If You’ve Met One Parent With Asperger’s…

Note:  This post in a response to an article entitled “Parents With Asperger Syndrome” by Mark Hutten, which can be found here. 

 “Many children of Aspergers parents report that they developed severe self-esteem problems because their mother or father could not give them the warmth, empathy and caring they needed growing up.”

It is five years after he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, and my husband is about to become a father.  The doctor places the baby on my chest, and he is right beside me, punch-drunk dazed with love.  The next day, our son is put into the special care nursery with a minor condition belied by the IV line in his tiny foot and he is there holding him long into the night, just watching him sleep.  We bring our baby home and as the little boy grows his daddy cuddles him skin-to-skin and wears him against his body in a carrier.  When he is fussy he walks the floor with him until his back aches and then keeps on going.  He picks him up whenever he cries because the thought of a little child crying alone is more than he can stand.

Now our baby boy has become a toddler and he is crying because he’s bumped his head and daddy is wrapping his arms against him and rubbing his head to make it feel better.  He has just come home from work and is holding his arms out as wide as they will go as his little boy runs to him from across the room.  He cuddles him close as he reads him the same bedtime story five times in a row.

“Taking ToM into consideration, one can see that moms and dads with full blown Aspergers would have enormous problems conceptualizing and understanding the nature of and the context of the thoughts and feelings of those they are parenting.”

Our son is frustrated.  He cannot make his toys work the way he wants them too.  His father knows just how he feels.  “It’s ok,” he reassures him.  “Do you need some help?”  He shows him a trick to make it work and his little boy is content again. 

We are at the children’s library and the play area is noisy with kids and their parents.  Our son hesitates.  His daddy puts his arm around him and waits.  Reassured, he goes to play.

We are going for a walk and it’s time to go home and our toddler is determined to keep on going.  Daddy kneels beside him and talks to him in a calm, steady voice.  “I understand,” he tells him.  “I know you’re having fun, but it’s time to go”.  The boy takes his hand and they walk home. 

“When autistic obsessive behavior and or preservations are added to the problems posed above, moms and dads with Aspergers will find it overtly difficult to put their youngster’s needs first.”

My husband has had a long day at work and sits down at the computer for the only time to himself he’s had all day, when our son toddles up to him with a book.  He stops what he’s doing to smile at him and they sit on the couch and read together.  They play together on the floor until it’s time for our son to go to bed.

Our daughter is born and he is taking paternity leave to care for his babies.  Even while on leave he takes so little time for himself that his projects and hobbies get put on hold for months.  He tells me he does not ever want his family to come second to anything.

Characteristics of an Aspergers Parent

• Perfectionism

Our little boy is being daddy’s helper and they’re having so much fun that no one notices the mess.  We are at the table for supper and a cup of water is spilled when those chubby little hands slip and daddy is there to reassure him that it’s ok.

• Regimentation

It’s bedtime and our wild little toddler is jumping up and down on the bed to music and his father bursts out laughing.  Now he’s running around the house to music with a box on his head and it’s all laughter and happy chaos.  It’s a beautiful summer evening and we’re going out for ice cream just because.

• Anger

We are getting ready to go to an appointment, and our toddler has been fighting us every step of the way.  Daddy makes him laugh, and he sticks out his feet to let us put his shoes on.  He dumps his milk on the floor, and his father is gentle but firm.  He doesn’t raise his voice.

• Abuse

He tells me about how for years he was the target of abuse and bullying.  He is determined that it won’t happen to his children.  The cycle is ending with him.

It’s evening, and we are all sitting together, our son playing contentedly with his toys and our daughter smiling with her whole face the way only babies can.  He is filled with love.


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19 Responses to If You’ve Met One Parent With Asperger’s…

  1. autisticook says:

    This. This this this.

    I’m in awe at how composed and calm you sound while debunking the article. I wanted to yell and shout “EFF YOU” at the author. Your reaction is probably more constructive. 🙂

  2. bjforshaw says:

    “Characteristics of an Aspergers parent:
    * Anger

    After reading that article, definitely angry! What a crock of sh*t, excuse my language.

    Your husband sounds a better person and father than a number of NT men I know.

  3. suburp says:

    Great, touching article in reply to what I can only call a very dangerous generalisation…
    If he wanted to caricaturize autism parenting by taking “typical Asperger’s” behaviours and turn them into a disadvantage, even danger for their own children, he certainly forgot the the fact that there is common knowledge about child rearing that the “rigid ” parent with apply to the book – so he’ll get it ALL right!?
    I only have to see my own son who struggles w social behaviours of older kids ever since he is in school, but is the kindest most patient and understanding playmate for toddlers and younger children – who play no mind games and are as straightforward as we all should be much more in our lives. The deductions by that author that a parent with autism cannot grow into their role and be an even better father or mother than so many nt parents and that children are unable ti adjust their behaviour to a parent w ANY kind if disability, is really pretty insulting and not helpful. Rather than only concluding misbehaviours and even abuse, the author could have assumed “competence” and I am sure one could easily find equally as many markers for great parenting (honesty, actual belief in rules and consistency, routines – all essential for bringing up balanced kids) than focus only on the ‘negatives’. And your very personal, touching observations just confirm that.

    • Aspermama says:

      “…he certainly forgot the the fact that there is common knowledge about child rearing that the “rigid ” parent with apply to the book – so he’ll get it ALL right!?”

