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
It's important that you have started talking. Don't stop. Tell your story, talk about how you felt, talk about how you feel now. If the people you know don't want to hear it ... find some new people.
Good luck on your new journey!September 17, 2017 - 7:25am
I haven't read all the comments so I apologise if this has already been discussed. My father had asp. which has now been diagnosed however I am now in my late 30s. I'm not going to regale you with all the horror stories, they are all pretty much on here in one form or another. My mother appears to have NPD and my stepmother also NPD. I wondered if there is a pattern there. Maybe there would be a reason that someone with Asperger's would seek relationships with people who have narcissistic personality disorder? I wonder how common this is. I have to say I feel very strongly that people with these disorders should not have children and I am more than aware of how offensive that is going to come across to some people. I have spent my entire life wishing I had never existed, spent ridiculous amounts of money and time on therapy and medication but those feelings persists and I suspect might be quite common for those of us who endured this combination in parents.August 10, 2017 - 5:34am
However others might feel about what you think and feel, you have every right and reason for feeling as you do.
I wouldn't worry about whether people who have not experienced these things will understand. They are fortunate that they can't conceive of what it can be like in such a family situation.
I think you are right, that what you experience is very common for people who grew up as you did. I hope that you are able to pursue freedom from your past and how it has molded your life. Knowing that it is them and not you, will make a difference.
There are people out there who are more loving, more open and more sensitive and you can search them out and learn how to make such people a part of your life. I wish you good luck and soundness:)September 7, 2017 - 10:47am
Incredibly enough, both my parents are on the spectrum, both have a quite severe version of Asperger/HFA, and both have severe ADD/ADHD. And it doesn't even stop there; my father has an IQ of around 60-70, and is mildly mentally retarded and has a really bad and extremely explosive temper. To top it all, my mother is even a covert malignant narcissist with an extreme mix of several personality disorders. She is basically a living encyclopedia of mental illnesses. Extremely anxious, extremely dependent, extremely avoidant/schizoid and a world champion of passive aggression. She is basically afraid of "everything", and hardly dare to go anywhere unless my father is with her.
In a world of more than 7 Billion people, it's a miracle that these two retards managed to find each other, it's truly a marriage straight from Hell. If I were to "choose" again, I rather would take a single, alcoholic and prostitute mother as my only parent than these two together! First I inherited their lousy genes, then suffered massive abuse from these two utterly crazy "humans". I truly believe they are the worst pair of parents in the world, I can't imaging anyone being worse!
My father has generally one emotion; anger, my mother has two more: self-pity and hatred. She is the eternal martyr who has sacrified herself for the family, and my father is the cheerleader who backs her up 100%, no matter what crazy stuff she is up to. Their marriage is very strong, undoubtedly because they have noone else. They have hardly any friends
They viewed themselves as excellent parents, constantly talking about how hopeless other parents were. True, we had always food and clothes, but just about the only emotion in the house was aggression. My father usually had several hysterical meltdowns each day and my mother used her passive-aggressive tacics on a daily basis on us from we were toddlers. I was NEVER hugged, never told I was loved. Every objection was hysterically treated as treason, as if we were dolls that had malfunctioned. Small accidents, like tilting a glass of milk could be punished with spanking. I remember once, when I was around 6-7 years old, my mother suddenly stormed out the door, telling us that she wasn't coming back until we behaved. We didn't even know what we had done. My father, staring angry at us, just said; "that's what happen when you don't listen." She was gone for several hours before she returned, as angy as when she left and didn't talk to us for the rest of the evening.
I am also an aspie with plenty comorbidities, as is my brother. My sister seems to have gotten away with "just" ADD. I have two children, one son who has asperger and a daughter who probably has BPD. My sister's son is a low-function autistic and her daughter is an aspie. Of my brother's three children at least one is a clear aspie. So, out of 12 family member at least 8 is on the spectrum.
As an adult I have tried to talk to my mother about and her and my father's mental illnesses, but she denies everything. According to her, the only thing she suffers from is a "nice-girl-syndrome"! These two were incredible harmful, and I hate them intensely to this day.May 3, 2017 - 3:59pm
Wow, it's weird but I feel like your my cousin. When I say that, I mean in terms of having almost identical experience with that combination with a bit of variation. I have the same configuration with the exception that I also have a step mother who is also narcissistic with psychopathic tendencies and I dare say diagnosed. I am very angry about it, furious to be honest. I've disowned my family, my father and stepmother nearly 20 years ago yet it's not enough. I'm hanging for the call to tell me when they have died but I doubt that will even bring me peace.August 10, 2017 - 6:30am
There has been a lot of suffering in your life. I hope the time comes when you will be able to be free of the past. May the future be better for you.September 7, 2017 - 10:50am
You have been through a lot in your life. You are still standing and that is something to be proud of. It's a tough journey that you are dealing with but keep on sorting out your life. Good luck!May 7, 2017 - 7:57pm
My elderly mother has Aspergers. This article captures many of the struggles my siblings and I have faced - and continue to deal with even though we finally understand why she is so full of stress and fear and so oblivious to our needs and feelings. She has always treated us as little more than extensions of her needs.
As my sister once said, our mother's view is that nothing is too much trouble for us, and everything is too much trouble for her. And when she decides she needs something - no matter how outrageous - she is relentless until we give in. One example: she insisted I do her laundry on my wedding day. If you knew how she behaves if she doesn't get her way, you'd understand why I washed her clothes. We have always had to serve as her care-givers even as she avoided caring for us.
