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
Their comments also reminded me of the way Anita Hill and Rihanna were accused of betraying blacks by speaking up about how Clarence Thomas and Chris Brown treated them, of how Marjane Satrapi and Ayaan Hirsi Ali were accused of betraying Muslims by not claiming that all Muslim men are perfect, of how the Dixie Chicks were accused of hating America by telling foreigners they disliked President Bush, of the whole "snitches get stitches" attitude, etc.July 14, 2010 - 4:15pm
Meanwhile, their comments remind me of this:
"...the problem remains stalled at the acknowledgement stage. So much so that wherever you find discussion of the UNIVERSAL challenges faced by Aspies and their spouses in marriages, you will invariably find aspie men (or their mothers) jumping in and shouting it down because it must be offensive or be unjustly placing blame if it names a certain neurological point of view as a common denominator in an identifiable set of relational difficulties..."
"...Aspies might find this review and the added comments offensive, but I find it as a breath of fresh air and completely agree with it. I am a wife of an aspie and this is EXACTLY what it is like. And I agree that Aspies need to stop fighting us here and any other boards, so we can finally find help for our side of the relationship. I am sorry you can't see all that we do to sacrifice for this relationship but that is why you have Aspergers, because you can't see it. I too have a son with aspergers, whom I love with all my heart. Doesn't change the fact that I feel like a single parent when it comes to leadership, scheduling, and the overall health of the family. It's sad to say, that when I need a hug, I have to go to bed and dream about one..."
"...One thing I have noticed with some on the higher functioning end of the spectrum is the response they have when NTs try to explain or show their side of the story. I don't think it's something they can avoid, there is something in that part of the neurology that cannot process the give and take, or share and feedback aspect of the other's explanations because it is perceived as an acute threat. Threatening, or at the very least there involves some form of rejection or contradiction..."July 14, 2010 - 10:05am
Hi Pat, thanks for responding and I agree needs to be a two way process and often in the past the problem has been we have not been included. I think one thing we all need ti remember is that each person on the spectrum is a unique individuals like we are are and just like not on the spectrum we are in fact all different, so its dangerous in a way to generalize, because quite often we already have a negative stereo type imagine in the eyes of many...
Your all welcome to read as much about me and asutisic individuals on my website, which is also inclusive of nione spectrunm individuals, my family half and half...October 22, 2009 - 5:27pm
"Many of us can far too easily become saturated with emotion, I seem to vacuum and take in everything so intensely around me at times,I simply overload or shut down. I feel this is partly because those of us on the spectrum are often over sensitive to any changes around us, including moods, stress, environment and often these are key factors to overloading us, be it parents, partners, situation changes, it's like with any transition around us, change of routine in our lives we become unsettled and need a quite place to desensitize." from web site http://www.asplanet.info/ regards Alyson
"They'd be aware of the emotional distance the child faces. Inevitably, the AS parent would not."October 22, 2009 - 2:27pm
"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."
I can't believe what I am reading!! I have been recently diagnosed with AS. I certainly did not feel loved or valued by my family growing up, and I made great efforts to show my now grown children lots of love and caring throughout their lives. I was not perfect, but my children & I are close and they seem very happy. (Although perhaps one would then say: "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.") We just cannot win, can we?
The comments in this article may be true for some parents, both AS and NT alike. But these things are most definitely not true for all, or even most AS parents.
People with AS face enough condemnation throughout their lives from both family members and from society at large. They do not need extra guilt and anxiety piled on by "experts"- telling them what bad parents they must be, simply by virtue of having AS. Thank you.
Liane Holliday Willey has written a great book about having AS. She recognises her difficulties and her strengths and says how she works around them. What I would like to see is more recognition of Aspergers and then help and support for those that need it. As soon as I try and describe AS I get stuck because everyone is so different. It can cause difficulties, though I do like it when Tony Attwood says You don't suffer from Aspergers you suffer from other people! I think that was how it went. See You Tube about Just Add Water Clay Marzo. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKRIRZEV4B4May 10, 2012 - 2:31am
This is going to sound hateful, but as someone who has had to live with this my whole life... I could careless. You would like the explanation that, "You don't suffer from Aspergers. You suffer from other people!" I have given myself whole-heartedly to learning about this so I can eventually try to communicate with my mother. Do you think she is going to try to extend that courtesy? It'll be a cold day in hell, I'm sure. But do you understand how FRUSTRATING it is to constantly read people with AS blaming EVERYONE ELSE? Accept that you think differently, and that because of that, you (however unintentionally it may be) hurt others. That is completely unfair to say that my Asperger's mother suffers because of me. You sound like a completely cold-hearted jerk when you say things like that. But oh, wait. You have Asperger's. That is like a free pass. Cool. I think I have Asperger's too. I think I will just be hurtful and blame others because that is super convenient.
I get what you were trying to say... but that sounds completely awful to word it like that. That is putting blame on someone. And puts me in the situation where I continue to blame myself. Awesome.
