Saturday, July 4, 2009

Can Aspies Make Good Parents? (Part 3)

The plan for this post is to round up the topic of Aspie parenting with a look at some of the many benefits that aspie parents can give their children.

Emotional Clarity
One unexpected benefit of having difficulty reading and expressing emotions is that you become considerably more verbal in their expression. Aspie parents don't wait for their children to magically read their emotional state - they tell them outright.

This in turn teaches children to express their emotive state verbally. There are no emotional secrets in aspie families - at least, not if you're listening*.

* note that I've often heard people complain about how an aspie partner never lets them know how he's feeling but quite often I find that the "complainers" are looking for an emotive expression rather than a direct statement.

Honesty and Integrity
Aspies are usually sticklers for rules and honesty is one of the most important of these. In a world where it is normal, even expected, that people will tell "white lies" all the time - (for example; no, the dress doesn't make you look fat), you can often rely on aspies to tell the truth no matter how tactless or hurtful it might be.

This can be quite a good thing really because it's nice to know that there is someone you can rely upon for honesty. It often means that you can trust aspie children to follow rules to the letter and that family discussions are open and honest.

Routine and Planning
All children thrive on routine and planning but aspergers and autistic children do so more than most. An aspergers parent needs routine in their life. They need to plan things in intricate detail and they need to make lists. Not surprisingly all this is good for their children who quickly fall into the routine and know, from the various charts and lists around the house, exactly what is expected of them. Of course, this only works when the aspie parent is directly responsible for the children. Aspie moms are particularly effective in this regard - aspie dads, less so.

Shared Special Interests
Aspie Parents will usually pass through a brief period in which their special interest is popular with their children. Unfortunately, with neurotypical children, this moment is all too brief. Aspie parents with aspie children however have a different story to tell. In particular, special interest crossovers occur when the parent's interests are "child-like" in nature. For example, in my case, I've a big interest in Doctor Who, and a lesser but still good interest (and knowledge of) Star Wars. These don't serve me particularly well in terms of employment but it does make me very popular with my kids, both of whom have varying degrees of special interest in these subjects.

Understanding and Suitability
This really only applies to aspie parents with aspie kids. There's nothing quite like insider understanding. Aspie parents know what it's like to be shunned by other children in the playground and usually our memories of childhood (and our childhood feelings) are as clear as yesterday's memories. This makes us considerably more empathetic with our own aspie children than neruotypical parents could be.

Aspie parents with aspie children are also much less likely to put social stress on their children and are less likely to engage in heavily social or strenuous activities (for which low muscle tone is an issue). They are also less likely to induce stress in their children over the display of empathy, tone and eye contact.

I think that this topic has presented a very positive message about parents with aspergers. Yes, it is recognised that we have our difficulties but it seems pretty clear that our methods of dealing with these difficulties are generally sound and unlikely to harm our children.

Furthermore, it's obvious that aspergers parents bring a number of strengths to their parenting style and in particular, that they are probably more suited to the parenting of children with aspergers, than neurotypical parents.


Rachel said...

Beautiful post, Gavin. I agree with every word. It's so important to put out the message that Aspies can be great parents. I've seen it lift the burden of worry from the shoulders of many a potential Aspie mom or dad.

One additional benefit of being an Aspie parent is that if you have a neuro-typical child, you will give that child a very positive feeling about Aspies. My daughter doesn't have the fear and stereotypes about autism that so many people have, and she is able to pass on her understanding to her friends. And while so many people complain about their insensitive teenagers, I can happily say that my teenage daughter is very considerate of my sensory issues and other Aspie challenges, and she makes her friends aware of them, too.

We Aspie parents have a great deal to offer.

Drew said...

Thanks for all of your posts, very insightful.

"Aspie" has been a term being knocked around the family for a while now and reading your posts make a lot of sense. I recognize a number of things you've mentioned in myself (should I be worried ;) ).

Keep up the good work!

The Quiet One said...

Brilliant post, I agree with the analysis. I've never understood people who've tried to tell me that people with aspergers make ever so dramatically terrible parents.

Aspergers parents may not have all the same things to offer as neurotypical parents but they do have very valuable things to offer.

Saja said...

If I may present a wee voice of dissent. Well, not really dissent, but just one of the harder aspects of having an Aspie for a mom.

I've had a hard time as a mother, related to the unpredictability of kids and the 24/7 nature of parenting in the early years. My executive dysfunction and need for lists and routines does not translate to keeping things orderly and to my kids knowing exactly what's expected when...far from it. Mostly I feel overwhelmed by the constant need to redo tasks just done (cleaning, laundry) and am in various stages of hopelessness, frazzle, and/or meltdown. My children routinely report an absence of clean underwear. :-)

That said, the honesty and the ability to let someone be exactly who they are are things I consider very positive about me as a mother. I'm a good listener (when not frazzled) and I do, at core, think I'm a very good mother.

Priscilla said...

I was googling for stuff to read on Aspie Parents and found your blog. I love what you wrote. The piece is very encouraging.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to rain on the parade, but I think it's a good idea not to approach this with unbounded "It'll Be Great." You have to keep in mind that you're talking about an enterprise that'll last the rest of your life, and if it turns out not to be something you can handle well, you're likely to hurt your children and grandchildren. I'd go beyond "hurt" to "damage".

Rachel's talking about what wonderful things her daughter does *for her*, and spinning that to make it be a gift to the daughter. This is just about the reverse of what you'll see most NT moms doing, which is to foreground the daughter and her needs to the point where you have to remind the mother to think of herself. And unfortunately, as a daughter of an Aspie, I must admit sadly that this my experience, too. My Aspie parent does not repay all this consideration with love, connection, interest in others' interests and lives, visits to grandchildren, etc. It's all about my parent. When others in the family are confrontational about the harm this causes, the reaction is rage -- and never a thought about why the confrontation's occurred. The entire focus is on getting an apology. Again, all about the Aspie parent.

It's deeply harmful, and it continues harmful long after childhood is over.

Go have a look at some mothers' boards in which mothers are talking about their effects on their children. See how quickly the conversation turns almost exclusively to the children themselves, the children's interests, the children's problems. Then compare with this page. And before you embark on some critique of why the other page is "wrong", or adopt a self-defensive posture that says that you're great *too*, stop, please, and think about why the other mothers behave that way, and what it might be doing for children. Why, in general, mothers behave like that, and not like this.

