Six years ago, I wrote an article for neurotypical children of parents with Asperger's syndrome. I wrote that some NT offspring of AS parents have grown up feeling unloved, that their parents were not able to tune in to their needs and their feelings.
As children, they blamed themselves for a disconnect between them and their parents. Often as adults they have continued to suffer from the lack they experienced in childhood.
The response from neurotypical kids to that article "Asperger's Parents and Neurotypical Children"was substantial, and still ongoing, six years later. So much so that I am writing on the subject again.
I received 154 comments and replies. Some were posted as recently as last month. Some readers used the Comments thread at the end of the article for a time as though it were a forum where they could talk to each other about their experiences.
When I started researching for today's article as a follow-up to my first one six years ago, my online research was interesting. That is to say, disappointing. Again.
Material about these NT children was surprisingly sparse six years ago. It's still challenging to find anything written from their perspective, or about their experience.
One differences I noticed was that my original article from 2009 was showing up as the first item in my Google search. And in second place came an Aspergers forum page that ripped my first article and my intentions apart.
Some comments by people with Asperger's syndrome responding to my first article were in much the same vein.They told me that I was attacking them all, which was not true.
They said that lots of Aspies were good parents, that they themselves were good parents. That plenty of NT people are bad parents, too. All of that is undeniably true.
But really, that's not my focus. This has happened too many times to these kids.
So often, they find their feelings and their needs pushed aside. Any suggestion that this happens is met with a reaction that is all about the parent with Asperger's syndrome and not about the child at all. If I needed to see proof that there is a problem, the comment column for that article was more than enough.
It is not my intention to condemn or attack people with Asperger's syndrome. I am not trying to say that every AS parent has done damage to their children. My focus in this article is on the children who tell me that they grew up lonely, that they grew up feeling rejected, worthless and unlovable.
Most comments responding to my first article came from NTs who grew up with AS parents. The parents' personalities were not in question, nor their intentions, nor their goodness. The offspring were taking this opportunity, which was meant to be all about them, to talk about their lives, to ask questions, and vent their thoughts and feelings.
The cry that I heard over and over again was, thank you for remembering us. Thank you for telling me I'm not alone.
Thank you for telling me I am not the cause this depression, loneliness, sorrow, grief. Thank you for helping me to understand where all that pain has come from.
Thank you for suggesting I can hope for something better, because it wasn't me after all. Thank you for saying it's OK for me to open my mouth and speak, and expect to be heard, to be visible to other people.
It's OK to expect, to require, something for myself in my relationships. It's OK for me to hold out for being an equal participant, and equally on the receiving end. Thanks for the reassurance that wanting such things is not selfish, it's just human, and part of any healthy relationship.
Many NTs mentioned that they can find next to nothing online for them. I suggested in a post that maybe they can write something themselves. They can post comments on my articles, or other writer's articles. They can start blogs. They can start forums. They can post on Facebook or other social media.
The feeling of invisibility and of having no voice, the fear of rocking the boat or of being called selfish for talking about yourself and how you feel may be deeply ingrained. It may be your first and biggest obstacle. But if you can climb over that one, and continue to climb over it, you may find it was your only real obstacle.
I spent several hours looking for resources for NT children of AS parents and I didn't find much. But I was able to accumulate some articles, book recommendations, websites, forums and a few writers and professionals who have reputations of being helpful to NTs.
In no particular order, here are some webpages that may be beneficial:
Asperger's Parents and Neurotypical Children
Feeling Invisible in the Asperger World
The Neurotypical Site
Welcome to The Neurotypical Website
Parents with Asperger Syndrome
Parents with Aspergers
What is Asperger's Syndrome?
There's something different about dad
Links for family members of people with Aspergers
Visit Jody's website at http://www.ncubator.ca and http://ncubator.ca/blogger
Reviewed October 23, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Add a Comment66 Comments
Thank you for this. There nowhere to go to discuss how growing up NT with one or both parents who cannot navigate social interactions and cannot model productive social/relationship conflict solving profoundly affects one for life.
My father was the typical poster boy for Asperger's. He was fascinated by the phone book as a boy and and would memorize pages as at time and when he wasn't doing that he was memorizing dictionary entries much to my grandparents' despair since he refused to play with other children or even with regular toys. He grew up to get an analytical job and was often fired for being inflexible and then rehired because nobody else could do what he did - which did not help his arrogance and disdain for other people. At home he was a rageoholic. We all walked on eggshells all the time. He never did have a sense of any of us as individual people and any needs beyond being “accomplishments” to show off well turned out on company picnics baffled him at best and enraged him at worst. Unveiled resentment was the “room temperature” on the dial.