      Exactly!! I often follow safety guidelines to the letter, and I’ve done a ton of reading on parenting and child development since before my son was born, and I get the impression that this is common in parents with AS. But for some reason this never seems to occur to him, nor that we have our own unique strengths that can make for good parenting.

      • suburp says:

        It really reminds me a little of the ole “refrigerator mothers theory” actually…

      • autisticook says:

        Not only does it remind me of refrigerator moms (a myth that needs to DIE already), it’s started me thinking that his attack on autistic/aspie parenting almost sounds like a personal vendetta. He tries to make it sound scientific but it’s full of language that I recognise from writing academic articles myself, language that is meant to hide the fact that you have no proof, it’s all assumptions. “One might ask”, “it is believed that”, “one cannot help but wonder”. Also, I just realised he doesn’t really mention autistic parenting except in the context of Asperger’s. Because apparently only aspies are even remotely capable of starting a family.

        And you know what? My parents are probably both on the spectrum, and they gave me the best childhood a child like me could wish for. I could read all I wanted, infodumping was ENCOURAGED, and they always immediately apologised when they were in the wrong. Especially that last bit had all my psychotherapists stunned. Apparently it’s not normal. So rigid thinking and adherence to rules, as well as honesty, does have its benefits in raising a child. Who would have thought.

      • autisticook says:

        To clarify: on the rare occasions where my parents had “one rule for you, another rule for me”, they always explained why that was so (usually age related). Other than that, they held themselves to the same rules as they held me and my brothers. It was awesome.

  4. Aspermama says:

    That is awesome. Honesty, consistency and fairness are things that kids really appreciate and respect and I think that can lead to a strong parent-child relationship.

    And that’s true that it’s a lot of negative assumptions. Something I found particularly galling is how he used Liane Willey’s own writing against her. Certainly she faced some challenges (which she was brave and honest enough to share in her book), but every parent does, and in no way does that mean she was an incompetent parent.

  5. A Quiet Week says:

    We are an Aspie family. Me, hubby, son, and my father, too. I find these ToM suppositions to be balderdash. My father is incredibly sweet and empathetic. As a child, he was very sensitive to injustices done to me and was my greatest defender. Thank you for this thoughtful and finely assembled article.

    • Aspermama says:

      Thanks for dropping by!

      It seems that empathy and sensitivity to injustice are very common in people with autism. It’s so unfortunate that these positive qualities are overlooked. Your father sounds like a wonderful person.

  6. Down Wit Dat says:

    I loved this.
    Thank you so much for sharing such an important post with the hop. x

  7. sophiestrains says:

    Stopping by from the hop. Thank you for this article. I am just so sick of the media (this from a former journalist) telling us what “autistic people do” and of course, how they feel. Also, how we affect non-autistic people. I am a parent with Asperger’s and have an autistic child and yes I do not do well with noise and clutter but I can handle it. And I love my kids, and I play with my kids and I do things for my kids I would never do- birthday parties, playdates etc. Because that’s what parenting is. Thanks 🙂

    • Aspermama says:

      Thanks for dropping by (and sorry for the delay in moderation)!

      I hear you on the media. It is very rare that I read an article or see a news story about autism that doesn’t make me cringe at all the stereotypes and assumptions. It’s starting to get a little better at least.

      There are some things that are more challenging for us for sure but there are a lot of things that we do particularly well too, and we love our kids every bit as much. Sounds like you’re doing an awesome job 🙂

  8. stimmyabby says:

    I love this. I read it a while ago and then I spent forever trying to find it again. He sounds wonderful. I’ve heard the same article quoted before, and it’s pretty icky.

  9. Pingback: In the News – October 2013 | The PsychoJenic Archives

  10. Michelle says:

    Just because YOUR husband is not typical of the article does not mean ALL parents with Asperger’s aren’t. Asperger’s is part of the Autism SPECTRUM disorder. It means there is not going to be a typical ‘one size fits all’ experience. The article you are responding to looked at a lot of experiences from children who grew up with a parent with Aspergers.

    What YOU are not taking into consideration is 1. Your husband is aware. It sounds like he was diagnosed, so he is taking steps to remedy any conceived shortcomings. 2. You are comparing your husbands experiences NOW with that of people growing up with a AS parent 20, 30 or more years ago.

    Times have changed. Much more is understood now. Certainly there is way more acceptance now generally.

    You are doing what you claim that article is going. Just because your one experience – your own relationship doesn’t fit the description of the article, you are assuming it’s wrong.

    I have been in a relationship for 11 years and have only just discovered my partner has Asperger’s. He is not diagnosed and would not accept my telling him what I’ve discovered. He is a very loving and gentle man, yet he still fits many of the classic descriptions.

    In seeking support as an NT partner of an AS man, I have discovered my mother is most likely the same. We put her down as narcissistic but it is common for people with Asperger’s to be misdiagnosed as narcissistic apparently. She is in her 70s now and I am almost 50. Only today did it become apparent this is what was going on. I have been researching adult children of parent’s with aspergers. What I have read so far gels with my experiences. I was just like the people in that article. Grew up with huge low self esteem issues. Thought there was something wrong with me because my mother couldn’t love me. Went through a period of seeking attention in not so positive ways. Had my first severe depression and suicide attempt at 13.

    Just because it’s not true in your case, does not mean it is not true for many others. You don’t need to deny other people’s experiences just because yours don’t match.

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