If you can't take your focus off yourself, if you can't give children the sort of connection and empathy and interest and chronic tolerance they need, please, don't have kids. Yeah, they'll live...mostly. This is not the same as happiness. Don't have children for yourselves only to condemn them to pain, if, constitutionally, you cannot offer what a normal child needs.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I forgot to mention: Things like not having clean underwear? When chronic, they're not cute. Kids who have to go to school wearing dirty clothes smell bad. Other kids react to the smell, and it's your kids who take the social hit for it, not you. If your house is gross, because it's too much to manage? Yes, other parents will be less willing to let their kids play over with yours. They'll sense that something's wrong. That playground shunning you find so understandable? You have to stop and ask yourself how much of it has to do with *your* behavior, things over which your kids have no control.

I'm not saying that AShood is bad in itself. But it has very real consequences for your children. I don't know, I'm probably talking to a wall here, just as I am when I try to show my Aspie parent that the behavior does cause real damage to me, my brother, our children. My parent is pretty much impervious to the suggestion that there are behaviors -- changeable behaviors -- that hurt other people badly. Unless, of course, they're someone else's behavior is hurting my parent. Then suddenly it's possible for one person to harm another.

Perkywarrior said...

Great post. I married a man who has Aspergers who has two sons with Aspergers. I love their minds, I love the routines of our family. Sometimes I feel envious being so neuro-typical.

Anonymous said...

Im another child of an Aspie parent. The reason I am here today is because after 40 years that Aspie parent is still damaging my life!
Aspei parents are all about the parent. Everything done is for the self not the child. "Look at MY lovely child" every achievement of the child is attributed to the parent, every conversation about the child is to draw attention to the parent, their hardwork, their effort, their sacrifice and suffering. OMG the suffering! Eevrythign that happens in the world is a direct attack, deliberate plot or conspiracy to cause the aspei pain. Get a grip. people live thier life and a lot of teh time what they need to do to survive will not be a perfect outcome for you or in line with what you want. deal with it.

Anonymous said...

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that each Aspie presents differently. No 2 are the same. So while one person with aspergers may not be the ideal parent that does not mean that another will not be.

Vanessa said...

I'm a 29 year old Aspie, contemplating motherhood. I came here in search of some insight. My biggest issue is getting information from ADULT children of aspie parents, and it seems that they are rather negative. I was adopted at birth, and I had a fairly horrible childhood, which is another reason for contemplating bringing a child into this world.

If you're thinking about posting your life experience, please do! We can all benefit from it.

Anonymous said...

I'm contemplating on having children as well. I am a woman with Aspergers syndrome and have a husband without it (although his uncle does ) I don't know if we should have children or not, I just don't want them to have the horrible life I have endured. I have mild aspergers syndrome in my opinion, because I can look people in the eyes, understand social cues, have a non-monotone voice, cry from things anyone else would cry about, love children, and just want a family. I just don't have enough resources on asperger moms and how rare or common it is to have a child on the autism spectrum. If anyone knows I'd love to find out!

Flaggamotha said...

Hi I'm an aspie woman and wondering if it is common or rare for aspie women to have aspie/autistic children if the Aspie woman is with a neurotypical male.

Anonymous said...

I'm a 29 year-old aspie female contemplating having kids in the next couple of years. I suspect that my parents are both Aspies, although neither have been diagnosed and I have only been diagnosed recently.

I can see where I will struggle with keeping the meltdowns away and the 24/7 nature of parenting, but I also know that I love kids and am great with kids and the periods of my life that have been smoothest emotionally were the times where I had to make my existence about other people so I literally didn't have time to be anxious about my own problems.

As a child of Aspies, I certainly have accused my parents of being egotistical and not sensitive to my emotional needs...many and many times. I also see their good qualities though and I would not say my life was hard because of them. Life IS hard. You get knocked down and scraped up and kicked. I have simply come to accept what my parents' individual limitations are and what is just them being them, just as I must accept my own limitations and that I don't always thrive in the same situations as my neurotypical peers. (Some people can work 60 hours a week and still have their wits about them. I start becoming a wreck somewhere around 48 hours.)

I am going to have kids because my whole life, having children has been something that I've wanted, and it's something that my husband(NT) has always wanted. It's not going to be easy. It's going to be hard. And I'll need support and my kids will need support. There will be days when my kids detest me as there are days when all kids detest their parents. It's going to be worth it though; I may be an aspie, but I have a lot of love to give.

Anonymous said...

As a aspie child and now a aspie mother to a aspie daughter i have 3 generations of aspie ..I see there is negative and postives to every style of parenting .. I see how my mum damaged me but I also see how she made me strong enought to cope with motherhood .. Im now dealing with an aspie daughter and Ive come to realize it ist just 123 it takes a lot of time and patience and self realisation ..One thing i know its discrimination and ignorance which makes it harder for the kids..but the determination I have is like a nucleae bomb, so despite up and downs remembee be proud to be Aspie because your special and not just a sheep ..

Anonymous said...

My husband is an Aspie and my young daughter who is NT will have virtually nothing to do with him. It became noticeable around 18 months and has continued to progress to where she says she wants a new dad. She has no emotional connection to him which has left me to essentially raise her alone. He does not seem capable of understanding her emotional needs and when she does something wrong, does not deal with the situation appropriately. I had no idea that this could lead to such poor family dynamics. I can't change him, but at least in my household, he is incapable of fulfilling a parenting role.

Anonymous said...

How a parent is, is how a person is and what they grew up with. Im too be a new mom and i have aspergers. The thing is i love being touched, cuddled, and i do have social abilities and direct eye contact. Which i had years of learning to do. my child will be nice and respectfull because i will teach him to be that way. And disipline him too

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. That last comment is kind of frightening..."the child will be this way because I will teach him to be." Well, maybe, and maybe not. Children are people, and you really can't control other people to that extent.

I've seen this in my family, too. My father will try to instruct someone to do something, and when it doesn't take -- often because it makes no sense in the context of that person's life -- he'll be surprised, even startled, and then shrug and walk away. This can be devastating for a child, and, in my family, often was. My dad didn't notice how badly he'd hurt me and my sibs that way, either, and if my mother told him he'd upset someone else, he'd be defensive, believing it was unreasonable, insist he had done nothing wrong, and actually make the situation worse. And then he'd take off, leaving my mom to try to make everything better.