Now, I made peace with having one “bad parent” a long time ago, but in recent years that's been turned on its head and my whole sense of the journey of trying to figure out how to be in the world is still rocking wildly. About a decade ago a series of traumatic events happened to me which I needed help processing because I was not okay. I thought it was obvious that I was/am suffering from ptsd but the therapist was adamant that I was on the asd spectrum. I did not recognize myself in this at all but was assured that “it's different for females.” The more I read up on asd in females the less I saw myself but disturbingly I saw my mother very clearly. I did not want to recognise her in the literature and in blogs but asd women but there she was . The more I read the more I saw my mother and the less myself and suddenly so much made sense.
You see, my whole life going back to nursery school I have been my mother's “translator.” I've studied people hard so that I could tell her what to write in cards, which gifts to give to whom, which clothes are appropriate to wear to which occasions and so forth. I started choosing her clothes for her at her urging because I was “better at it” at five! It's 40 years later and I still choose her clothes because she just can't do it on her own. She has meltdowns trying to decide what to buy or because she's chosen something constricting or itchy. When I was a baby she was so overwhelmed with emotion for me that she didn't know what to do – so she sunk her teeth into me like an overwhelmed toddler but with bigger gnashers and had to take me to hospital. I still have a scar. She stalks people she barely knows because she just doesn't know how to convert feelings of “liking” into appropriate actions. Police intervention doesn't help because she doesn't understand that she's doing anything upsetting. I was constantly apologizing for her, rationalizing and explaining her actions to other adults but there was no one to help me navigate being a child among my own peers. If I had a problem at school my mother would lecture me on what was wrong with the other person followed up with assigned reading in wildly age inappropriate academic books and journals to “prove” her diagnosis. I had a great vocabulary but no strategy for just being a kid. My mother is not a terrible person but she has no natural theory of mind. She cannot put herself in another's shoes at all. She was mad at me for getting divorced for “no reason.” I told her that I was unhappy. After a long pause she said, “That's not possible. You have great general knowledge.”
When I grew more independent and eventually left home my “toolkit” was sorely lacking. I am, having been rigorously tested by a specialist, thoroughly NT, but boy did I pick up my mother's quirks! It was a revelation that nothing terrible will happen if food touches on the plate and clothes won't be ruined in the wash if you don't remove the label. Not only that but I had no idea what a boundary was outside of a title deed and had never once seen an interpersonal conflict ended in a way that didn't involve throwing a tantrum, then pretending it never happened, ignoring the original problem as well as the fallout of the tantrum. I wish that I'd had an easier induction into adulting. It's been like trying to get up to speed to join the motorway from a very short slip road. There have been accidents along the way and I have been at fault due to my slow speed.
I've seen a few comments from asd/aspies asking what to do if they have NT children. I am not sure I can say anything comforting, that it'll all turn out fine, because the very nature of the condition involves not being fully aware of what is lacking, only that “something” is lacking. I would say do not have children unless you are willing to share the parenting role with a family network of NT adults and to be willing to take a back seat for the sake of the child. This is a very big ask of anyone so perhaps it's better to consciously not have children.July 6, 2020 - 12:42pm
I'm glad you found my article helpful. I agree, there are very few places for these kinds of conversations. You might look on Facebook, you can find a few pages there devoted to NT children of Asperger parents.
You have had some major revelations that have rocked your life. And maybe right now you are very much aware of how much dysfunction has been part of your upbringing and now your own baggage. But don't despair.
You are on the other side of the revelation now. Closed and unknown doors are now open. Perspectives are widening and change is more possible now than at any other time in your life.
The best may well be yet to come.:) Thanks for writing.
JodyJuly 12, 2020 - 8:29am
This was a very intense read, I can only imagine what it was like to grow up for you.
Thank you so much for sharing your story - you will help more people than you know. You're an excellent writer; conveying feelings and experiences very well. I could almost experience what you experienced. Do you write about this topic? You should.