I know there is a cliche that people on the spectrum are not emotional. My mother, however, is quite emotional. It's just that all the emotion is directed to herself. Her emotions for all other people are quite shallow. When I miscarried my first pregnancy, she was insistent about knowing the gender because for some reason (despite having two daughters), she was obsessed with having a granddaughter. She kept telling me she was sure it was a girl. So instead of expressing sympathy, she made me feel like I'd failed to meet her need. She did the same thing when my sister-in-law miscarried.
As this article points out, kids aren't equipped to understand the lack of love from their mother. We always tried to project onto her what we needed from her, and we felt worthless and heart-broken that she was so unavailable and uncaring.
I occasionally post on my blog about my experiences. The comments I get from readers are either thankful to have found someone who understands their experience or angry that I am expressing this story. I know my story hard to hear if you have ASD or have a child with ASD. I've had people tell me I'm wrong to say my mother lacks empathy, and that saying so is hurtful to people with ASD. Kind of a bitter irony to be shamed for speaking up since my mother's lack of empathy has hurt me all my life. I'm used to being emotionally bullied and neglected. But I'm not going to deny my truth.April 2, 2017 - 12:07pm
Thank you for writing about this and posting resources. My father went undiagnosed for 60 years, it wasn't until I attended university and started working with children on the spectrum that I put two and two together. My father is a loving father - but everything has to be "his way" and he prefers that there is no outside influences.March 14, 2017 - 9:36am
My mother is NT, but she came from a physically and emotionally abusive household, so she doesn't see my father's habits or quirks as odd and makes up excuses for his behaviour. My father hasn't worked since I was born, my mother is the bread winner, while my father stays home and watched tv or played on his computer.
Things like finding a parking spot turns into hour long adventures (usually with him having a tantrum or sulking in the end because he couldn't find the perfect parking spot). My mother is not allowed to have friends, because my father belittles them or my his paranoia rubs off on her and she believes that everyone is out to hurt them in some way. My sibling and I grew up extremely isolated. When we lived in a city it was easier for my brother and I to find friends, but when my dad forced us to move to a rural area we could not make any friends. My father rubbed everyone in town, especially our teachers, the wrong way - and it affected us. Teachers were harder on my brother and I, because my father is extremely pretentious would verbally belittles others he views less intelligent, so they would jump at the chance to prove to my father that we were not as intelligent as he believed us to be. I can count on one hand the number of times I had friends over (twice in my life)..all birthdays and family holidays consist of myself, my brother, and our parents. No one else. Our father pushed all our relatives away -I grew up without grandparents- he doesn't see the need to socialize and so he has never understood why I crave friendship. Sadly my brother was more affected by this. He's in his mid twenties and has never left home, he has no friends, and spends all his time with my father. Although, my father and brother barely interact, they just occupy the same space. The one girlfriend he had left him because of our father- the first time he met her he told her "You'd look beautiful if you lost that double chin."
Even now that I am married with a house and a career, he still tries to control me and my husband. I know he doesn't mean it to be malicious. But, for example- when my husband and I bought our house there was a dead fruit tree in the front yard. My father became obsessed with it and was convinced he could save it and began reading everything he could. My husband ended up by removing the tree, because it was clearly dead, and my father lost it. He showed up to our house ranting and raving that he could have saved the tree, insulted my husband's intelligence, and then disowned us. He then got my mother to call us and guilt us for removing the tree. He didn't speak to us for two months. The only reason why he started talking to us again, was because during renovations I found an old screen projector and posted it on FB - and of course my father wanted it. He is also a bit of a horder...my mother is now in her mid 60s and still working to support him because he loves spending $$ on hunting and fishing equipment that he'll never use. I suspect my father prefers to learn about a hobby and will buy the "best of the best" gadgets but that's as far as he goes. He lies and tells everyone he hunts and fishes all the time..but I've never seen him even touch his guns - other than to play around with the scope.
It's very hard for me, because he was very verbally abuse to me and while I was desperate to get away from him, he made the rest of the family dependant on him. Emotionally I am still dependant and crave his approval. This is something I'm working on. No one in the family drives - only him, my brother and I have full blown anxiety when it comes to driving because of the stress he caused us when we asked if he could teach us. My mother doesn't drive either, she too has anxiety - although she'll never admit it, and depends on him to take her everywhere. I was misdiagnosed as having autism- it turns out that my speech patterns, by inability to read social cues..and so on, were learned behaviours. I had no other influences outside my mother and father and because of that he basically turned my brother and I into "oddballs" I find myself going on long monologs - because that is one of the only ways my father communicated with us (other than yelling).
I think adults on the spectrum can be wonderful parents, but they need to be diagnosed. I have a lot of anger towards our family doctors for bushing off my complaints as "teenage rebellion" (clearly, I was the problem..) and not looking into my father's behaviours, because perhaps if there had been some sort of intervention I could have had a better childhood, more self confidence, no anxiety, and my brother could have grown up to live a normal life and not a NT version of my father.
You have really been through a lot in your life. It may seem insurmountable sometimes, but knowing what you now is going to make a big difference for you. It's a quantum shift from how you grew up seeing life, and seeing yourself. As time passes, it will make even more difference.
You will continue to discover that you have more options in how you think, how you do things, making choices, than you ever hoped for in the past. The roadblocks that seemed immovable ... some of them will move now.
It sounds like you have already come a long way in your understanding of things. You are headed in a good direction.
Good luck!March 14, 2017 - 12:43pm