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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Unfortunately, I live in a state that is very supportive of the parental alienation theory... when I took her to a therapist five years ago and she began telling her story about how his hand flapping and anger, lack of emotions, etc. was making her afraid and she did not enjoy visiting -- the therapist tried to begin treatment with her but dad refused and I was promptly accused of Parental Alienation Syndrome and of brainwashing her to hate her father and he sued me for Emergency full custody. I guess he doesn't get it that she is yet another person (of dozens) who he is unable to have any meaningful relationship with. He has no friends at all and his family wants very little to do with him. He spends his Thanksgivings with her at a buffet restaurant because he has isolated himself and alienated everyone around him.October 21, 2012 - 8:05pm
However, the PAS theory gets a lot of traction in Florida and so what followed for me and my daughter was a very long (two year), very expensive $50,000 court battle with half a dozen attorneys, therapists, custody evaluators, personality tests, home visits, --- you name it. A total nightmare.
Anyway, he didn't end up with custody, but it didn't get picked up on during that court case that he has AS. It wasn't until just recently that her therapist (after a full year of observing the family together), said he is nearly certain that he has it.
During the custody battle, he failed all of his personality tests miserably on the first attempt, so they just coached him and let him take them all again two weeks later (which is supposed to be against the rules -- but if you have enough $$$, the "rules" pretty much don't apply). He still did not do well -- and he did not get custody. They did however, order her into counseling with him to "work on the bond between them." Time after time she was told she was a liar. She was told she was "making up terrible stories about your wonderful daddy who loves you more than anything." She was told she was "taking things wrong" and "believing and repeating what your mommy told you to say about daddy." She was told she had no right to her feelings. It was a nightmare for her for two years.
I will not take her down that road again. However, I am hoping now with her current therapist (dad is not paying this one $120 cash per visit) -- treating her now, maybe things will change a little. I am not entirely confident enough in that to make waves at this point in time though.
It is so tough for her and tough to watch her go through the constant emotional blackmail and abuse that she goes through. I can't tell you how relieved she was just to find that "the robot" (which is what she referred to his hand-flapping and angry mumbling as) is just "stimming." I think understanding does help her a little bit. I do recognize that she does need to have her dad in her life because he can be a positive influence as far as his work ethic and other things go, so I won't try to sever contact. I do wish it wasn't so much though. 12 days a month currently is getting to be extremely difficult for her, the older she gets.
Just Friday, he said she could go with me to an arcade for a drawing they were having for cash prizes. Even though he said she could go (this is the first time he agreed for her to go anywhere with me on "his time") -- when I got there to pick her up and she went to hug him goodbye -- he refused to hug her back. He just sat stiffly at this computer. When she said "I love you" he refused to acknowledge that either. He just barked "BYE!" at her and glared.
When she won $50 in the raffle, she called to give him the good news and he refused to answer his phone. Then, when she reached him an hour later, he screamed into the phone (I could hear clearly) -- "you need to GET HOME RIGHT NOW!!" She was shaking and feeling sick to her stomach all the way back to his place. When I dropped her off, she was shaking and crying.
This is common behavior for him. She has told me and her therapist that there have been several times he has become upset with her that he simply gives her the silent treatment -- refusing to speak with her for sometimes days on end, aside from commands like "it's time to eat now" or "it's time for bed." If she is ill and wakes him up at night, he also starts yelling at her, saying, "get back to bed! daddy needs his 8 hours of sleep! daddy has to get up early!" He always refers to himself in the third person. Does that sound familiar to anyone else?
Anyway, I wish she could just go on the every other weekend rotation with him to limit the amount of exposure to the emotional abuse, but for the time being, I am waiting for the therapist to help. :-(
I know other moms who have attempted to curtail the visits with dad due to sexual and/or physical abuse. They were accused of PAS too, only they lost all custody and are ordered to supervised only visits because of their "brainwashing the children". It is sick and scary. Since my daughter's abuse is "only emotional and not physical" I probably won't get far until and unless her therapist sends a strong opinion to a court. I don't have the financial or emotional resources to battle him again right now. He is in a much better financial position than I am and he knows it. He drags each court battle out for several years. The custody one caused me to lose my house, my car and my job five years ago. I am still in the process of rebuilding from it.
I know, to many people, it seems like a no-brainer, just restrict her contact with him, but in a PAS embracing state -- it's very far from what happens.
"his only response is to stare blankly through her -- almost with an inquisitive type of expression. I know that sounds crazy, but it's truly the only way I can think to describe it."