I have actually had to limit and set rules for my dad's contact with my girl. Most of the time it's fine as he doesn't notice, I don't think he remembers she exists. But when he does want to spend time with her he comes on like a hurricane and freaks her out, also says staggeringly insensitive things that really hurt her. And then just as quickly he's not interested anymore, which also hurts her. He's put out by my doing this, but I won't let him just roll in and damage another child with his behavior. I've had to put him on notice, too, that if he flies into a rage, melts down around her, he's done visiting, permanently. Fortunately she's not used to that as a normal thing in life, watching a much larger man, a grownup, lose control and terrorize her.

I really would not suggest that aspies who have significant deficits in everyday living -- including having to have partners run interference -- have children. Your life will become more complicated, stressful, and not-about-you than you have any idea, and if you don't handle those things readily, you will damage yourself, the partner who has to take up the slack while managing your stress, and that child.

Someone else mentioned getting frazzled around 48 hours in a workweek. Please stop and think: It is not unusual for parents to spend *nearly all their waking hours* either working or doing things for and with their children. And no, your children will not be happy with being fobbed off on someone else because you're too overwhelmed to handle them. Caregivers are not interchangeable. Your children will take your turning them away personally, and this will hurt them. There's a strong chance they'll feel they've done something wrong, but not know what it is, and think of themselves as bad people. Telling them otherwise won't do the trick, either. They'll go by their feelings, not by your words, and they'll feel rejected.

Please do not underestimate how much work, uncertainty, and loss of control comes with having a child. And how much self-control is required every single day. It cannot be about you; you cannot rage at the children and expect that because you're ashamed or sorry that you melted down it's all right; you cannot go uncommunicative when there are children in the room who need you to be present. The house cannot be all about your mood, or even primarily about your mood. You will harm at least one other person badly, for life, if you go around forgetting those things.

Children are also expensive. The needs go on and on. Do you have a secure source of income for the next 20 years? If not, are you prepared to work and make decent money while raising a child?

If you love children but are erratic, or have trouble responding to others' emotional needs, or need lots of time to yourself without demands, please consider other ways to help kids.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm a neurotypical child of Aspie parents with an Aspi brother. From my experience my Aspie parents were quite incapable of understanding my brother because they did to understand themselves! The concept that my brothers odd behaviours was because he is an Aspie was something neither of them could conceive of. Sadly a whole raft of problems developed because they could not meet his needs. To this day they all remain in denial despite all the tests showing they are Aspies. My father explodes with rage at the mere suggestion there is mental illness in the family. It's a no go area. So my brother suffered terribly as a result and lives today as a recluse with no support, incapable of living a productive life.

Karen k said...

Aspies don't make good parents
Their narcissism and lake of empathy
Leaves one with low self esteem and self doubt.
Their social ineptitude leads to social isolation

Anonymous said...

My father has Asperger's and it was no picnic being parented by him. He is overbearing and controlling. When he melted down he would slap me in the face. His inability to read emotions made communicating very difficult. If I tried to have a normal back and forth conversation, he would simply continue to talk louder to drown me out.

Pre-verbal children NEED parents who can read their expressions.

Routine might be good to some degree but Aspie routine is often there to make the Aspie person feel right, not to create a safe stable environment for the child.

My older sister also has Asperger's. She used to physically abuse and harass me and my younger sister and giggle while she did it. No one protected me. I feel bad saying this out loud because I know she didn't mean any harm but the emotional scars are still there for me years later.

My father and my sister aren't bad people, they just didn't have any clue.

Anonymous said...

I am a recovering Heroin addict prostitute NT adult child of an Aspie Mom. Enough said!

Anonymous said...

I am the adult child of a father with severe aspergers and the manipulative sociopath who latched on to him. Most normal women want a man that they can have an emotional connection with. She wanted a clueless toolbag that she could control--and that's what she got in my aspie father. The thing that always amazed me was he had no clue he was being manipulated. Most men of that generation would not have tolerated that bullshit from their wife.

So, on to my childhood. My father was a totally self absorbed, pedantic, rigid, controlling,selfish, cold bitch with weird ticks who would make snide little insults with a smile. Insulting people was his crude, clumsy attempt at humor. As for aspies being incapable of meanspiritedness---that's bullshit. He could be downright cruel. Everything revolved around him and his needs. He was annoyed by normal child behavior--emotions, play, and noise bothered him. He never had a friend and was the most asocial person I've ever known. And he didn't want me to have friends either. It was like having a irritable robot for a parent.

In many ways, he was actually worse than my manipulative sociopath of mother.

I left at 18 and never looked back. I am permanently damaged from the abnormal socialization I had as a child.

I've known other people who claim to be diagnosed with aspergers and my heart breaks for their children. The main problem I see with asperger parents is that they are simply incapable of stepping outside of themselves to see what they do to their kids.

Someone said it earlier. I'll say it again. Look at normal mother boards and how their talk and concerns are so, so focused on their kids. Then look at asperger parent boards and see how self-focused their concerns are---the kids are like an afterthought.

Sarah said...

My mother has Aspergers. She has always been self-absorbed with her stresses and fears and needs. My siblings and I are in our 50s, and our relationship with our mother is always all about her. As my sister says, everything is too much trouble for her and nothing is too much trouble for you.

I am writing a book about our relationship. It's called Laundry on My Wedding Day. Yes, she insisted I do her laundry on my wedding day. This is just one example of how she thinks of her children as little more than agents to serve her needs.

She is usually good-natured and manages to get people to do things for her by acting helpless and sweet. So most people think she is pleasant and harmless. We wanted to believe she was a normal mother, that she must love us, that she cared about our needs and feelings. But if she does love us, it is impossible to tell.

She was in love with the idea of children and became fixated on having 4 when she was a child (because the family in her favorite book series had 4). So like many of the commenters here who have AS and want children, she must have believed she would be a loving mother. But I never do and still don't feel love. I just feel useful. And I spent my teenage years self-medicating and self-destructing. I had to get away to heal at all.

