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
Thanks for your comment.
I was sorry to see the effect my article had on many people who commented, who didn't have the experience growing up that you did. My intention wasn't to denigrate anyone and I know that there are many families where this problem does not crop up. I'm happy for the Aspergers / NT families that are healthy and whole.
The people on my mind as I wrote this article were people like yourself. And I had difficulties finding much written on this subject. That just made it more important to me to write about it. The problems for people in a situation like yours are very real and run very deep.
Information about this, to my mind, could only be a good thing for a group that got lost in the shuffle growing up and are still in the shadows at the present time.
I appreciate you writing.November 2, 2009 - 7:58pm
As the adult child of an AS father this article is spot on. Though my mother was able to compensate somewhat for his destructive parenting, the ripples will last a lifetime. I may not have AS, but I will always struggle with the attachment issues having an AS parent has caused.November 2, 2009 - 7:39pm
Hi, Jody! Wow. I know how it feels to feel disconnected from your parents without them even having a disorder like that. I just defined it in my frame of reference as unintentional neglect. BTW my parents were middle-aged when I was born, so I think they thought I would figure things out for myself - LOL!October 23, 2009 - 8:51pm
BTW this is Barbara fm.SINY!October 23, 2009 - 8:52pm
Hi again Concerned_Citizen4 -October 23, 2009 - 5:06pm
You're very welcome. Thanks for coming back! I look forward to more comments from you and am glad you're a member.
Just a follow-up comment with regard to my previous post (October 22, 2009- 7:02pm).October 23, 2009 - 12:30pm
Thank you to Pat Elliott for your warm welcome to this site, and to Alyson for sharing your website information.
Thank you as well to Diane P for your clarifying remarks.
I look forward to reading more articles on this website.
One of the things that may be happening right now is a sea change -- today's doctors and psychologists know so much more about Asperger's than they did a couple of generations ago. It is very possible that everything everyone has written here is true.
I think that there will be NT kids of Asperger's parents who read this post who have a true AHA moment -- who see, finally, why they are the way they are. Do I blame the parents for this? No, of course not. People do the best they can. But raising children is hard under the best of circumstances, in which everyone is healthy, mentally and physically. If you add any challenge -- physically or mentally -- on the side of either parent OR child, then raising those children gets more complicated.
I have ADD. I am smart, loving and successful, but I have ADD. I was not diagnosed until I was 43. I had problems throughout my childhood and adulthood due to ADD, and I never understood them. Once I was diagnosed, I was soooo relieved. I knew what was wrong! I could see that my dad had (undiagnosed) ADD, and I could see how it had played into how he raised us and what we learned. Do I blame him for this? Heavens no, anymore than I blame myself for having it. But the understanding is key.
I can see a NT kid of an Asperger's parent reading this post and saying, OH! I finally understand! And that's a real tool for growth and healing. It's not a conviction of the parents. The last person who would do that is Jody Smith. She is all about tools and learning and progress, no matter how slow it is. She is not about throwing guilt at the wall to see where it sticks.
I love the fact that there are Asperger's adults and children of Asperger's parents who are changing the world. It will only get better from your efforts! Thirty years ago, "retarded" was a common term, and now we all know better and do better. I cheer on your efforts and hope we see more of you on EmpowHer!October 23, 2009 - 8:16am
Children of deaf adults even have a neat acronym (CODA) so I don't see why children of Aspie adults shouldn't also discuss among themselves their Aspie parents. I would want to caution about generalizing, even with the word "some" in front of it. In terms of Aspie/Autistic/Neurotypical, I'm from a very blended family. My dad is an Aspie, but my mom, a neurotypical, was the one who seemed 'distant' - though we have a great family and we all get along wonderfully. In our generation, one of my sisters and I are Aspies and my other sis is neurotypical - though none of us were diagnosed growing up. My daughter is autistic - and my diagnosis, after her autism diagnosis, was the first. I tell my daughter she's a good person, I love her, and I'm glad she's my daughter - tell her that IN WORDS as well as actions. My son is too young to be diagnosed one way or the other - but I tell him I love him too, and he will be HIMSELF whether is is Aspie or Nerotypical. My husband is neurotypical and so is my stepson, but we're fine! Every family is different.October 23, 2009 - 3:21am
WOW - Alyson - Just looked at your website, and you've really put a lot into it. I admire your initiative in doing the research and all of the hours of work that was involved, and providing a forum for others. It looks like you're in New Zealand, a place I'd love to visit some day. Thank YOU for writing and sharing this link with our members so they can benefit from what you know and what you're learning in your own efforts to reach out to others through your site. There's much we can share and learn from each other!! PatOctober 22, 2009 - 5:40pm
Hello Concerned_Citizen4 and Anonymous:October 22, 2009 - 5:15pm
Thank you so much for responding to this article and making your voices heard. While the article uses the word "some" a lot to describe "some" Asperger parents, it definitely does not describe ALL of them.
The website was founded so that voices like yours could be heard. You are living and breathing your own unique experiences every day, and as in many respects more of an "expert" than some of the official "experts" out there.
I hope you will write again and tell us more about your lives, your frustrations, and most of all, what you want those of us who aren't in your world to understand about your ups and downs and successes. No one here would intentionally want to knock down anyone, so please help us to better understand your world so we can join you as you walk tall and move forward.
Take good care,