This does not surprise me at all. You need to listen to her and agree with her that it is not normal and appears to be unkind, but then remind her that it is not intentional and that he cannot understand what is needed. She will still be hurt most likely. I said to my girls "If your Dad was in a wheel chair you would not expect him to play soccer with you, there are some things that your Dad struggles with, he can't help it" Then I point out the things he does do well. Adolescence was the worst time, too much emotion.October 13, 2012 - 4:05am
There's a *big* difference between not playing soccer with a kid and abusing a kid.
Abuse shouldn't be lumped together with physical disability.
Abusers shouldn't be allowed to keep abusing other people in the name of accommodating the disabled.
Why do you want him to continue to get away with abusing her? Why do you think she deserves the abuse?April 14, 2018 - 8:46am
Thank you for your input. This is a good way to think about it. We are also looking for local chapters of AS support groups for her. I hope we find one soon.October 21, 2012 - 7:26pm
Thank you so much to everyone who replied. While it is good to know there is a name for why my daughter's dad is so "cold" and "odd" (common terms from people who have met him), it breaks my heart that this is not something that will change for her future. She always says how much it hurts her and bothers her that she has no "bond" with him. Knowing that she never will is tough. I had hoped that he could be told about it by the therapist and maybe he would accept it, but knowing his personality (he was originally diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality disorder)... that probably won't happen and it doesn't sound as if it would make enough difference to make it worth the risk of upsetting him and sending him on the warpath. I don't want to do anything that may hurt my daughter more, or cause her any further friction or distance in the fragile realtionship with her dad.
I can't tell you how wonderful and comforting it has been to be able to see such supportive and helpful comments and replies here. I really appreciate the suggestions and support tremendously. I feel shellshocked and, most of all, my heart just breaks for my daughter. She has gotten to the point that she dreads visits with dad because she says she feels so absolutely alone and isolated. She says she tries to connect with him, but there is just nothing there to connect to. As a gifted child already battling OCD -- she is truly challenged, as his behavior seems to aggravate her OCD rituals. Especially the perfectionism, negative self-talk and her issues with being able to be assertive and have healthy self-esteem. She gets very angry and keeps saying that she is never "good enough" in his eyes. (if she gets a "B" on a paper at school, it triggers an immediate lecture). Perfection is demanded of her always, in all situations.
When she has been ill, he barely notices and seems to not get that either -- just asks if she is "throwing up yet" and if she is not, he doesn't register that anything else could be wrong with her. It's like there is no sympathy whatsoever for her. Just, "suck it up." Is this also common? I am so confused now that I don't know what to "write off" as the AS and what not to. Also... how do you handle that? What I mean is, in trying to explain all of this to her -- it's really getting challenging trying not to sound as if I'm dismissing her feelings myself by blaming it all on AS. I find myself sounding like AS = free pass to treat you like dirt. I do not want her to feel like I'm excusing it all and saying she should be "ok" with it.
She has attempted to talk with him about this several times herself. The times she has approached him and attempted to explain how his behavior affects her and makes her feel... and even when she has been devastated and broken down sobbing, his only response is to stare blankly through her -- almost with an inquisitive type of expression. I know that sounds crazy, but it's truly the only way I can think to describe it. If you've seen it -- it probably makes sense to you.
I realize now that he does not deliberately hurt her -- but she gets upset with me and keeps saying that I can't understand what she is going through when she is with him. I guess she is right. I have never known anyone with AS before. :o(
I think I will take everyone's advice here and just keep working with her on her understanding of AS, leaving him to the therapist's discretion about it. I ordered a book online for her titled "something different about dad" about a family coping with AS. It is fictional in nature, but takes a more light-hearted approach with real-life scenarios, from what the reviews say. It said it's specifically for her age group. I think we will read it together when it comes. She is also looking for any online support groups for kids like her. Anyone know of any? Does anyone have any other resources to suggest in the way of literature, or groups, etc that might prove helpful for her? I just don't want her to feel so alone. And since I can't directly relate -- I would love to show support by reaching out to those who can. Maybe that way she won't feel so empty and angry in her quest for understanding.