Here's a link to my blog if you want to read more:

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. I'm an aspie woman in her twenties, and I was so nervous about becoming a parent. I feel being an aspie mom definitely makes for a different parenting experience. Because other aspie women here have expressed concerns about starting a family, I'll share my experience:

Firstly, I didn't feel that 'rush' people talk about when discussing their first moments with their infants. Right after giving birth I asked for a shower and a nap and was perfectly happy for my husband to do the first cuddles. I don't feel like I formed an immediate connection, but that didn't bother me. Instead I just focused on doing my best to meet my son's needs, which in the early months are simple (although incredibly draining, physically and mentally). As mentioned in the article, establishing a routine was easy for me and enormously beneficial to my son. Also, I never minded singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" for an hour and half (not exaggerating) when my son asked for it, or reading the same book over and over and over again. As he has gotten older and started wanting to play more (something I am not great at), I have been fine just following his lead. Toddlers find the weirdest things amusing. We run around the dining table, stack cushions (then unstack them), put all the clothes in the house in the laundry basket (then take them out again), etc.

Socialisation is an issue. I went to one mom/baby group and couldn't stand it. Instead, I take him out daily to parks or the library, where we can have fun and my interactions with other mothers can be brief and painless.

Communication with my husband has been essential. We no longer have the time for emotional guesswork; Whatever we need, we ask for nicely, and that has made a huge difference. We also divy up childcare based on what we are both good at. I feel that between us, we have all his physical and emotional needs met.

Finally, I felt like I was much less susceptible to 'losing it' as an aspie mom. We might not be as emotional as NT moms, but that's not all bad. I've never yelled at my son, and I'm capable of soldiering through and meeting all his needs patiently even on 45 minutes of sleep with both of us flu stricken.

My son is now an extremely secure toddler who forms attachments easily and also enjoys sitting and playing by himself. I can say for sure now that I enjoy being a mom, and I like it more and more as my son gets older. I love watching him learn new things and witnessing those little moments when things 'click' in his brain. Last week, for the first time, he came up to me while I was sat on the floor, wrapped his chubby arms around my neck, and just stood there hugging me close and smiling. It made me so happy I actually started crying! Motherhood will bring out all sorts of reactions that you never knew you could experience.

Anonymous said...

One more thing I forgot to add, but feel is really important: "Faking it". Before we decided to have a baby I read everything I could about children raised by an aspie parent, and saw a lot of people mentioning they never felt loved or approved of, or that their parent was 'cold' and unfeeling.

To prevent this from happening, I have established the habit of faking it. When my son slips and bumps his head or gets a small cut on his finger, my first instinct is to brush it off and get impatient with him for crying over something I KNOW is not hurting him very much. But while I think that, I pick him up and give him a cuddle and some gentle words. Recently he's developed the habit of taking my hand and leading me to look at something he's built. Of course it's usually a pile of blocks/cars/kitchen pans or something equally underwhelming (he's only 1, after all), but I make sure he doesn't know I'm thinking that. I watch my NT husband's reaction to these things and copy them.

I smile and laugh when I don't necessarily feel like it and pick him up and give him hugs and kisses regularly, even when I feel 'out touched' and the thought of any more contact makes me inwardly wince. Even though he doesn't talk much yet, I'm already in the habit of praising his efforts and complimenting his 'projects.'

After a year all these things pretty much come naturally to me now. It's habit. Even my husband is convinced that my reactions are authentic, so hopefully my son will think so too. I do love him, but I also want to make absolutely sure he feels that as he grows older.

Reading some of these comments from adults raised by aspie parents, however, makes me concerned that my efforts won't be enough. :-/

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I appreciate your honesty. My parent with Aspergers was never willing/able to even fake the emotions, interest, and empathy that children need.....much less admit a fundamental inability to experience those feelings. At least you understand what your son needs and you try.

That said, I wonder why you had children to begin with,knowing full well that you "inwardly wince" at the level of touch and physical interaction that kids need??

I also wonder if you will have more children. "Faking it" must get exhausting. Would you be able to keep up the charade with another child? Given my experience with AS parents, my gut tells me no.

Anonymous said...

So, let me get this straight... This is an article about how awesome Aspie parents are... And it's written by an Aspie? Oh, the irony. But seriously, I was married to one and am attempting "shared parenting" with him for the past 12 years. My life and especially the life of my child--is a total nightmare. All centered around Aspie obsessions, schedules, moods and tantrums. He is an extremely spiteful person who has no problem hurting our child verbally, mentally, emotionally and even physically sometimes. Thanks to this ongoing torture, my child has been on a psych's couch for most of a lifetime. Of course, he blames his inability to bond to our child on me, because it's not possible that our child is yet another person he can't form a relationship with. It's all about him being perfect in every way. He is cold as ice and couldn't care less if our child is bawling in front of him. No affect whatsoever... except anger. Anger seems to be the only emotion he possesses. I would urge anyone who has AS to PLEASE not have kids! It's such an unfair life sentence for them... and for you, since you must fake feelings for the next 18 years. How utterly selfish and unfair. My child has wished her youth away wanting desperately to escape his coldness. We will both probably legally change our names when adulthood comes just to get away from him and his obsessive stalking and abuse. You really want to force someone into that? Our prison with this man has been a joyless hell from which there's been no escape!

Gavin Bollard said...

Anonymous, I've heard of some neurotypical parents victimizing their kids (in fact, I can relate many recently reported stories of neurotypical parents who kill their children).

Using your logic, I could suggest that nobody has kids but I'm aware that people are individuals.

You may have had a bad experience in your particular case but I can point to many children with parents who have Aspergers who feel that they have great parents and a great upbringing.

My article as CAN Aspies make good parents, not DO Aspies make good parents. I'm simply saying that yes they can.

All parents have freedom of choice and it's really the choices they make which determine their quality as parents, not their label.

Anonymous said...

Those NT parents you talk about generally have an undiagnosed personality disorder, maybe sociopathy. If they were diagnosed, we would tell them they probably shouldn't have children. You ARE diagnosed. You shouldn't have children.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I am a social worker and have come across an Aspie parent who is trying so hard to do the right thing but her child, who is only 3, is already so very damaged. Much of her behaviour is seen as wilfully negative or destructive and we have tried to work with her to change her ways. I guess it is just the result of her condition though and it seems there is little we can do. If faking it is her best bet, it is not good enough for this little child.

Anonymous said...

