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NT Children of Parents with Aspergers: Looking for Information?

By HERWriter
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NT Children of Parents with Aspergers: Some Information for You LoloStock/Fotolia

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.

Add a Comment60 Comments

HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Anonymous

Sounds like you have been on an intensive journey and are getting lots of insights. Good for you! 

Keep on your path, continue your growth, share what you learn with others. Nurture your child, help her to see how things should be in a relationship.

Thank you for writing:)


August 10, 2016 - 7:29am
EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for writing this! My father is on the autism spectrum. I have spent so much of my life believing that I was inherently broken. A couple of years ago I finally committed to pursuing a career that is important to me - and it has been this wonderful journey of learning to trust myself and believing that my wants and needs are valid. But it's still a struggle. Some days I feel very capable and normal and others I feel torn - like guilty. It's a strange dichotomy of feelings that being the NT daughter of an Aspie stirs up. On the one hand my dad is has this child-like wonder at everything that is endearing and lovable and on the other he has this really short fuse that is ignited by unpredictable things. We're always just supposed to "know" what those things are and made to feel stupid when we do them. There's just so much I'm feeling! So many people belittled and ignored my feelings on the subject that I began to think that maybe I was a bit crazy. Even writing this I wonder, "Am I nuts? My father's fine. I'm the problem." What you've written here really speaks to that self-doubt and helps me understand a little more why I'm so cautious. Thank you!

August 2, 2016 - 9:09am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Old habits, including old patterns of thinking, can take some time and some effort to disappear.

It's OK to trust your own feelings and perceptions. It sounds like you are on a good path, to greater freedom and self-realization.

Thank you for sharing your experience:)


August 2, 2016 - 7:38pm
EmpowHER Guest

I'm the wife of a very high-functioning Aspie who is in therapy and dealing with feelings of neglect and lack of protection and love and interest from a mother who I am now all but convinced is on the spectrum herself. My husband even invoked Harlow's wire mother experiment tonight at dinner, which another commenter referenced. My husband doesn't think she's an Aspie, but he's struggling to come up with why she's the way she is. He can't point to any family trauma, and her sister is - in my husband's words - normal.

My mother in law is a lovely person, very loving, wants the best for her sons... but she also has no concept of why her son would want more from his life than to work at Starbucks, and as she seems to have LDs, and so does my husband, she constantly recommends things to him that are part of HER life, and can't relate to him. Someone else's comment about the way his mother saw him really hit home... My husband's mother is a school lunch lady, and she recently told my husband - who left the military and put himself through university on the GI bill + scholarships he earned - that he should "become a school janitor" because it's a secure job with benefits. He was crushed, not because he thinks being a janitor is bad but because he's told her so many times what he wants from life and she doesn't appear to listen or care. He said to me tonight "She doesn't know me at all. She doesn't know who I am." It's heartbreaking.

Now I'm putting 2+2 together. She was very strict when they were children, and because she didn't believe in modern medicine (she's Asian), she didn't take her kids to the doctor - my husband had suffered terrible sebacious dermititis (think dime sized flakes of dandruff) through school, and been teased mercilessly ... through some online sleuthing, I figured it out. She'd been putting olive oil in his hair (ew, so greasy!) for years - the answer was simply to leave dandruff shampoo on his head for 5 full minutes every day for a week. Gone. She never considered how cruel the kids at school were. He suffers terrible allergies, too - she does too, but she doesn't take allergy meds ,and wouldn't let him either.

The thing is, she's really a sweet person. She loves her boys. She talkes foldly of them to me when we've been alone, but there's no doubt she's very, very awkward talking to my husband on the phone. She talks only about what she's *doing*, never about emotions, never about hopes or dreams - for herself, or for her son. People call her "pragmatic". She's Asian, so there's also people who give her a pass, I think, for being a 'tiger mother' cliche.

In fact, thanks to all of you I now believe she is on the spectrum, and that is likely an underlying source of a nagging feeling that his mother didn't love or protect or care for him the way other mothers do... He never considered it before, but now I also know why he has such a strong bond with my own mom - for the first time, he's got something to contrast his own experience with, and it's left him feeling uncomfortable. It's hard to see him struggle with this, but I feel for the first time like maybe now there's a big piece of hte puzzle in place. THANK YOU.