I'm sorry that I may have gotten out of line for a minute there... but there are TWO sides to every story. Blame isn't placed anywhere. There is simply how I see it and how she sees it. You don't suffer from anyone. You suffer from Asperger's. Get it right. Stop generalizing. I am not "everyone else". I am me. You can't sit there and make accusations that I am not putting forth effort to understand.May 16, 2012 - 8:35pm
WOAH, ok, Let me just say that I wrote that on a better day. I do not have Aspergers. Well that is not true, I have a hubbie, daughter, 2 sister-in-laws, autistic bro-in-law, niece and nephew and both in-laws on one side of the family and as far as I can tell an uncle and a Grandfather on the other! All with AS. But I personally am as Neurotypical as they come! To that end I have studied and read as much as I can on the subject and try to be positive and try to see both sides. I also know exactly what it is like to feel accused and blamed. YES. And lonely! I absolutely feel for you. I know exactly what it is like to ask for emotional support and not receive what I need despite my hubbie being kind and well meaning. But he doesn't get what I am needing.May 18, 2012 - 4:27am
I showed my daughter what I wrote and she said it was written like an Aspie - oop's, VERY SORRY. That was my neurotypical daughter by the way who often feels hurt!
I guess what Tony Attwood was meaning is that if left to how they wanna/?need to live they wouldn't be upset and to be fair people who don't understand Aspies (most people) do shun them and struggle to connect with them. I do however know that people who live with them also suffer and by all accounts it can be great suffering. I understand that the divorce rate is 80% for couples. I know children that leave home early because of the relationships and from what I have read recently adult children who have grown in Aspie homes have had a dreadful time and struggle with relationships and felt abused even.
Dare I suggest I am not a cold-hearted jerk, I do believe personally that it is a disorder not a difference! Yikes now I shall have the Aspies on my back. I do wonder though if your Mum had teaching/support/diagnosis and acceptance of the diagnosis when she first bore you maybe someone could have helped her be better to you? Maybe not but I would like to see people try for their childrens benefit. I hope you have someone you know who understands what it is like for you because it is hard and extremely frustrating. I don't think for one minute that you don't try to understand - you are probably in a position now where you are an expert on the matter. Some days I hate Aspergers Syndrome with everything inside of me. Not the people, though I must confess to feeling angry with them at times. But I used to say to my daughter If your Dad was in a wheelchair you wouldn't expect him to play soccer! He does have Aspergers and there are some things he has difficulty with.
Anyway, I talk too much. I do know something of your frustration though I didn't grow up with it which probably helps. Have you read Kathy Marshack's book? She understands, I think her mother had Aspergers. Take care.
I'm sorry you feel that way but I would agree 100% with the writer of the article. I am the offspring of an aspie mother. She did some things right like made sure I was fed and clothed and she would say the right things etc. She would follow the lead of what you are supposed to do, but in no way was she able to love me or understand how her rage and and other problem behaviors damaged her children. To this day she is clue less and refuses any conversation about my feelings and my experience. She is however very aware of her own and makes it clear to us that we always have to see her, respect her and care for her. Walking on egg shells is the only way to be around this woman. My cure was to have my own children and be a real mother to them but it also required ten years of therapy and distancing myself from my mother. Finally, I have come to accept that she had never and could never love me or my brother.November 28, 2011 - 9:54am
I just recently found information on Asperger's because my daughter has exhibited some anti social behavior and the word was brought to me as a possible reason. What I found was that my daughter had learned behaviors that I had given her - that I had learned because I too walked on eggshells my whole life. While my daughter did not fit the diagnosis, my mother did. Empathy is a behavior that is both inherent and learned. Since no one taught it to me I had to learn it on my own so I did not know when and how to intervene in her earlier years to teach her right from wrong. Ironically when she wan in daycare all was wonderful. It wasn't until she entered school and I no longer had a "second mother" to help me that things started to go downhill. However, in situations where empathy is expected as a natural reaction she has it in spades. And when I talk to her about the things she needs to work on she listens and wants to do those things so people like her more. Unfortunately though, I no longer talk to my mother, I could not bear the burden anymore. It makes me very sad and I miss her terribly; however, just when I think "maybe this time...." I remember that a brick wall is waiting for me on the other side of that conversation and I don't want to bring that hurt and shame home to my daughter. I am grateful for all the AS information I have found and the people who have posted and made me feel normal for the first time in my life. All of your stories have helped me identify the things that my mother could not teach me and has helped me identify how I have let my daughter down and I'm happy to say that, as scared as I was that she wouldn't, she had reacted appropriately to my direction. You see the unfortunate thing for an NT child (especially an only child) of an AS mother; you learn to parent as a child as you parent your own parent so when you are then a parent you're not always sure of what your doing. So to all of you who have posted and helped me you are forever in my gratitude.October 11, 2012 - 9:03am
The introduction to Asperger's syndrome can be a new open door in some surprising ways.
I hope your journey of self-discovery and new discovery of others continues and increases for you.
You have been lonely and have felt devalued for a long time. And now change is beginning to come for you. How wonderful.October 11, 2012 - 9:34am