I have realized I have Asperger's in the last year or so. And now I can easily see that my father has it (worse than I do, even) as does my sister. I have two children, two and a half and three months. I'm struggling a lot. I'll say this much- my father was a horrible, horrible parent. I am still struggling with the issues my childhood with him gave me. On one hand, I think a lot of it was the fact that he didn't try to be a good parent. He was incredibly selfish, and despite what people say about ASD making people painfully honest, he's also a pathological liar, except that, like others with ASD, he absolutely terrible at lying and so most people can see right through it. Unfortunately, I have a hard time reading people and so for a long time I didn't know this about him. However, some of it was just the fact that he was and is completely socially impaired and inappropriate.
I am terrified that I will give my children the issues that I have and they'll feel the same way about me that I do about my dad. I am trying so, so hard to be a good mom, but I'm not great. Like someone else said, they know an Aspie mom whose three year old is already damaged despite the mother's efforts. I am afraid I'm doing this to my kids. I love them so, so much, but my noise tolerance is horrible and when my daughter has tantrums, I usually end up in tears too. I know this isn't good for my daughter. She needs stability and a strong mom she can count on to be an adult. My husband and I want more children, but I have been thinking we shouldn't. I'm afraid it would be selfish, and I can't find any support groups for moms with ASD- only for parents of kids with ASD.

Anonymous said...

I'm a 55 year old woman and my 88 year old mother has Asperger's. She was diagnosed about 10 years ago, but when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s I had no idea. All I knew was that my mother was different from other mothers in a way that I couldn't pinpoint. She was an intelligent, kind woman with no malice in her at all: the kind of person you'd feel like an ass for criticizing, but there was something quite odd about her and especially her parenting. She was driven by routines. She had no friends. She had emotional meltdowns, like a child, sometimes in public. She spent her time immersed in one or more passionate interests: gardening, sewing, recipes (not so much cooking as reading recipes). Our neighbors were not particularly subtle about their inquiries into our household goings-on. It was obvious they thought something weird was happening.

But it was more than being raised in an odd household with a quirky mom...more than simple lack of attention. It was almost that the parent-child bond worked backwards. The strength went the wrong way. She did show affection at times but it felt parasitic in a way I still find hard to adequately describe. And she acted as though it was my role to be her friend and companion rather than her child, often telling me that she'd hoped for a child who would share her interests. When I tried talking to my father about how painful this was, he'd brush me off, acknowledging that he knew she was different but that we were to live with it and not complain.

The result of all of this was not good. I suffered from agonizingly low self-esteem, thinking that I was fundamentally defective and unworthy of love and attention from my own mother. I developed serious problems, including anorexia, bulimia, alcohol dependence, anxiety and depression. I spent many years overcoming these issues and ultimately made peace with my mother and my childhood. I was on fairly solid ground emotionally by the time she was diagnosed.

With the diagnosis, my entire childhood finally made sense. I'd thought I was undeserving of my mother's love and attention. I'd thought she was selfish for sucking the life out of me when I was a child, and then I felt guilty for thinking such things. The diagnosis allowed me to see things for what they were.

So, the question is: can a person with AS/mild autism be a good parent?

I'm not one who believes in absolutes, so I would never claim that it is impossible for a person on the spectrum to be a good parent. But I would say that it is difficult and that it is terribly hard for a person on the spectrum to judge his or her own parenting. To succeed, I think the child needs to know, in an age appropriate way, of his or her parent's situation, and the parent must be open to parenting evaluation and education along the way. If those things don't happen--if the parent just says "I think I'm a fine parent, case closed"--then the child is going to suffer. My mother and I are a success story now, but it could very well have gone differently, and it took years of pain (and therapy) to get through it.

Anonymous said...

I am a 38 year old daughter of an "Aspie". Reading this blog infuriates me. I can actually feel my heart pound and tears in the corner of my eyes. As usual it is all about the “Aspie” and nothing about how your problem will harm your children for life. Yes, read that again. You WILL harm your children for LIFE. I have spent most of my life with a low self-esteem and living with people who abuse me and take advantage of me. This was a DIRECT result of my mother’s damaging behavior and wonderful “Aspie” parenting skills. I swung the opposite way of my selfish mother and spent most of my life as a doormat so people wouldn’t think I was selfish like dear old mom.

My mother is one of the most narcissistic and selfish people I have ever met. When I was a child she would fly into rages over the smallest of things. As one example I accidently slammed the door too hard on the car in the morning. She didn’t talk to me until after dinner. If I would fall down and get hurt she would chastise me for crying. She never hugged me and said it would be ok while putting a band-aid on it. I would see other mothers do this and be confused why my mom wasn’t very nice to me. I NEVER got one bit of compassion from my mother, nada, zero, zip. I can’t remember ever even getting a hug from her, seriously. I heard her tell someone that she remembers never really bonding with me when I was born. I was around 9 years old when I heard this. I will never forget the feeling of being completely worthless. At least then I understood. My mother just didn’t love me.

She abandoned me for years and years so she could drive around the country selling coins. COINS were more important than her daughter. After my father committed suicide she came back but left within a few weeks to travel around and sell coins. She left her child who had just lost their other parent. Talk about selfish, cold, and cruel. To this day I have serious emotional problems because of that abandonment.

The limited interaction we do have is all about her. She writes me letters with pages and pages about her. She never asks about me, my life, my dreams, my successes. She just doesn’t care. She does however use me to get as sympathy from others as she can get. I am characterized as a terrible daughter and she as mother of year. Now that she has diagnosed herself as an “Aspie” it gives her an excuse to be even more rotten and selfish. I never had children because I was TERRIFIED I would be like her. She has taken everything from me, my emotional stability, my self-worth, my confidence, my self-value, and as a final blow my chance at ever being a mother. I wasn’t emotionally stable enough until now to have a child and it is too late. Thanks Mom.

If you have Asperger’s don’t have children. You will condemn them to a horrific childhood and a life of emotional problems as a direct result of YOU.

NewOldAspie said...

