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
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I have only come to realise my mother is most likely someone with Asperger's. She's in her 70s now and there is no way she will get a diagnosis, partly because of her age but mostly because she has been in denial most of her life about the effect she has on others.
All 3 of her children have some kind of mental health issue. I had severed depression at 13 which I got no help for because she did not see it, later on I was diagnosed with bipolar. One sister developed OCD and the other anxiety/panic disorder. One sister spoke with a psychiatrist and without diagnosing her, agreed she sounded like she was narcissistic. I have since discovered many people with ASD are misdiagnosed with narcissism.
I could never understand why my mother couldn't love me like other mothers. We never had bonding moments as mother and child. Nothing was ever good enough or right. She would send me to the shop to buy things and when I got back I had always forgotten something even though she had never told me she wanted it in the firs place. Eventually I made her write me a list and even then, her response was I should have known. She could never be wrong and I could never be right. She would find ways to embarrass me in front of others, often pointing out my faults - or her perception of my faults. Never told anything positive about me at all. When I was a child she told me she could not hug me anymore because girls didn't do that. She had no perception of hugging her daughter as different to sexual intimacy!
She turned me into her emotional parent and I was forced to be the emotional parent of my sisters, to at least ensure they got what I didn't. I had chronic low self esteem, repressed anger and sought out unhelpful attention from others. Not to mention the bipolar which I have no doubt these experiences contributed toward.
And yes, there is almost nothing for adult NT children of AS parents. It's like everyone thinks we are all grown up and it's too late for us. Yet more insult to the wound.
The other FB group does not seem to be there, so I have started another for NT adult children of AS parents - diagnosed or not. It is especially for those of us who grew up without knowing the 'why' behind their behaviour. It is a closed group. Please check it out and maybe we can support each other.September 15, 2015 - 8:47pm
You had a tough time of it growing up. It helps some, doesn't it, to finally have some idea about what was -- and is -- wrong.
I commend you for starting a group to help to fill in the void online that NT children of Aspie parents face. I think that the more NTs write -- blog, post on forums, start a website, recommend an author or a therapist or another blogger -- the more that void will be filled, for them and for the other NTs out there dealing with the same issues.
I have a chronic illness -- ME/CFS, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and most recently by some as Ramsay's disease. When I first got sick there was really nothing online. Still nothing, in mainstream terms. But the people who were sick and hurting starting emailing each other, blogging, starting forums and websites to post the few informative articles out there -- and now we are gaining a presence.
We had to do it ourselves and it is a slow process. But the void is being filled with things that we need.
Your page will make a difference, for you and for others.September 16, 2015 - 6:54am
Jody, sorry to hear about your experience with CFS. I had a good friend in the 90s who's brother was struck with it during his first year at uni. It was just starting to be known then and he was lucky his doctor was aware. Even if nothing can be done, just to have the validation in the early days helps so much.September 16, 2015 - 6:52pm
Thanks. I appreciate it.
Fortunately things have changed in some ways since the 90s. There is more information available, at least to those of us lucky enough to be online. Most of the change is due to the sick people talking to each other, sharing information, creating websites from their beds, etc.
A sick friend and I agreed 6 yrs ago that we just needed to "paper the internet with blogs, articles and forum and facebook posts about CFS." That is what many of us proceeded to do.
Maybe NTs of Aspie parents might be able to find some healing and connection by doing the same. There's so little out there right now, there's no direction to go but up:)September 16, 2015 - 7:09pm
Thank you so much for this. Children of aspies should also know that even though they (usually) mean no harm by the hurtful things they do, it's okay to step out of the way, take care of yourself, and even cut contact if necessary.
I made excuses for my dad's behavior for decades -- it was obvious he wasn't mean, just incredibly hurtful without any concept of what he was doing, and either angry or shrugging if it was brought up to him. If he couldn't see a problem, it wasn't his problem. When he started maltreating my daughter, though, and then refused to help out in any way when I became a single mom (because he couldn't see why he should, even after having watched his own parents help his sister and nephew), *and* wanted me to cater to his needs when and how he felt like having family show up, I realized he'd burned through the last of my goodwill, and that I just don't owe him anything. All his emails were doing was reminding me of how he'd treated me, my daughter, my brother. So I cut off contact, told him not to contact me and why, and of course he did anyway as soon as he felt it was important, so I did something I usually do only for trolls: I set his email to delete. I was in peace for most of a year.
I forgot to lock down my work email, though, so I got a birthday message with an explanation about how he accepts but doesn't understand or approve my not contacting him (this from the guy who'd vanish for months at a time), and that he wants me to accept birthday wishes because birthdays are the holiday that are important to him. And it's just...sad. He really cannot see outside himself. I thanked him and immediately locked down that account, too.
He's getting on and yes, I know he will need help and that he'll be his own worst enemy in getting it. I also know that it's not his fault. But the help isn't going to come from me. I've had more than enough to do raising and supporting my daughter on my own, after essentially raising myself. And he has enough money to hire help.
Don't feel guilty about taking care of yourself. There's no need.August 20, 2015 - 8:55pm
I really like this post. It is almost like I wrote it myself.November 27, 2015 - 1:47pm
I never resented my Dad and loved him so much ( he died last year) but couldn't live like I did all my childhood any more.
I always thought his distance was just normal and I couldn't expect anything more, but I would cry when he went away and always needed him and my mum and wanted to be with them much more than they ever wanted to be with me.
It's called self preservation . I am guilty of leaving them behind, but they pissed off and left me first.
There's a unique kind of loneliness in a situation like that. And self-preservation is a good thing. I commend you for taking care of yourself.November 27, 2015 - 4:10pm
Thank you Jody. One has to experience an awful lot of heartache before finally accepting things the way they are and adapting.November 28, 2015 - 9:27am
I don't have that ' if only...' feeling any more. I am at peace as a result.
It can take us a long time to accept and to adapt. I'm glad to hear that you have found peace.November 28, 2015 - 9:58am
Thank you for sharing your experience. It has been very difficult for you, but I see that you seem to have a handle on things. You are understanding of your father, at the same time you have developed your own boundaries, and are maintaining them.
You are so right. Taking care of yourself is important and there is no need for guilt.August 21, 2015 - 6:02am