SusanJuly 7, 2020 - 4:58pm
One of my older sisters was diagnosed with aspergers as an adult about 10 years ago. My other older sister was diagnosed with high functioning autism last year. And for the past decade, I have figured that my mom is on the spectrum. Despite the diagnoses, I have been in denial until recently that I grew up as the youngest child raised in a family of autism. I have felt blamed, hated, and like I am a problem, even though I also know they love me and don't mean to hurt me. They just don't understand. As an older child, I knew my mom was different. I knew she would say offensive things to people but didnt understand what she did. I would try to explain her to people and to smooth things over when she said something unkind, like when she gave my cousin a magazine article on weight loss and said she might be interested in it, or when she called a family friend a "half-breed" very matter of factly. Every time I've had a great joy or hardship in my life, the emotional support from my family is entirely lacking. Now that it is starting to sink in that they are all on the spectrum, it is beginning to make more sense. I understand now that maybe they focus on giving gifts or money because they don't know how to give emotionally. That blowups blow over like it never happened because they are not capable of greater emotional connection. Most times that I interact with my mom or sisters, there are things they say that feel rude, hurtful, judgemental, or egocentric. But all of this being said, I do sense that they love me. And that somehow I just need to see these things as their autism. My dad I think is also NT, but he is my mother's protector and always will support her, even in her tantrums or lash outs.February 21, 2020 - 6:29pm
As I wrap my head around the reality of the autism in my family, I am realizing that I was never the problem. Even though that feeling is still poignant and painful, I hope it will fade. I've been realizing they cannot be my emotional support network. So I've been connecting with a new church community and finding a broader network for myself. But my family is still my family. There are good things. There is love behind the social and emotional ineptitude. But I feel I need to find my own peace and perspective to move forward in relationships with my family. And the approach I've taken my whole life, to explain myself repeatedly and with increased fervor to them each time I needed support or acknowledgement, does not and never has garnered understanding. It may seem like it momentarily, but till another conversation, it will be forgotten. My strategy now is to keep my feelings closer to my chest with them. I will share my feelings them with loved ones who can understand and respect them. Thank you for your artie and these comments. It's been about a year since the last comment but this is so needed.
I'm glad my article was helpful. What you've been dealing with is made harder by the isolation that comes with the territory. It sounds like you have a good handle on things, and have been able to balance your understanding with forgiveness and also protecting yourself and finding other avenues for healthy relationships in your life.
I wish you all the best as you continue on your journey.
JodyMarch 4, 2020 - 9:26am
Thank you for sharing your story with the community. It can help others. I hope you continue to move forward and find the love and support you surely deserve.
HelenFebruary 21, 2020 - 8:00pm
Nobody cares about the NT offspring of parents with these conditions. We spend our childhoods unable to interact with our classmates normally because we never observe normal behavior, and we are isolated and even bullied because we never have a chance to find out how most people behave. And we beg our Aspie parents for help and in many cases they refuse to even try, because they're not capable of understanding the problem even when we spell it out.
And there's no books and almost no articles about our issues.
Sorry, someone else will have to feel sympathy for the Aspies. My life was hell because my father was an Aspie, I can't care.February 22, 2019 - 7:24pm
I get it. I really do. And to grow up knowing something was seriously wrong without knowing what it was, to have wondered or assumed that it's something wrong with you ... It's the life story of the NT child of Aspies.
I'm also astonished by the lack of information, articles, websites, forums for this community. Doing a search seems to bring up everything BUT this community that is starving for acknowledgement, for affirmation, for a little attention please.
It's not a lot, I know. But we are finally seeing a little in the last couple of years. Maybe it's going to take some NT kids starting a forum or writing a couple of books. I don't know what it will take or what we can do about it as a whole.
But NT kids can talk to people about what life has been like. Refuse to apologize, break with the past from some old unhealthy habits incurred by childhood training.
If an NT kid can see for themselves that there was not something wrong with them as children and begin to break out of the old constraints from there ... there is the opportunity for personal change.
Knowing what you know now about your own past and your father -- this can make a difference for you for the rest of your life. Hard work, but change can come.
I wish you the best!
JodyFebruary 23, 2019 - 7:49am
I know this was written a while ago but I just need to say thank you. Thank you for acknowledging the invisible survivors of this type of trauma. I've searched the internet and never found one source of comfort or anyone who shared similar experiences to mine.October 23, 2018 - 3:41pm
I have a parent and three siblings on the spectrum and now suffer from depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and complex post traumatic stress disorder because of the hell I endured growing up with them. There was violence, there was sexual abuse, there was denial, there was pain, pain and more pain. I first planned my suicide in my early teenage years, and my greatest accomplishment to date is not giving in to that urge for so many years now. So thank you for seeing those of us who are never seen. Thank you for noticing us. Thank you for writing this and not being afraid of the comments from those on the spectrum who are offended. Thank you for not being afraid of them. I've spent too many years being afraid of them.
I want to make sure that you are aware of my other article on this subject. It can be found here:
https://www.empowher.com/asperger039s-syndrome/content/aspergers-parents-and-neurotypical-childrenOctober 25, 2018 - 6:55am