Thanks again everyone. You are like a light in the dark for us.October 12, 2012 - 10:35pm
I love this thread, and appreciate how well it is moderated. Thank You so so much. Re the daughter of the AS dad: I am one too - I am now 40. I can tell you this: The hardest part my growing up years, actually, was that there was never a really any comprehensible answers to the questions: "what is UP with dad?" and "why does dad have to BE like that?" For this mother who is seeking very real answers to those questions - I profoundly commend you. Today, I remain a very sensitive and hyper-vigilant person - with PTSD - namely because I was so helpless and uninformed within my own childhood home; and because I felt so chronically unsafe - for so long. Even now, it is still me who sits down and explains - to both of my parents, actually - that my own "normal and healthy" emotions are actually just "events" that I experience; and not philosophical positions which I am offering up for their review (ie for their categorical criticism; and for my very related but complete invalidation). I am quite sure that my non-AS mom has had a lifetime of feelings/experiences (ie NT) - but since they have been given absolutely no room within her marriage, they all seem to have been tragically discarded; simply because of dad's subtle but all-encompassing "deficits." The rest of my mom's adaptation to a life with her husband - has involved fairly self-destructive patterns of compulsive eating; and thus she too has been effectively "numbed." (I "learned" my eating disorder tendencies from her...) Somewhere along the line, then, I realized that because of my dad's "un-namable ways of being," I was not just short one loving and attentive parent - but I was pretty much short two. To this other mother then: it would seem to me that enlightening your daughter's father about AS is MUCH less important than modeling for your daughter that a "typical" emotional life is not wrong. It would seem to me too, that if your daughter to has an accurate and respectful language for understanding the phenomenon of her father - which she can also non-judgmentally use in her discussions with you - she is ahead of the game in terms of accepting him - and his differences. These two things will go a long way in terms of her own self-acceptance and self- regard. I wish you both well. Your lot in life is not easy - he will likely never be or become what you each need. But you have each other; and for that you can be glad. Thanks for listening and all the best to each and every one of us...October 12, 2012 - 6:54pm
That is a tough situation you and your family are in. I am not a professional, just a person who has been around a lot of AS throughout my life.
Perhaps your best bet might be to focus on helping your daughter understand why her dad can't show love in ways she can recognize. I know that this can make a big difference for a child.
If they can see that it is a condition rather than a choice to reject them, even though the relationship doesn't change, her understanding of what is going on might.
I know for myself that though I felt great anger and pain in some family relationships growing up and in my adulthood, once I began to understand about AS, it changed my entire world view.
Just a thought. I wish you a better future.October 7, 2012 - 2:54pm
My daughter is almost 12. There has always been a severe and profound emotional disconnect between her and her father -- which he placed full blame on me and accused me of "parental alienation." (turning her against him)
In spite of more time with dad-- their relationship continues to deteriorate and my daughter feels unloved and depressed. She is also becoming very angry and resentful of his emotional coldness and aloofness toward her feelings. I have started seeing a rage building within her that I have never seen before.
Her therapist suggested (after a year of observation with the whole family) that dad probably has AS. After knowing this man for 17 years... so many things make perfect sense now. Even my daughter's fears about dad "flapping his hands and mumbling to himself in the kitchen." I now realize that this is called "stimming."
While I am relieved, I am also terrified because I fear that dad will never accept the idea that anything could be "wrong" with him. He will see this possible diagnosis as a personal attack on his parenting skills and his character. That is wholly unacceptable to him. But, my daughter should not have to continue to suffer either. I know that if he could accept it and get some help for it... there is the possibility that they may still be able to improve their relationship. I am also afraid that if he refuses to get help or accept -- she will take it as another painful disregard to her and the hopes she has of having a "bond" with her father, whom she loves, but feels he does not love her back.October 7, 2012 - 2:38pm
Any suggestions on how to approach the person with AS when they deny any responsibility? I don't want to send him into another vindictive smear campaign or cause him pain or insult... I just want my daughter to be able to feel like her father loves her and is trying to get help to improve their relationship so she can feel somewhat connected to him for the firt time in her life.
I was the one who identified my mother as an aspie, and it REALLY HELPED when I learned that my mother had aspergers. What I realized was, the way she behaved was not personal to me. It was not my fault, and nothing she said or did had to do with my behavior, -- her inability to empathize with me was not because of something wrong with me. (Not that I thought so consciously before, but I always felt she was accusing me of something- then later, I realized she was just expressing how she needed the world around her to be.) Definitely tell your daughter, regardless of whether you are able to tell her father. It will help her.October 11, 2012 - 10:24am
After I theorized that she had it, I showed my mom all the things I'd read that made me think so, and she saw herself in it. And it helped her tremendously too, because she felt like she tried so hard yet kept failing, and now she realized there was a reason why she had so much trouble in relationships, and she was extremely grateful to me. It's been nothing but positive.
This is so encouraging. Thanks for posting your story.October 11, 2012 - 10:49am