[Asperger’s Syndrome] is a
Disability of Social Communication.
As an impairment of the intuitive faculties for
- social communication
- mutual reciprocity
- recognition of the needs and selfhood of others
AS can be expected to have an impact on parenting ability.
How do commonly occurring AS traits affect parenting ability?View a Parenting Checklist based on the experiences of ASpar members with their AS parents.
People with AS may have high intelligence and hold responsible positions in society.
Common professional occupations for people with AS are science, engineering and mathematics.
These are all professions in which “eccentricity”, or poor social skills and intuition are excused by high intellectual or computational ability.
In addition our members frequently report parents and partners in academia, the medical and legal professions, and music.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that medical and psychiatric professions in particular often attract people with AS because they have high intelligence and hope to understand their own social alienation and gain mastery over their environments
Generally speaking the high achievers are AS men.
AS women do not seem to do as well possibly because poor social skills are not as easily excused in women, or simply reflecting the lack of opportunity afforded to women married in the postwar years.
Family members of people with AS have coined a phrase Cassandra Syndrome to explain this phenomenon. Since AS was not described in the textbooks, it did not exist. Therefore family members who told professionals about their AS partner were invariably blamed for the behaviours of the partner! “What did you do to this person to make them behave as badly as you say they do?”
Adults with AS often come across as more plausible than their neurotypical family members.
Often AS men marry women of lower social classes, women who are older than them, or women from marginalised ethnics groups, who will look after them and be less inclined to be critical.
By the time these cases come to court, often the NT partner is emotionally drained, exhausted, fearful for the fate of their children, and may be suffering from “Hostage/ Stockholm Syndrome” or” Battered Partner Syndrome“.
People with AS can be so rigid, black and white in their thinking, so confident in their black and white truths, that they often overwhelm the NT partner who is more prone to doubt and self analysis. Over a period of years the NT partner may end up doubting their own reality, in the face of the certainty of the AS partner.
Especially when they are intimidated by their partner’s professional standing.
High function adults with AS may have learned to imitate socially competent behaviour, but it is not innate, and families repeatedly report that the AS partner completely takes in any professionals when help is sought.
The facade soon collapses at home under the pressures of day to day living.
Professionals dealing with situations where there is a claim that a partner has AS need to understand they may be able to hold the façade together for limited periods of time, but this does not reflect the true situation in the home.
Above all, the children should be consulted. In our experience, the children know which is the odd parent out from an early age.
It should be remembered that AS parties have much to gain from this as well. It is our sense that AS parties have been known to walk away from their fair share of divorce settlements because of idealism or a lack of executive function which makes it difficult for them to organise on their own behalf.
In this process, we believe more weight should be given to the voices of children. It is our experience at ASpar that we knew very early, that there was something “wrong” with the AS parent.
We do not expect the average gregarious, nurturing social butterfly to become a professor of theoretical physics.
There is no shame in failing to become a Physics Professor if you do not have the right cognitive abilities.
Similarly, there should be no shame in recognising that not everyone has the social and emotional abilities to parent.
People with high-functioning AS, with supportive education, are capable of making a balanced decision about their parenting preferences.
At the same time, if they already have children and are struggling, they and their families need resources, support and education.
Family law courts need to factor these questions in when they consider AS.
We do NOT advocate that stereotyped, blanket assumptions be made on the basis of the label of AS.
Rather, the behaviours listed here should be investigated carefully and case by case.
We advocate that the opinions of the children given as much weight as possible. Most of us knew, iinnately, and from the earliest age, who “the odd parent out” was.
We always knew there was something wrong, and we frequently begged our NT parents to divorce the AS partner. Knowing the unfairness of divorce laws as they existed, we now know that divorce would not have solved our problems.
As AS becomes more well known, it is inevitable that the diagnosis will be made with excessive zeal, encompassing all kinds of people who may only have a few AS behaviours.
We are well aware of the potential for abuse of Civil Liberties and Parents’ Rights by malicious litigants.
Child abuse is a term loaded with moralism.
People with AS are not “amoral” parents they have a neurological disorder.
We prefer not to use the term “abuse”.
But have children of AS parents suffered? Our members say they have as a result of the kinds of behaviours listed above.
We hope that when both AS and NT family members are better educated, and have better support and resource, and better decisions made by Family Law and Welfare agencies, then the plight of children of Autistics can only improve.
Peseveration is repeating the same works and questions or activities over and over again.
Based on our experience, having someone peseverate at you may be less radical form of “abuse” than physical violence and sexual interference, but over time it becomes an intrusive, invasive, crazy-making form of harassment.
We all know the feeling when we are bailed up socially by a classic bore (very often, a person with AS), and the relief we feel when we can get away.
A child of an AS parent cannot get away.
People who have never experienced AS in their families might like to ask themselves: What might it feel like to have a parent who asks the same questions over and over every day and wants to hear the same response over and over every day?
There is a general public perception that courts favour mothers in granting custody, fuelling the rise of some very angry Father’s Rights Groups.
Could some of the angry Fathers Rights groups be a place where 2 very different groups of disgruntled fathers find an odd alliance.
- Fathers with AS, who do not understand why the courts deem them inadequate parents
- Fathers of children whose mothers have AS, where the courts have discounted evidence of the mothers’ behaviors.
On the one hand, the angry resentful fathers who do not understand why they cannot have custody, and continue to obsess about and harass the custodial partner, may show a typical AS profile.
On the other hand, mothers can have AS too. If the courts favor mothers, this must be heartbreaking for the father who knows that the child may be damaged. It is understandable that such fathers may also be drawn into “Lone fathers” groups.
We are not prejudiced against men. AS is believed to affects males 4 to 1 over females, and is more easily recognized. However, more research needs to be done because it is possible that AS in mothers may be even more devastating to the child due to social expectations, and the close involvement of mothers in the crucial infant years.
Definitions of AS are somewhat contested and a variety of medical model scales existing, including the DSM-IV, Gillberg and Gilberg, the WHO’s ICD-10, Tony Attwood’s scale. In addition, people with AS have themselves compiled lists which take a less normative view of AS – eg Roger Meyer’s scale.
It is generally agreed that scales like DSM-IV are dated and reflect an early and superficial description of AS without understanding the underlying neurology,
The AS characteristics used in the Parenting checklist are not exhaustive – merely a sample of what all these scales have in common, together with current discourses on AS that are awash in online groups like InLv, FAAAS, Aspires, OzAutism,
The checklist questions are derived from recurring themes in the actual life stories of members of ASpar.
About Judy Singer
Judy Singer is a sociologist whose Honours thesis was about autistic self-advocacy in cyberspace, a list of her articles, book chapters, and papers.
She has a perspective that was formed in Disability Studies and the Disability Rights movement, however, she believes that the insights of these movements, based on physical and intellectual disability, do not necessarily translate for disabilities of social communication and reciprocity.
She is the 4th of 5 generations of eccentric women in her family whose odd behaviours are now explained by what we know of AS. Her daughter is the only one who is officially diagnosed. Judy is the least affected in the family, and identifies as not exactly NT, but not quite AS either.
This is an advocacy site, not a medical site. Judy Singer is the sole author, designer and owner of this site. She has done her best to represent the concerns of ASpar members, but all comment is her own unless otherwise stated. All material here refers to parents at the high-functioning end of the Spectrum. Judy Singer has no experience with Low-Functioning Autism
Copyright © Judy Singer, Sydney Australia 2000. All rights reserved. Last updated August 6, 2005 .