14am
A much needed article! I grew up with both parents displaying Asperger traits (but not diagnosed), and it was like growing up in an environtment where emotions were considered unuseful, and my siblings and I were neglected to the point of child abuse.
I had a deep-rooted feeling of being unloved and invisible (no hugs, no curiosity of my parents to get to know me or what was going on in my life) something that was so hard to bear as a child, that I learned to block out my emotions completely. I built up a feeling of self-worth based on my performance, and turned into an over-achiever. It felt like I had to be a grown-up taking care of myself already at age 6, trying to make sense of the world, learning how to relate outside of the home.
Needless to say, I have suffered psychological damage not being related to in a normal way growing up (I even had anorexia at age 14 without my parents noticing). At the age of 38 I am finally getting to know what it feels like to have self-esteem, to have the right to my emotions and to exist, be me. It's like I've had to go through a lot of layers of shock and trauma, and learn what is the normal way to relate. I've felt so isolated having needs that I now understand are perfectly normal. It has taken many years of therapy to get where I am today, and it is only recently that I figured out that my mother's inability for empathy, to understand emotions, facial expressions and body language might be a neurological handicap. It has been very hard to recover from this type of emotional neglect, but it is worth it knowing I can feel good and healthy for what is left of my life.May 22, 2010 - 11:05am
You have come to the right place for help and to reach out to other people suffering from neurotypical syndrome. The original post provides several blogging websites and communities that may help you connect with other children. Have you looked at those sites?April 18, 2010 - 10:14am
I am the neurotypical child you describe, I have two 'aspies' in my family, mother and brother, and it has been very hard to find any information and support for anyone in my position, and I do feel that growing up alongside this, with no understanding of what it was has affected me. I would like to find more information and maybe talk to people in similar situation. SFApril 18, 2010 - 9:23am
Thanks for the article. It describes very well my experience as the daughter of a man with AS.April 10, 2010 - 1:28am
I'm glad you found the article helpful. It was for folks like you that I wanted to write it.April 11, 2010 - 2:22pm
Nope. No strong feelings. I can see that. Well ... maybe a few.
Finding out about Aspergers helps to fill in some of the puzzling and painful blanks, doesn't it. It will not change the Aspies in your life, but it can make a difference for NTs in knowing how to deal with them. It gives a more clear picture of things, and that always helps, even if the actual situation does not change.
It is for folks like you that I wanted to write this article. I'm glad you liked it.April 3, 2010 - 6:38pm
Very thoughtful article. I too am the offspring of an undiagnosed aspie mother who has strong artistic skills and a high IQ -that served her well. Her parents and she attributed her oddness to giftedness. She had no interest in her siblings-especially the socially competent ones-who she dismissed as superficial/shallow. For her offspring, particularly those NT, her symptoms were difficult to deal with. She had and continues to have intense all consuming hobbies that became "little jobs" for her-her veggie phase when she spent the day preparing elaborate veggie dishes for dinner-served in a messy disgusting kitchen to children longing for normal. In her knitting period she dressed her 4 offspring in ugly outfits about which they were teased by peers. In her plant period she stopped cooking and knitting but attended only to her green house. In her shoe period she spent hours looking for the most elaborate shoes but otherwise dressed as if a bag lady. The oddest thing is that, once out of a "thing", she seems not to think twice about previous obsessions. She has no need to put the hobby in any context-her interest is in a detail with no interest in the whole. She can collect period chairs but put them in a room piled high with clutter and debris-and her interest in furniture is not linked to an interest in having a nice well furnished home. She would corner people in supermarkets and chance encounters-and after an hour conversation she knew nothing about them-but they knew everything about her in detail. When asked, she would exclaim that to ask them anything would be prying. Her NT offspring grew up as fast as possible. She talks to one Aspie daughter every day . She has little interest in 4 of her grandchildren but intense interest in one-a NT. Except for this one, she was quick to criticize the poor grand-babies almost before each was born. By one week, she complained they wouldn't smile at her or they were not cuddly enough and she has all kinds of justifications for why they deserve the criticism.They don't dress the way she would like, although her own clothes are disheveled and her self care is atrocious. She is oblivious to the hypocrisy. The grandchild she has as her "thing" lives hours away while the others are all within a few miles of her. She can't heap enough praise on the "thing"grandchild and there is no end to the criticism of the others. She says and does things that are so rude that none of the in-laws want much to do with her-as was the case for my fathers family and her own parents relatives. She hated them all but held out one slot for a relative that she elevated to almost god status. She can't stand music, movies, theater, art except her own. To say she is a kill joy would be an understatement. At a recent party for one of her grandsons, while everyone else complimented the very accomplished 16 year old, she went around making sure everyone knew she disapproved of his suit selection. She has one Aspie offspring that has bizarre hobbies that she supports and approves of. She views herself as having many friends and being social but most people view her as odd and strange--maybe interesting from afar. She has not perspective taking ability. If in her veggie period, she could have talked for hours to someone starving on the street about the veggies without thinking about how that would impact. She sees herself and her husband as far better than normal or typical and sneers at others with what she views as pedestrian interests. I viewed her as cold and cruel before I realized she fit the Aspie dx to a T. Now I view her as impaired but not cruel. She is sort of the Anti-family. She has alienated every family member so that there are few family gatherings and when there are any, she ruins them but making it a point to say nasty things about family members. When pressed, she says that whatever she said was the truth. Horrible and sad for the grandchildren. Her father was clearly an Aspie. They scuttlebutt then was that he was too intelligent to engage in small talk. Now we know. He simply couldn't engage in normal conversation--the poor man. Now that I finished this 20 page rant I guess it is safe to say, I have no strong feelings about the topic. Ok, maybe a few.April 3, 2010 - 6:16pm