Asperger’s and Motherhood (Part 6)

This is the final post in a series about being a mom with Asperger’s.

There’s some question about how having a parent with Asperger’s affects a typical child. I definitely see ways in which my aspie behavior has influenced my daughter’s behavior. She’s told me stories about how friends at college or colleagues at work have pointed out deficiencies in her social skills. Although she’s a very empathetic, compassionate person with a high emotional IQ, she occasionally does things that others consider thoughtless.

Recently, Jess was talking with a friend who was discouraged by his job search progress. Her response was much like mine would have been. It’s a tough job market for new graduates and you just have to keep at it. When he expressed his frustration at how unsympathetic she was being, she realized that she was saying to him what I would have said to her.

Although she understands social nuances, she sometimes chooses not to “play by the rules” because she’s seen how a less conventional approach has affected her at key points in her life and she finds some value in it that is probably hard for people raised in typical families to relate to.

She’s also related stories to me where she was shocked to find out that other people thought she was being rude–for not sharing a birthday treat, for example. These were instances where she simply didn’t think about what the right thing to do in that situation was. More than one person has attributed these faux pas to her being an only child, but I think it has more to do with my AS than her lack of siblings.

So you can see where being an aspie mom is going to result in your kids picking up some socially unacceptable habits, no matter how hard you try or how socially adept they seem to be.

Having an NT partner or spouse can go a long way toward helping you “mind the gap” when it comes to parenting. My husband is everything I’m not when it comes to social skills. He’s naturally compassionate, outgoing, empathetic, and confident. He can walk into a room full of strangers and strike up a conversation with anyone. People instantly love him. When it comes to our daughter’s social skills, I give him 100% of the credit. He modeled behaviors for her that don’t come naturally to me and that I’ve never learned to fake well.

As parents, we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. There were times when he thought I was being too cold-hearted and there times when I thought he was being too sentimental. We’ve had to compromise on some issues and agree to disagree on others. We’ve both made mistakes. But we’ve also come to realize that we have our own strengths.

When Jess needs sympathy or relationship advice, she usually talks to her dad. When she needs help filling out forms her new job or fixing her computer, she calls me. She intuitively worked out what we can each give her as parents long before any of us knew what Asperger’s was.

That’s the thing about moms with Asperger’s and their kids: they know how to adapt.

21 thoughts on “Asperger’s and Motherhood (Part 6)”

  1. I’m not diagnosed, but think I should be. I have found this series of articles really interesting and see many aspects of myself in your experiences. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you for letting me know that you found it interesting! If you think you might be on the spectrum. you might want to check out the adult diagnosis series. There’s a link at the top of the page. 🙂

  2. So I just found out my beloved has Asperger’s. I’ve known him for seven years and I never, ever knew or had an inkling of it. When he told me I was so scared because I didn’t know what it meant for us. I didn’t know anything about it and I was afraid it meant it was the end of us but this really helped me understand things better and know that things will be ok. I think now knowing this, we’ll be stronger because know i’ll know how to handle things better.

  3. I’m 26, I was diagnosed at 22, and by reading this I just realised my mum is probably autistic too. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Thankyou for your series. I’m undiagnosed, but am feeling more strongly each day I’m an Aspie. Pretty sure my dad’s on the spectrum, possibly my mum. Is it possible I’ve just picked up enough Aspie traits from my childhood to identify with AS experiences though? You wrote in this post of how your daughter has been influenced by your AS. How is she different to you? Can you give any more concrete examples of how her behaviour is different to yours? Situations that you would handle one way and she would handle in an NT way? Hope that makes sense. Trying to unravel the puzzle… Xx

    1. I think it’s possible to pick up traits from an autistic parent, but there’s also a high likelihood that you’re on the spectrum if one or both of your parents are. My daughter has picked up a lot of social mannerisms from me as well as my bluntness. However, she’s definitely not autistic–she doesn’t stim, is very adept at reading social signals/body language/facial expressions, doesn’t have sensory sensitivities, doesn’t have issues with eye contact, enjoys socializing far more than I do and doesn’t like being alone, etc. Also, if someone points out that she’s made a social gaffe, she’ll remember and generally not do it again, whereas I tend to be much more obtuse and will keep making variations of the same mistake even after having it pointed out to me multiple times.

      It may help to look at autistic traits like making eye contact, reading nonverbal cues, stimming, sensory seeking and sensory sensitivities. All of those feel very intrinsic to being autistic and not like things you’d pick up by modeling a parent. Good luck with your exploration!

      1. Thanks so much for your reply. Yes I see now, your daughter has picked up traits from you just as we all pick up traits from our parents, be they AS or NT. I’m definitely noticing my physical compulsion to do things a certain way, repetitive songs/beats/rhythms or word strings that play repeatedly in my head. I’m a pianist, and often catch myself then tapping out rhythms or playing pieces with my fingertips while I’m visualising a keyboard. All while I’m talking to someone or supposedly listening! I don’t feel confused often anymore in a social situation (anxious definitely), but I do play all the possible interactions and picture the event in detail before it happens. During the interactions it’s like I’m watching myself, making sure each word and gesture fits appropriately. Afterwards when I’m home again I’m exhausted. With a social hangover the next day if it’s been a big or busy event.