I am a recently diagnosed "Aspie" female. And I am a mother to two small children. Once I was told I was on the spectrum I of course started trying to learn more about it. Needless to say, comments like many of those here TERRIFY me. I was raised by a Narcissist mother (not Asperger's, just narcissist) so I relate to many of these comments that describe the horrendous damage inflicted by a parent with narcissistic traits. And like many Aspie's, I think I am actually a very good parent. I KNOW that I DEEPLY, and GENUINELY love my children and my husband. But the thought that I am not expressing it clearly makes my heart stop. But the criteria that we "lack empathy" insinuates that I might not even know if I'm hurting anyone? So I showed this page/comments and others like it to my NT husband, and family members. These are people that I consider trustworthy and people I admire for not "sugar coating" facts. That's all I want; FACTS. And the consensus between all of them is that my children ARE happy and thriving and healthy, not just physically... but emotionally as well, and that they benefit from me just being me as their mother. Some factors that I believe may contribute to this alleged success: I am quite high-functioning, being raised in an abusive environment "taught" me how NOT to parent, and one of my Aspie "topics of interest" is actually people-watching/studying. One of the earlier commenters described how she "fakes it". While that description sounds rather horrible, I have to admit I can relate. If one of my kids (both NT I think, by the way) makes a fuss over something that I find illogical, I try to remind myself that logic doesn't always matter (to some people).... and that I have feelings.... and that sometimes others think I'M the one being illogical (even though I would disagree). So I just accept the fact that they are upset, and I follow the formula of: calm voice, crouching to their level/height, listening to their "tale of woe", frowning, saying "I get that feeling too sometimes, I know that doesn't feel good", and offering a hug but not forcing it if they pull away. I also kind of watch the clock when I get into my interests and take "kid breaks". By that I mean I force myself to stop what I'm doing, and offer to read a book to my kids, or maybe play a game, or basically just let them tell me what they want. I also am rather strict with myself about cooking nutritionally balanced meals every day, and just generally keeping the house together. In fact, that is how I naturally "say" I love someone; by catering to their needs, and supporting their interests. But sometimes I need to remind myself to say it out loud (especially to my children). I can tell you, my LOVE is genuine even if my reaction is rather forced... or as I prefer to say, "learned". I suspect that is also what the other commenter was referring to. Anyway, *can* an Aspie make a good parent? I suspect it is possible! Perhaps I can end up proving it! But some of the comments and stories I have read suggest that our families certainly face unique challenges, and require support and understanding. And it does seem that, unfortunately, some Aspies really shouldn't have kids. But that doesn't mean all of us are doomed to failure. Also, perhaps it helps that my spouse is no pushover! He said he was going to cut off our internet if I read any more pages like this. So I'm going to use a bit of self discipline; post this comment, then get off the computer, and go sit on the couch with my kids while they watch a show. And I will let them sit on my lap, and I will embrace them, and I will kiss them. I might not be able to stop thinking about stuff sometimes, but I love my family with all my heart and I promise to do my best to show them in ways they understand. (even if I have to use a timer to remind me to check-in)

Sunburst223 said...

As someone with Asperger's who has considered possibly having kids before, the kind of comments on here terrifies me. The last thing I would ever want to do is harm my own child, especially because of my own shortcomings. I'm very aware of many of my shortcomings, and the issues they have caused me in my personal life. The thought of having those issues causing lifelong hurt for my own children is extremely nervewracking.

NT mum said...

It seems to me that many of the people with 'Aspie' parents actually have parents with other disorders.
Aspie parents might pay too much time on their special interests, but putting down other people, manipulating people, or behaving in narcissistic ways aren't traits of Aspergers.
Many older adults with socialisation issues prefer to label themselves as 'Aspergers' because it has a positive image at the moment.
In reality, these older adults most likely have Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or another personality or psychiatric disorder.
Of those above Borderline is the most frequently confused with Aspergers (misdiagnosed one for the other). If a parent verbally, emotionally or physically abuses a child it is likely to be borderline. If this same parent insists they have Aspergers, that is their attempt to manipulate others into viewing their difficulties as quirky and not their fault. Again that type of manipulating others is a trait of Aspergers. If they have a high level of anger towards others or think others should do their bidding - again it's not Aspergers but BPD or NPD.
BPD also runs in families and appears to be just as neurological as Aspergers. It is just different in that suffered feel pain if they're rejected, ignored, not obeyed, told off, offended, interrupted etc. The sensitivity is about how people treat them. It is still also thought of as a disorder that can be treated with meds or cbt. However there are signs of it from birth, just like Autism.

Anonymous said...

One of the best-adjusted kids I know has a mother with full-on autism - not spectrum disorder/"a little aspie". She is very high-functioning in adulthood and also made it her mission to learn about child development, the needs of children, and emotional coping before she got pregnant. (I think that the fact that this was a very, very planned baby helped here). She's very committed to understanding what his feelings are, validating them, and giving him ways to cope with them - partially because as someone with autism she understands how things can be overwhelming. He's a great kid and very secure. She's worked really hard for that, and like I said, I think it matters enormously that it happened on purpose and that he was a deeply _wanted_ kid had by someone who understood what she was getting into.

I want to second that someone can have sensory problems and a personality disorder at the same time, and that some of these hyperselfish parents might have more going on/a comorbid diagnosis. I also think the idea that a lack of empathy is a hallmark of autism specifically is outdated - yes, lots of people on the spectrum struggle with empathy, but a lot of other people find the feedback involved in empathy hard to deal with because it's overwhelming, not because it's not there. If you had an unempathetic parent, I'm really sorry, and I hope you get the support you need to heal from that.

That said, I wound up on this page by googling "aspie mother" because I am an adult in therapy dealing with my own aspie mother. I think the thing that would have helped the most would have been for her to have an early diagnosis and to understand that our emotional needs would not be like hers, and for her to have the support she needed when she got depressed and overwhelmed by the sensory barrage that is parenthood. My favorite memories of my childhood involve us doing projects together, and yes, participating in the same special interests - she loves sewing and wildflowers and history and Star Trek. She's very daffy and imaginative - kind of aspie in the Luna Lovegood mode - and talking to her about facts and logistics has always been really fun and enjoyable. Her main struggle is that she's never learned or understood the need for simple social scripts, like validating a child who's sad, and the thing is that I think she could EASILY do these things if she'd had support to learn them. I don't think the average person who says "I'm sorry you're sad. What do you need to feel better?" is employing that much primary thinking and soul-deep empathy. I'm certainly not, and I'm NT. I'm usually making more of an if-then statement: if friend sad, then validate, sympathize, offer help. And there are people in my life who are for instance faceblind with whom I can say "I am sad" instead of waiting for them to guess; in fact I think that's why the kid in my first paragraph is so well-adjusted, because his autistic parent has carefully taught him to articulate his feelings in order to help her out. (I don't know how she'll do with a teen, but I think there's still a good foundation there).

