Facebook Pixel

Asperger's Parents and Neurotypical Children

By HERWriter
Rate This
Asperger's Syndrome related image Pixabay

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 last post here was written a few years ago however they are still applicable to me. The effects of being raised with an Aspie father and having an aspie sister has lasted me a lifetime. I understand that many Aspie parents have responded that they are offended by this article. Parents of aspie children read these experiences and feel defensive and protective of their aspie children. No one likes to be stereotyped. Not every aspie parent demonstrates the same traits or behaviors. The benefits that many of the Aspies and/or Aspie parents responding to this article is that they have self identified or been diagnosed with this difference, this challenge. Parents of Aspies can rest assured that their children will not have to become these stereotypes. Why? Because they have support, they have techniques or methods to help cope, adapt or to simply accept their differences. My father nor sister were given this gift.

It is very hurtful to discount the feelings ~ experiences of the child of an Aspie just as it is hurtful for an Aspie to hear these testaments of common feelings and experiences. However everyone deserves a chance to heal. And sometimes the only way to get there is by sharing your story and knowing that you are not alone.

There are countless studies and research on the importance of father/daughter relationships. Any time that this relationship is strained or damaged both child/parent will suffer. I know my father loves me. I know that he has done the best he can. It provides some comfort however it has not corrected the damage that has occurred. Being able to identify some of the common attributes of an Aspie and realizing that there is a trend of behavior that can't always be helped (especially when there is no diagnosis therefore no assistance or explanation can be provided). Remember the "NT" child was just that...a child. One who needed to be loved, validated and cared for by both parents.

My father and sister were emotionally inaccessible. I am not going to state that I am NT. I am not really sure I am entirely an NT. Sometimes I wonder about the nature/nurture in my situation. How much of my is inherited nature and how much is learned (from my parents or learned from trying to cope alone). All I know is that I was constantly defending my sister and father in public while secretly wondering why we couldn't be like other families. Wondering if I was adopted or was misplaced in a socially awkward family.

As a child I did not notice the difference much. The only indication of our "oddness" was my mother's depression/chronic illness and my father's lack of affection. At about 11 I started to notice that my father was unkind, impatient and insensitive to my mother. As we became a teenagers, my sister's lack of friendship and the cruelty of other became glaringly obvious. I was asked to take my sister to friends' houses, to parties and other activities despite being the younger sister. My sister often made others uncomfortable and in process I became particularly conscience of my every movement. I became obsessed with good manners and behavior out of fear of not being accepted and fear of calling attention to myself by some faux pas. In many ways I took on some aspie traits. With one large difference, I had many friends and made connections outside my family that helped me cope and learn social behaviors. To complicate matters, I was raised in a strict religious household. My mother compensating for the lack of affection in her relationship with my dad with lots of prayer and trite religious quotes. She had a "we must carry on" martyr attitude.
My sister was placed in special ed classes early on for reading disabilities which she really didn't have. But in the 70's there wasn't much in public schools for children who were "different". She never had a close friend, she didn't date, she didn't marry and she passed away at 37 of an asthma attack. When she passed I was extremely angry and grieved. I was mad she didn't take care of herself. When she passed dad made rather callous remarks such as "I lost a daughter but gained another bedroom". The man at the funeral home looked at me just shocked. I told him "his attempt at humor is his way of coping". I knew he loved my sister, in fact they were so much a like and shared many common interests (collecting old books, cats and ordering things through catalogs).
My dad says he is "eccentric". He was an aerospace engineer. Read math books for "the fun of it". He has several collections. Most of which remain in boxes stored away. He also never had friends over and often if someone came by the house they would get caught in his web of interests. And despite obvious signs like looking at their watch Dad never understood the clues that others were not interested...