        Anyway I won’t rabbit on, thanks again for your reply. I’d like to get diagnosed but it’s an expensive process here. Will have to save up 🙂 x

  5. This is so helpful and hopeful for me. Thanks for all the effort you put into your blog. My nine-year-old daughter was diagnosed with autism a little over a year ago, and I’ve had this deep-rooted fear that she will never be able to get married/have children/be a “good” mom., b/c of the Aspie aspect to her. And b/c so much lit on Aspies refers to men, I’m always trying to sort out what HER experiences will be like. Your writing is giving me encouragement and hope!

  6. Thank you so much for writing this! I am an aspie dignosed in primary school (31now) after being misdihnosed as ADHD. I am a mother to a NT 3yo girl and my hubby is also NT. I strongly suspect my dad is an aspie and most likely my mum too. My sister is also one though i think hers is worse than mine. I have been searching for info for aspie mums with NT kids and there is pretty much only stuff saying aspie mums are bad for their kids, that they damage them and should not be parents. That makes me so mad! I may not be the warmest mother (something i am trying to learn (or fake) to be) but i am by no means the worst parent! I know others who are so so much more neglectful, angry and cold than i am. I didnt struggle too much with the infant stage but i am struggling now ( i have amiss independent who pushes the boundrys and buttons big time) currently i am reading how this could be caused by my disconnection from her. I do think we bring certain good things to raising our children. Most of what you discribe is me to a t. I learnt how to act to survive highschool and most people dont even register that i may have aspergers, even my friend who works at a school for special needs kids didnt realise. I really have an affinity with cats not so much so with people . I too only go to playgroup social events for my girl. I prefer to help with food and setting up as then i at least have something constructive to do, and am not sitting alone coz im the odd mum. I wish there was more out there for us aspie mums. I recently reached out to our local autism support group asking about if they had any support services for high functioning adults in regards to parenting and marital relationships. They couldnt help as they only run programs for kids and teens. Its just so frustrating! We are invisible. I guess we just have to keep putting it out tgere and asking for help, hopefully that will make someone sit up and take notice that its an issue that needs exploring!

  7. I’m diagnosed but I never had any of the empathy problems. When I was younger yes but I thrust into learning how to adapt and quickly, now these emotional issues everyone talks about doesn’t seem to connect to me even though not only am I diagnosed but a lot of the other things described do fit with me perfectly.

  8. This is a good series of posts. I don’t know that I know how to adapt, though. I might have coped better in another run at it, but it’s been altogether a bit too much the way things have gone. My husband and I are undiagnosed, worse and better than each other in different ways, all of us are: my daughter has a severe learning disability whilst doing amazing things and being brilliant. She presents like autism but had neonatal sepsis that led to brain damage. She’s 12. The ten year old, my son Zak, has been diagnosed and has massive violent meltdowns but he’s consistently voted most supportive friend in class and academically very able, and very sensitive to me. He finds his sister harder. But they’re getting on better now. So, everything should feel like we’re doing OK, but it doesn’t feel it. We’ve come through a lot, should feel like we’ve achieved something and we have. But it also doesn’t feel like it. My relationships within the family are very strained right now. Husband’s depressed and ill. None of us are working, we have a severance package from his IT job. But don’t know how long it will last. Or what the future hold. My ideals are very frustrated right now. But basic financial and family survival also important. But no good to overly stress about it and deafeat us before we start. However, I haven’t worked much at all, failed at it and failed uni, but psychiatrists wouldn’t refer me for autism assessment. I think it’s because mental health has been a special interest, I’m a woman and sort of charismatic in the right mood, and they’d already referred for ADD. Social services haven’t been very helpful in the past, coaching/nursing/care support elements have been, but adversarial twitchy standard bearing, not very helpful. It is the limitations of the high pressure commissioning role and statutory sign offs they have to make and they’re only human. My husband cant see that, but I fear I talked our way out without fixing enough. The intermediate result was a positive change however it felt like it had an uneconomical cost. Roasting all of us to give us a kick up the backside fairly without being obviously efficient. Just retriggering school and alike further back domestic and community traumas and making new ones. They still get in the way sometimes, now some time on. It’s mostly domestic tasks and emotion and communication, self management. Synchronization. Both of day to day and dreams and other big stuff.

    Lots of emotional and practical and ethical tangle at the moment, that’s why I am here. Brings up a lot of feelings though. And I feel a mixture of instant solidarity, tribal identification with you, and inadequacy next to you.

    I think the series gives some useful ways to further socialise myself with the difficulties in acknowledgment. Ways to express things positively. Try and get the mature, naturally easygoing understanding that works going, in our own way for ourselves. But umm, big feelings and risks. I never know if I am just stirring the pot. (I think in metaphors excessively but still struggle to process jokes sometimes, and often choose to stick to the detail in the issues referenced, with a mix of puckish glee and pedantic quixotry; everything is figuratively meaningful, even the necklace I am currently compulsively trying to entangle and getting nowhere with)

    I feel a connection, and yet I don’t know if it’s helpful. Lol.


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