I do think any parent who tantrums at their kid needs, no matter what their diagnosis, to learn to put themselves into timeout. Many parents, with many different cognitive situations, have poor emotional coping skills and dysregulate at their kids. That's not okay, regardless of dx.

Anonymous said...

I cross-posted this on recently, and I added it here, since it's a bit soul-destroying to have nothing but negativity. So the possibly-but-maybe-not-entirely-aspie adult daughter of a probably-aspie father is posting her autobiographical novel here (it's not literally that, but I wrote it in fairy-tale form and it IS about me, my life, and Mum and Dad).

The Hagiography of Brother Mark Part 1

Once upon a time there was a great empire. It wasn't an empire in the sense that it was ruled over by a dictatorial empire; rather, it was an empire in the sense that it was extraordinarily, wondrously diverse, yet still had a common nationality called humanity. It was ruled over by lots of different groups, but in the Western Regions, it was ruled over, more often than not, by the Cultural, Ethical, and Economic oligarchies.

There were lots of tribes and ethnic groups in the Empire of Humanity (Kosma). In the past they didn't need papers and less people knew their names, but nowadays there are a lot of ethnographic studies and . . . well, never mind.

A long time ago, in an empire we still live in now, there lived a lady called The Teacher. She was (as the name suggests), a teacher. This gave her a low-ranking but powerful position in the fabric of the Western Region's politics - a post that she had gained because, not in spite of, conjectures this historian, her affiliation (at the very least, if not membership, but that's debatable) with the Aspie tribe. She was a good teacher, as it turned out, and a storyteller, and a remarkable woman, if not a perfect one, and she got married, fairly young, to a strong, silent, quietly humourous man, called Mr. Outdoorsy, and they have been together and happy for upward of six decades now.

Well, Mr. Outdoorsy and The Teacher had two boys, the elder of which was given a rather unflattering nickname at school that basically meant 'shy and awkward' by his default-normal ethnicity (whatever that means) peers, which was to say he got called Frog. Cruel, I know. Anyway, The Teacher loved him, still does, but Frog was such an absent-minded dreamer sometimes. It's possible that she wished he was a bit more . . . down to earth.

Well, Frog was shy and this historian had reason to believe that his long-term confidence took a big knock, but he had a lot of good times with Mr. Outdoorsy and his brother Genuinely Nice Normal, as well as a staggering intelligence and wide-eyed wonder whenever he looked at the world. Anything from Plate Tectonics to the Anglo-Saxons fascinated the guy, and he could be quite charming to people, at least the ones who gave him the time of the day. Not because he was trying to be charming, but because he was intelligent and kind and sensitive and had an innocent enthusiasm for so many things. Still does.

Unfortunately, I suspect that there were a fair few people who didn't give him the time of the day.

Anonymous said...

The Hagiography of Brother Mark, Part 2
So Frog muddled his way through school, and through university, and then a friend showed him the Kingdom of Christ, which lies outside the jurisdiction of the Empire of the World because it transcends it. It's a place where all nationalities and tribes are welcome, and where no minority is oppressed or discriminated against. Access to the King is always free, and there is more peace between the citizens there than there is in the empire of humanity, where there is an awful lot of conflict and endless culture wars and wars of oppression. Frog became Brother Mark there, the wise, intelligent, kind man I know, who actually has friends and brothers who see him like I do: kind and wise and earnest, instead of shy and awkward and cold.

It was here that Brother Mark met Lady Passionate, a fellow citizen of the Kingdom (although with normal papers in the empire), and they got married. In due time, there came a bunch of kids: Mistress Historian, Stan the Man, and Mr. Precious, in that order. I think you can guess who the author is. (The Teacher was over the moon, by the way. She was getting worried that Brother Mark might never marry. And I guess Opposites Attract was the case for both The Teacher and Mr. Outdoorsy, AND Brother Mark and Lady Passionate. I mean, just look at their names!).

Brother Mark and Mistress Historian got on like a house on fire. Brother Mark could, if he chose, almost certainly get the paperwork confirming his citizenship of Tribe Aspie, and his kids, I think, could probably get partial citizenship. At least. And Brother Mark and Mistress Historian had similar natural interests. They just seemed to get each other. Brother Mark understood how Mistress Historian found Academic Talk a first language and small talk a second one, even when Lady Passionate (Queen Passionate by now, but more on that later). When Queen Passionate (justifiably) worried about Mistress Historian, and showed it, Brother Mark just sat the young mistress down and talked to her calmly and rationally. Mistress Historian tended to respond to this a lot better than Queen Passionate's overt worrying. And there were other things that only Brother Mark seemed to understand about Mistress Historian; her difficulty in talking to people, in figuring out what was appropriate, her difficulty with eye contact when stressed/tired/upset. They just grokked each other. And if she was having difficulties, he always went out of his way to give her the best advice he could, not to mention practical help and support.

Which is not to say that Brother Mark was perfect. He wasn't. But he was, on the whole, a good parent.

Anonymous said...

The Hagiography of Brother Mark, Part 3
On to Queen Passionate. I decided to call her 'Queen', because she tried to give all of us kids the guidance that was best, even if she knew we wouldn't like her very much afterwards. In short, she put our needs before her own, and I appreciate her to the moon and back for it. She also became Queen Sensible without ever stopping being Queen Passionate, which was a wondrous thing to behold, although the timing of that transition is highly debateable. Maybe Mistress Historian just got more open-minded with time, hence the apparent change :wink: . Queen Sensible taught Mistress Historian what a woman who is both comfortable in her own skin AND working for the good of her family looks like. A female role model with a decent helping of common sense and good self-esteem and self-confidence, even one who doesn't agree with everything the feminazis say, is worth more to a girl that all the Facebook feminazi memes and think pieces in the world could ever be. And it was nice to have a parent in the house who seemed comfortable in their own skin too.

Well, when Mistress Historian was in her teens, she realised that she - and Brother Mark - might belong to Tribe Aspie.

This didn't trouble her at first. She didn't mind a label, or being smart, or even being a bit shy. She had enjoyed life so far, and what, exactly, was the problem with enjoying special interests, or having no interest whatsoever in High School Cliques? And sure, Brother Mark was shy, and a bit narrow-minded sometimes, but what did that matter when he was a great Dad?

None, amirite?