Once my sister passed I brought my parents to live close to me. Once I moved them close I realized something was very wrong with mom. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Dad had not saved any money over the years despite having had a good paying job. He had not bought a home nor did he really have any assets. I am now 41 and caring for both of them. I often feel it is ironic that they are living with me. I was so desperate to move out as a young adult. To get away from dad's insensitivity and mom's over sensitivity. Mom is now apathetic with Alzheimer's. Dad has shown more concern for her, but always in his own unique way. The relationship with my dad has affected my relationships and has caused some very real self esteem issues. Which I am working through. Though it has been very hard due to lack of life skills that I was taught.
When my sister passed, I was devastated by the loss and so very angry that my sister's life seemed to be valued by so few. Someone even had the gall the mention that it was the smallest turn out at a funeral that they had ever seen. I sought out therapy after my sister passed away. The therapist suggested my sister was an aspie and my father too. I have been able to put the pieces of the puzzle together which has helped heal some of the frustration and hurt.

April 19, 2013 - 10:39pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Tammy_8181)

I can relate to your story. I grew up in an emotional vacuum - no comfort, no listening, no recognition that feelings existed. I had a serious PTSD breakdown (from horrific assaults in my teenage years which of course hadn't been recognised by my parents) before I learnt how to feel and be aware of my emotions. My mother doesn't have a diagnosis but have asperger traits with religion as special interest. It seems she got an aquired autism from spending her first few years at an orphanage.
And all this damage she caused me was unintentional, but still I feel sick when we have contact. It's sad.

April 20, 2013 - 5:29am
EmpowHER Guest

My mother and brother are Aspies...In response to the last comment, my mother was kind and loyal and considerate in her way, and I have spent the last 57 years validating her feelings, her experiences, her understanding of things. I know that she cares about me, but in many ways, I am invisible to her. And I'm sorry your feelings are hurt, can you imagine that our feelings are hurt as well? Profoundly?

I would love to talk more with adult children of parents with Asperger's. I am still coming to grips with how it has affected me and how it has limited me. And, yes, the description in the article of children expecting to be ignored, expecting to be interrupted, expecting to be less than nothing describes my experiences. I'm still trying to crawl out of that hole and would be grateful for any hand up offered.

Recognizing that she has a syndrome was a revelation to me and helped immensely with any anger issues...knowing she can't help how she is, helps me deal with it. My own childhood coping strategies involved having as many pets as were permitted. I still find animal companions a solace in providing the kind of unconditional love that was lacking. I ended up teaching high school. As my niece pointed out, teenagers are the most self-involved age group - so I can handle them well, but on the other hand, they give back a lot to me emotionally. So I've spent a great deal of my life building huge networks of relationships to repair the damage done early.

I have two sons, and I have made a point to be involved in their lives and to be interested in their interests and to care about what they care about. I think they're ok - I hope the damage is limited to one generation, though my niece, having a similar childhood to mine, has a lot to cope with as well. Glad this subject is coming to light, hearing other people's stories helps. Sharing mine helps.

I notice how unusually long all these comments are. We have a lifetime's worth of things to say to people

April 13, 2013 - 7:21pm
EmpowHER Guest

These comments hurt. A lot. I'm an Aspie, and... well... you're kind of saying that we're all blind to other people's emotions, or worse, that we don't care.

April 11, 2013 - 8:31pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

It's not that you don't care, it's that from an NT's perspective and experience, you don't APPEAR to care. Now, an adult NT, given enough knowledge of autism, can learn to understand this and not cast blame. But an NT child simply doesn't have the ability to understand any of that yet. He or she is in a formative stage, when it's absolutely necessary to not just receive love and caring, but to perceive it, to feel it, to be nourished by it.

An adult NT can understand that the APPEARANCE of not caring is just that, an appearance, and that there is in fact caring and love. An NT child can't. All they'll know, from their perspective, is that they're unloved, that their feelings don't matter. And even if they learn more as they grow up, those deep childhood scars remain. That's what these comments are all about.

