When our child gets diagnosed with autism, it opens up a range of questions. “How can we help them?” “What will their future be like?” “Will they be able to have children?” “What’s life like for autistic parents?“ Depending on our knowledge of autism and how it affects those on the spectrum, we may already know the answers to those questions.
One question I’ve asked is about the possibility of my kids becoming parents one day. Let’s look at some ways autistic people can thrive as parents and the struggles they may face.
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Strengths of Autistic Parents
There are certain challenges every parent must face. However, if a parent is on the autism spectrum, they will have to meet those challenges in a completely different way than non-autistic parents.
Still, autistic parents may find their unique view allows them to tackle some issues their children face in a way that helps them relate to their children better.
Let’s be clear: an autism diagnosis does not prevent anyone from being a good parent. Many autistic parents are exemplary, just like many neurotypical parents are exemplary. Their autism diagnosis may turn out to be their biggest strength.
While I don’t have an autism diagnosis, both of my children do, and both require heavily regulated routines most of the time.
According to the group Autism Spectrum Australia, in conjunction with Brandeis University in Massachusetts, autistic children who grow up to become autistic parents often develop highly organized routines.
This can be beneficial because many children can benefit from an organized routine, whether on the autism spectrum or not. These routines can provide stability for both the parents and the children.
While there’s no guarantee someone diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder will engage in a deep focus, many do.
An autistic parent is likely to research anything and everything they can to learn about their child’s developing needs. This can provide a special bond where the parent and the child can reap the benefits.
Many autistic parents are deeply tuned into their surroundings. This also allows them to be in tune with their children and any potential problems that may arise. This skill can be vital for an autistic parent.
While it’s true some autistic people lack empathy, that’s not so in every diagnosis. Each individual with autism is different. Many autistic kids who grow up to become parents can empathize with their children when that child marches to a different beat.
Some children don’t conform to what society thinks they should, and autistic parents may recognize and appreciate this more than other parents.
Positive role model
When children can see their parents accepting and understanding their own autism diagnosis, it allows the children to do the same. This can be very valuable for an autistic child.
With so many misconceptions surrounding autism, it’s good for the kids to have this source they trust as they become comfortable with who they are.
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Struggles of Autistic Parents
While being autistic themselves can give parents specific strengths when it comes to raising children and bonding with them, it can also present plenty of struggles for an autistic parent.
Social communication is one of the most important aspects of parenting. However, for autistic adults, it may be challenging to deal with the vast array of social interactions needed to help their children.
Taking children to medical appointments, communicating with teachers or other parents, and attending school events can be challenging for autistic parents.
A parent has to be a child’s first and, most of the time, fiercest advocate. This can be challenging when it’s a struggle for the parent to navigate the particular situation where their children need advocacy.
This is vitally important because many autistic parents also have autistic children who need that advocacy more than others.
Let’s face it: no matter if we have been diagnosed as on the autism spectrum or not, there are times when sensory overload happens to all of us. However, it’s a lot easier for sensory overload to affect autistic people.
It’s one of the most common autistic traits. Yet children often produce sights, sounds, and smells that may send the senses into overload, a challenge for autistic adults who become parents.
The parents will need to find a way to escape the sensory stimulation for a little bit to recharge their battery and then continue to take care of their children.
While a highly organized routine can certainly be a strength for an autistic parent, it can also be a struggle as well. Try as we might, sometimes family life requires flexibility.
An autistic child is likely to struggle when their routine is thrown off-kilter. That’s also true of an autistic adult. There may be struggles between parent and child as both try to handle the change to routine.
While welcoming a child into the world is one of the greatest feelings, it’s often also associated with postpartum depression. These struggles can create major issues for autistic individuals who may already be struggling with other neurodivergences.
Autistic parents might find it difficult to ask for help. They may feel like they are admitting that their autism is affecting their parenting.
While the risk of postpartum depression may be higher among autistic individuals, there are plenty of resources available for any who are willing to seek help.
You’re Doing Your Best
As parents, whether neurotypical or neurodivergent, we want the best for our children. The one bond we all have is love.
For parents on the autism spectrum, however, the parenting journey will look far different than the journey for neurotypical people. An autistic parent will see strengths many parents will never see, but they’ll also see struggles others won’t.
Luckily, there is professional support available for anyone who seeks it. Autistic adults can be exemplary parents, and there are many children out there who are lucky to have the parents they do. It’s a long journey, and we’re all trying our best.
Q: What is it like having autistic parents?
A: Having autistic parents can be unique, as it may involve navigating communication and understanding differences distinctively. It can also offer a perspective that promotes empathy and acceptance for neurodiversity.
Q: How does autism affect parenting?
A: Autism can impact parenting by presenting challenges in communication, social interaction, and understanding a child’s emotional needs. It may also make seeking help difficult, as parents may feel hesitant to acknowledge the influence of their autism on their parenting.
Q: Do autistic parents have autistic kids?
A: Studies indicate that most children with autism are born to parents without autism. Yet, if one parent has autism, there’s a higher chance that their child may show specific traits linked to autism, like challenges in social communication or sensory processing.
Q: Which parent carries the autism gene?
A: Research indicates that both parents may play a role in passing on the autism gene, with studies revealing that if one parent has autism, their child has a higher likelihood of having autism compared to when neither parent has the condition.
Q: Can an autistic parent have a neurotypical child?
A: Yes, an autistic person can have a neurotypical child. Autism is not solely determined by genetics, and the neurodiversity within families can vary.
Being a parent on the autism spectrum – Autism Spectrum Australia; Brandeis University, Massachusetts
Autistic Mothers of Autistic Children: A Preliminary Study in an Under-Researched Area