Then she wanted to write a story featuring an adult, married Aspie, and did a bit of research to see what it was like being the spouse or child of one.

You can probably guess what happened next. Mistress Historian literally wound up questioning her humanity, her right to life, whether or not it would ever be ethical to marry or have kids if she was going to Doom them all, and worried obsessively about whether or not she would damage and abuse everyone in her life, and all without knowing it. The previously happy, reasonably confident girl was literally grieving for the future that she felt she had lost. This all happened in her first year at uni.

Anonymous said...

The Hagiography of Brother Mark, Part 4
First step out of the Dark Pit: The Kingdom of God. I wasn't worried about bad social skills, I was worried about Hurting People, because Making People Happy was the goal of my life. I got reminded that God wanted my untouched spirit, and that I was to live for Him first, not other people. Maybe I couldn't live for people, but I did know how to live for God, and I know that aspieness, in itself, is no barrier whatsoever. Free access to the King, remember? It really is free access, and how wonderful that is!
Second step was philosophy (theology and theophily came first, ha ha!). I figured that all those NTs out there sobbing out their hurt were being quite damaging to us aspies, and I totally understood the aspies who ranted back. I still do the same sometimes. But I also figured that even though our hate to NTs wouldn't hurt them on such a wide scale as their hate did us, it would still hurt them on a personal scale - and it would hurt us too. If you never trust an NT again, then you're shutting yourself off and hurting yourself as much as you hurt them. I figured, in the end, that tolerance, understanding, humility of both NTs and Aspies on a personal scale in personal relationships, and compromise was the way to go. It actually even helped a little bit, and perhaps made me a richer person down the line, although the profits are a bit spotty still. :)
But that was all theory, and theory isn't enough to live on. You need to live it, or at least see it lived. Enter Brother Mark and Queen Sensible.

I went home for the summer holidays for a few months, and stayed for a few months. And this was where I got to learn . . . a lot. Sure, Brother Mark can be absent-minded and inconvenient and oblivious and awkward. In comparison to that, Queen Sensible seemed, for the first time in a while, to be more lovable than Brother Mark, who seemed, at the time, more admirable than lovable (note the superlative. He was definitely still lovable). She pointed out, one day, that there was a lot of good things I got from Brother Mark . . . as well as naivety, awkwardness, stubborness and shyness. But that last bit didn't matter. Queen Sensible thought that there were a lot of good things about us both, and that was enough. I knew for certain that she loved me, and if she loved me, then I must be worth loving. And she, a fine judge of character, said that there were good things about us - and that she didn't regret being married to Brother Mark.

Anonymous said...

The Hagiography of Brother Mark, Part 5

And then there was Brother Mark himself. Whatever anyone else said, he was a good parent. Not that he didn't struggle - visibly so - but he loved us all, and we know it, and he tried hard and did his best. His personality helps too. Staying around Brother Mark, I came to an astonishing realising: even though he ticks so many boxes for 'aspie', he's so much more than *just* and aspie. Asperger's is part of him, an integral part, but it's not all of him and it doesn't define him. If you want to love the man, you love all of him, even this part. Sure, it's an inconvenience - but it's also an advantage, and the whole man is worth loving, and accepting, inconveniences and all. Asperger's doesn't make him defective, because he's not defective. There's nothing wrong with him at all, at least, no more than there is with everyone else in the empire of humanity. We're all imperfect. But some of us are still worth loving, and admiring, and accepting, warts and all. Without knowing it - without even knowing that he quite probably has Aspergers! (and I don't think I want him to know, TBH - I don't want to put him through the pain of thinking himself defective when he isn't) - he's become my aspie role model. He's proof that I CAN make it, someday, in the world of adult personal relationships. He's proof to me that Asperger's Syndrome is not just a horror story on the internet, or a list of diagnostic criteria.

My NT and AS parents - TOGETHER - raised me to be a worthy human being. Thank God for yoking those two together and giving them custody of me. Thank God that Brother Mark didn't die of cancer when I was a teenager, which he nearly did. I would have spent my teenage years being confused and misunderstood and scared. Thank God I had my Mum, who showed me what a confident, sensible lady can look like, and who taught me how to be a woman.

I would never hope to make my Dad less of an aspie. I like him just like he is. The only thing I would change is the experiences I suspect he had as a child, and then as an adult - for his sake, not for mine.

And that, folks, is the Hagiography of Brother Mark the Kind, Sweet and Pious and Queen Sensible, Passionate and Loving, by Mistress Historian, aka Lady Aspergirl. :D

Anonymous said...

Please don't have kids if you have Asperger's. You having AS will not understand why I'm saying this and in this is the problem. You will never understand how to meet your child's needs even after reading thousands of parenting books.

Gavin Bollard said...

Anonymous, Jan 16. I usually don't respond to comments here in the hope that they will promote discussion and I quite often allow a lot of "bad", almost trolling, comments here. I block comments which include personal information or direct personal attacks but general comments are allowed if they are on topic.

One of the reasons why I allow these sorts of comments is to remind my readers exactly what they're up against in the real world.

Your generalisation suggests that no parent with Asperger's will be a good one. I don't believe that for a second. I've met some absolutely wonderful parents with Asperger's syndrome -- and I've met some dreadful neurotypical ones.

The amount of energy, thought and love that you put into being a good parent is what generally makes a good parent. Not where you sit on the spectrum.

Tracy Lehane said...

I agree 100% with the poster above who said that these horrible, cruel parents didn't have ASD but NPD or BPD or even sociopathy. I am a 38 year old mom with Aspergers and I have six children...ages 17 to 3yr old twins. I know I'm not perfect and I've messed up sometimes really badly...but my kids know they're loved unconditionally. I may get overwhelmed and irritated with the constant noise and messes..and the constant need for attention from small kids...but I have practiced attachment parenting with them. I slept with them in my bed until they were ready to move to their own beds..still have the 3yr olds are still in my bed. I nursed them for at least 2yrs each. I read everything I could find about childhood development and psychology...trying to be the best mother I could be. My kids are all very intelligent, funny and well adjusted. kids have an eccentric mom who makes mistakes like any other parent, but I'm not abusive, cold or uncaring. It's ignorant to judge an entire group of people on the actions of a few (that probably didn't even have ASD).

Tracy Lehane said...

You personally know everyone with Aspergers syndrome? That's amazing.