LIVING WITH AUTISTIC PARENTS: TIPS FOR SONS AND DAUGHTERS
When the topic of autism is brought up in conversations, many people would often have the perception that it’s an issue that only involves child-related problems and the challenges entailed for better parenting. What they don’t know is that it is a topic worthy of community-wide discussions, because autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. Even parents themselves can be diagnosed with autism, whether before they had kids or after actually taking that role. As such, children of autistic parents also have a say on this topic and must be given the same opportunity to learn about the truth of their parents’ disorder. Many family issues caused by parent autism can be remedied if only the children are educated and guided on the right response and courses of action to make.
If you are a son or a daughter of an autistic parent, you have made the right decision in taking the first step to understanding the nature of your parent’s condition. It might be a tough road ahead but as long as you have learned the value acceptance in your heart and accommodate your parent’s special needs through necessary compromises, everything will be worthwhile. Here are some of the similar situations that you might encounter in your home and the proper ways of dealing with them.
My father doesn’t realize that I’m sad or frustrated in many instances.
Autistic people often have the difficulty of empathizing other’s emotions because they can’t effectively read facial expressions and gestures which would indicate that you’re sad or frustrated about something. It might be even more difficult for your father to realize that you need a pat on the back or a comforting hug just from looking at you and your behaviour.
What you can do in situations like this is to be straightforward with what you’re feeling and not hesitate in voicing it out to your father. But when making verbal expressions, you must always consider using clear and unambiguous statements because autistic persons also have difficulty in understanding abstract statements. Instead of saying “I’m not in the mood to argue right now”, or “I’m tired and I don’t want to talk”, you can instead say “I’m sad about how things are going”, or “I’m frustrated about something”. If you want a hug or a pat on the back, you just have to say it to your father as plain as it should. Your autistic father may not show that he loves you, but he actually does. He just needs some help from you to get the clue.
My mother easily gets uncomfortable and irritated whenever I put my playlist on the speaker.
Sensory problems are one of the most common features of autism. If your mother reacts in an adverse way to your music, it doesn’t directly mean that she doesn’t like your musical taste. It might be because the volume is too loud and she is very sensitive to these sensory inputs. In cases such as this, it would be safer to gradually increase the volume while asking your mother whether the volume is still tolerable for her. You may even be surprised when she starts to show interest on your playlist which means that you both have the same taste in music. This can be applied in other household situations as well, where there’s a source of strong odour or flavour, bright lights, and excessive surface contact.
If my father gets really obsessed with something, he can’t stop talking about it.
It is very common for autistic people to develop a narrow but deep interest in a specific thing. They might focus too much on it to the point that they can’t notice what’s happening around them. They would even forget to do other activities, such as completing chores or eating their lunch. But in the case of your father, he might already be trained enough to control these obsessive tendencies. If he still somehow talks about his interest to an excessive degree, it would be better to discuss with your father a set of rules that will guide him on what he can talk about with you when it comes to his interest. If you don’t want to hurt his feelings, you can reason out that you have many other important things to do and talking for a long period of time may interfere with your schedule or plans.
My mother panics and feels uneasy whenever I invite my friends to our house.
If your mother is not the social type of person, it could be because her autistic condition triggers the anxious thoughts of engaging with other people. This anxiety may be a result of past experiences where her attempt to socialize did not end well due to her speech and communication challenges. The cause of panic can also be attributed to your mother’s rigidness to follow her routines, which is also a feature of autism disorder. She may see the arrival of your friends as an external force that is not part of her routine, and because she wasn’t prepared for it, she might respond to the sudden development in an unwelcoming way. To prevent this situation from happening, it would be best to let your mother know beforehand if you have any plans of inviting your friends to your house. That way, she may be able to make adjustments and prepare for your friends’ arrival so she can welcome them properly.
My father doesn’t look at people’s eyes when talking and can’t understand what they mean.
This might happen when you and your father are in a public place but instead of getting ashamed or disappointed, you must understand why your father is behaving that way. Many autistic people don’t want to make eye contact because they are aversive to social interactions. It is also difficult for them to process what other people might tell them in conversations and they might need more time to comprehend the whole thing. You can help your father talk more effectively by paraphrasing what the other person has just said, into a simpler and clearer sentence.