July 11, 2016 - 5:54pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I hear you, my parents are somewhat like that too, and did their best to teach me to be like that...

...which makes me think they're not autistic or Aspie, they were taught to be that way themselves.

October 4, 2016 - 4:09pm
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Anonymous,

It sounds like you are making some good progress. It's hard work but every piece of the puzzle makes so much difference, doesn't it. 

Thank you for writing and sharing your experience with us.


July 12, 2016 - 9:20am
EmpowHER Guest

Thank you so much for this. I have just had a major epiphany about what's "wrong" with me: chronic depression, low self-esteem, feelings of loneliness and isolation, of never *really* being seen, heard, known, or validated. I am sure my father has undiagnosed Asperger's. He's 80. When I gently suggested this to my parents recently (after my daughter and husband were diagnosed), they both immediately shut it down. I'm not sure it's worth pursuing with an 80-year-old, as he is unlikely to change at this point. But the realization that my feelings are not my fault is pretty mind-blowing.

July 9, 2016 - 8:58am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Anonymous,

 Mind-blowing for sure! I think you need to decide for yourself whether you want to talk about it with your parents. The likelihood of getting any acknowledgement at this point may be little to none. 

But you are free to explore what this means for you in your own life and you may find that your "script" for your life is now changing. Looking back on your past may look very different, and you may find that your expectations for the future have scope for great change as well.

Diagnoses for your husband and daughter leaves you well-equiped in that arena of your life. Things may improve for all three of you. I suspect you've already had many questions answered that have been unanswered for a very long time.

The fact that you married a man with AS suggests that you may have grown up with it and many NTs with Aspie parents will find themselves in a similar situation. We gravitate to what we know.

The fact that your daughter was diagnosed with it suggests a possible genetic connection, and the idea that your dad could be part of that genetically is not unfeasible. 

Sounds like you are actually in a very good place, though it may be hard to catch your balance.

Good luck to you.


July 10, 2016 - 2:16pm
EmpowHER Guest

The neurotypical have a real problem understanding people who don't think like they do. Autism spaces are full of mothers wanting their kids fixed, railing about what broke their children; was it vaccines?

This means that the idea that you can find a mental health professional who will understand the experience of growing up with (in my case) two Asperger's parents is severely problematic. Clinicians by in large work to offer coping skills by taking you back to a time before trauma, a time when you had security, stability and affirmation in your life.

For children with AS parents, that time just doesn't exist. Harlow's classic wire monkey vs cloth monkey mother experiment illustrates how having a non-emotional and non-physical parent causes a lifetime of trouble. Our experience of apparently narcissistic and distressed behaviour is not just a bit of maladaptive behaviour to be addressed, it is the deepest.

I spent my life as the target patient for a family with two Aspergers parents, meaning I not only was the scapegoat, the target for pain, but was also the one who developed mature coping strategies. I did the therapy for the family and I took care of them for the last decade, translating the world with hard won skills and massive amounts of self-denial.

The emotional costs of my life, though, continue to pound at me, no matter how much therapy I do. The body keeps the score, as Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk notes, and without effective mirroring, people who can understand and reflect the experience rather than finding it incomprehensible, finding ways to develop the trust that never was supported in early development is impossible.

I assure you that no matter how much I talk about my experience, without those who can listen to and understand my experience, it continues to be a massive obstacle.

June 4, 2016 - 7:57am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I do understand! I feel that too and it especially ticks me off when my therapists expects it to be ALL on me because my ex has AS too... Yes, I not only was raised by one, I accidentally ended up being in a relationship with one. At any rate my therapist has this unspokent " woe is he" for the AS ex, and I'm sitting there thinking OMG is there anywhere any therpaist that is going to be there for ME!!! Geez!! It's like ( this way worse in my childhood) I'm like you were the therapists to the family, to him to even my therapists when she gets into " he can't help it, he has AS" and I'm sitting there in pain. I have found some CBT to work, and I'm getting out of the loop that was caused by my childhood. I totally relate to what your saying. I'm still struggling at my age in some areas. I cannot go back to a time, there isn't one!!! Living in the present moment has really helped me feel much happier and alive. When I do that, I don't have a script running. Thanks for sharing!

August 15, 2016 - 7:51am
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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.

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