April 25, 2020 - 5:26am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)


If you read the article, and the comments about it, you can see that there are frequent mentions that everyone is different, individuals with Asperger's syndrome are not all the same ... These folks are taking what may be a rare opportunity to speak up and be heard about some things that have been very painful in their lives, without being ignored or talked over. I think it is important that they are able to do this.

Individual's comments that talk about their own experience with their own parents are just that. They are not blanket statements about all Aspies. I'm sorry that you take them that way. They are not blanket statements, they are talking about how they feel in their own lives.

I wrote this article for the children of Aspies, whose feelings and needs are often ignored and discounted within their families, by their parents. I have seen several comments to this article that could be examples of just how that is done.

The offspring talk about the hurts that they have experienced and a few (not all) Aspie parents have written comments that completely ignore the pain -- they do not say "I am sorry you have experienced this." They do not say, "I didn't realize. Tell me more." Instead a few commenters have instead made this NT offspring of Aspies article about them and their pain.

I don't doubt that many people with Aspergers have pain in their lives. There are resources out there for people with Aspergers, especially Aspie children. I am sure that that does not make everything all better but at least the struggles of Aspies are recognized.

We're talking here about the need for NT children of Aspies to also be recognized and supported, without it being wrested away by someone else. Again. 

April 20, 2013 - 8:15am
EmpowHER Guest

I am certain that my father had a personality disorder and perhaps several combined. He had repetitive compulsive problems too. It made for a really miserable childhood and depression (which I could not understand the reason for) in later life. My childhood was dire and isolated despite having a brother and sister who seemed happy with the severe restriction on our lives and the lack of empathy and validation of us as important little people. I think he had some other problems as well. He would not go out, did not have friends and neither could we have. We never had a holiday or family outing not even a family shopping trip or walk. My brother and sister still do not find this odd. I really do not have a lot of sympathy with people like dad. I believe they behave in that way selfishly and for what it affords them. He had Mum's full attention 24/7 despite the fact that she had 3 kids to look after and he always came first or had a paddy. His clothes had to be laid out in a certain way, his spoon had to sit in his saucer in a certain way etc etc. He had difficulty keeping jobs and eventually spent much of his life on the dole. Later in life we found out that he was in fact Mum's brother in law and he had got her pregnant with me and run off whilst her husband was in hospital with TB after returning from the war. They kept the secret all their lives. I was pregnant before marriage and he was very hard on me and I had already left home because of his attitude towards me. I wish I could have been adopted. I find it very hard not to blame Mum for not leaving him and letting us have some sort of a life - her too. i think these people should remain single such is the devastation on other peoples lives. It was Mum's choice perhaps (that I am not even sure about) but she should have left to get a life for herself and us. It is a cruel thing to inflict on others and impacts so detrimentally on their lives. He was perfect in his eyes and we should all do his bidding and be a clone of him. He would NEVER EVER have accepted that he had a problem or take advice on it. If it had been given you would have been shot. My brother and sister just accepted that he must be perfect and right because he was Dad. It has come as a shock to them and they do not understand now that they have found out some things, particularly that Mum and Dad were brother and sister-in-law.

October 18, 2012 - 11:11am
(reply to Anonymous)

Wow, your post really hits home! " He was perfect in his eyes and we should all do his bidding and be a clone of him. He would NEVER EVER have accepted that he had a problem or take advice on it." -- this is so true of my daughter's father. To him, she must be a complete clone of himself. He played Cornet in high school band, so he tried to force her to play it too. Everything he wants her to be, he expects her to comply. He emotionally torments her. Just this past Friday, she asked him if she could spend the evening with me (mom) at an arcade that was having a fun contest and giving away cash prizes. He told her she could go with me... but then when I got there to pick her up and she went to say goodbye to him, she hugged him and he just sat at the computer and refused to hug her back. He refused to say he loved her and just barked "BYE!" at her. Then, when she won $50 in the drawing and called to tell him the good news, he refused to answer the phone. When she called again an hour later, he screamed at her and told her to "get home right now!!" He always does this. He throws nasty little tantrums and punishes everyone if they do not cater to his every whim. To me, this is absolute emotional abuse of our daughter. She was shaking and felt like she was going to throw up all the way back to his house that night. When I dropped her off, she was in tears. This is what he does to her on a regular basis. She says that there have been several times when he has gotten mad at her that he has simply refused to speak to her for entire days on end. It is emotional blackmail and she falls for it. I know how she feels. I fell for it too for over five years of being with this monster. It isn't just the AS that makes him act this way... he COULD control it better if he wanted to... but he just doesn't want to. I refuse to believe that every person with AS is emotionally abusive to people who don't give them their way all the time. Maybe they are... I don't know, but I doubt it.
Your life sounds like you went through hell. Are you still in contact with him? If he refuses to get any help or accept that there is something amiss with him, then you may end up where I have read so many others on here have... you may have to make a choice to sever ties with him in order to save yourself emotional torment and continued abuse. I realize he has a problem and he may not be able to entirely control his actions, but that does not mean you have to stand for constant and repeated abuse. Especially if he is unwilling to work together with you to come to some understanding. I know this will be the case with my daughter's father. He insists that he can't have a close relationship with "his daughter" (never "our" daughter) -- because of me. He says I'm brainwashing her against him. He cannot accept the fact that she is just another person in his life that he is unable to have any sort of meaningful relationship with. He has no friends, his family wants little to do with him and he has been unable to get into another intimate relationship since he and I divorced over ten years ago. But somehow, all of this is my fault.
Anyway, I am lucky. I don't have to see him regularly. Although he continues to stalk and harass me via email and driving by my house... prank calling, etc. He even signs me up for magazine subscriptions and has them sent to my house. So childish... but nothing like what my poor daughter has to endure, spending 12 days each month with him and under his constant control and emotional blackmail.
I hope you know that even though your siblings have chosen to turn the other way and not deal with his issues (it sounds like they know there is a problem, but it is just easier for them if they choose to ignore it and pretend that everything is peachy). I guess for some people, not dealing with such a huge and obvious problem is much easier than dealing with it. After all, it probably hurts them less emotionally this way. However, you can't and don't want to do that and that is entirely your right. It is difficult though for you to be in a situation where you have no support from your siblings though.
If you can, and if one is available locally where you are, you might consider getting involved with an AS support group for family members who have been affected by someone with AS, or are living with someone with AS. I asked my daughter's therapist about local chapters for her so she can feel less alone and he is looking into this for her. It may help. At least you will get some support from others who know your pain personally. Maybe you won't have to feel so isolated. It always helps just hearing others experiences and sharing a common bond with them. I know just being on this site has helped me tremendously. I felt so alone before. I couldn't put any of the crazy pieces together. I knew something was going on, but even though he had been diagnosed years ago as Narcissistic -- that didn't explain the hand flapping and other bizarre behaviors that would scare our daughter. Just knowing that people like you are out there gives me hope that maybe my daughter will pull through this and be ok.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It means so much and I really wish you all the healing you deserve. I hope you can find others close to your area that can also help lift you up since you seem to be getting no help in that regard from your family. It must be so frustrating and I know how sensitive the topic must be to even bring up. Don't worry... you are not alone. Thank you again and have a wonderful week.

October 21, 2012 - 7:23pm
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

You have been through a great deal of grief and pain in your life. 

I am sorry it has been like that for you. I am glad you shared your story with us.

Thank you for writing.

October 18, 2012 - 12:02pm
EmpowHER Guest

Why does she need to spend time with her father? She clearly suffers from it, and doesn't want to? Perhaps you can get some professional support, child psychologist or social worker, who can legally limit your daughter's contact with her father to visitation rights? Don't let his illness make you all sick. What would you say in five or ten years if your daughter claims she suffered through hell in her childhood just to satisfy her father's needs to seem like a parent?

October 13, 2012 - 4:05am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Asperger's Syndrome

Get Email Updates

Related Topics

Asperger's Syndrome Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!