Foster mother’s plea

Our foster daughter has been with us since she was 2 days old and now she is over 2 1/2 years.  Her father has been diagnosed with something in the Pervasive Development Disorder spectrum.  Some feel he has Asperger’s and some feel he has PDD – no other symptoms.  He has also been diagnosed as having narcissistic qualities.  Regardless, the focus has been his inability to bond, show emotion towards his daughter, his poor social skills, etc.  He has his daughter every weekend from Saturday morning until Sunday night.  He never misses a visit and does what he is told to do.  He is in his mid-thirties and can not keep a job and still lives at home with his mom. I believe that he loves his daughter in his own way.  However, he seems to think of his own needs rather than hers.  For her first year, he would call me to set up visitation but would never ask how she was.  He was told that this is something that he needs to do so now he does.  Up until about a month ago, he would never greet her or say, “good-bye” to her when he would see her.  He was told to do that so now he does.  However, it isn’t how a parent typically would greet their child after not seeing them all week.  There isn’t any great emotion, just a “good morning.”  He does what he is told to do but doesn’t seem to feel what he’s doing.

Currently, the foster care agency is trying to terminate his parental rights.  The basis is his inability to bond.  One issue that is going to come up is his poor social skills.  It is very difficult to understand what he is trying to communicate.  Also, his inability to understand how various things could affect his daughter worry me.  For example, he asked the court to move our foster daughter into another home because he changed his religion and wanted her to go to a foster family who had the same religion (no one specific, just any family who had the same religion so she would be going to complete strangers).  He and his family are happy with how our foster daughter is being raised by us and feels that she is in a good environment.  When he was asked how being moved from the family who has loved and raised her for the last 2 1/2 years would affect her, he had nothing to say.  He felt that she would adjust and that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. 

I’m afraid that the judge may hear the testimony regarding his inability to communicate, his inability to show that he cares and his poor social skills and say, “so what.”  Our next court date is in Feb.  Do you or any of your members have anything to say in response to “so what?”  We love her so much and she deserves to be raised by someone who celebrates the wonderful little girl that she is.

The Constant Gardener

My mother is not employed, never was. Her “eccentric special interest” is gardening — her garden is worth 3 times what her house is worth, and she knows the genus of every plant known to mankind. She gardened instead of parenting me and my brother. (My father was alcoholic . . . which didn’t help the situation.) There are currently over 500 plants in her house. She hoards plants and everything else, including food. There is food in her freezer that has been there since I was in high school (I’m now 46 year old). She seemed to have no idea, when I was a child, that I was a separate person. If she had an interest, she couldn’t understand that I might not share it. If I had an interest she didn’t share, she’d either ignore it or insist that I didn’t have it at all (for example, she told me I couldn’t take dance lessons because SHE was not able to dance). She barely noticed I was alive, much less in trouble or in need of help. I had a severe episode of anorexia as a teenager, but she never noticed as my weight dropped to below 90 pounds. I was sick with this for five years, but she has no recollection of it. When the subject of eating disorders comes up, and the fact that I had one, she’s astonished. It’s as if, because it happened to me rather than to her, it didn’t happen at all. Her conversation is bizarre to say the least. Sometimes she holds forth on gardening, but more often, she engages in a sort of stream of consciousness soliloquy apropos of nothing. If others are holding a normal conversation, she will interject meaningless information into it. Sometimes her interjections are offensive, but if you tell her that you’re offended she has no idea what she might have said wrong. Often her interjections are hilarious or mystifying. The other day, in the middle of a conversation about local politics, she interrupted with: “Did you know that you could adopt a manatee? And give it a name?” She has no friends, other than members of her gardening clubs (she belongs to six) with whom she discusses only plants and gardening. I believe that her manner of relating would be offensive or confusing to anyone who doesn’t share this interest. When my family visits her (she lives several hours away), there is no food for us (other than the hoarded food, which actually ceased to be food many years ago). If she cooks, there is never enough–she doesn’t understand that when there are five people at the table, there needs to be more food than when it’s only her. I could go on and on. I have years of memories. I have always suspected that my mother was not normal. However, as a young child, how do you explain this to anyone else? How do you even know that you’re right? In my case, I did attempt to talk to my father about my mother’s differences but he would always tell me I was wrong or crazy. I guess he had a lot invested in keeping up a good front. But . . . I was astute enough to realize that my mother wasn’t showing me any love, which meant that something was wrong with someone, and if there was nothing wrong with my mother, that must mean that something was wrong with ME. I’m no psychologist, but I’d say it stands to reason that if someone grows up thinking that her mother is unable to show her any love because she’s too flawed to warrant maternal affection, that person is going to have some “issues”. And in fact I’ve struggled my whole life with the belief that I am too fundamentally flawed to deserve love or even a modicum of attention. I have had years of therapy and have finally learned to be comfortable with myself, but it has been a hard road. I am hopeful that someone in this group will relate to this. It would be so validating not to be alone.

An archtypical story

Lisa’s story

I believe my father has AS while my mother has aspects of AS as does my older sister.

We “discovered” AS in the family as a result of all the behavioral problems my nephew was having in primary school, and after a great deal of confusion and testing found that he was diagnosed with AS. In observing my nephew’s traits, my younger sister and I realized that there was a lot of AS in the family.

My father is a retired professor of [science subject] and my mother is a retired professor of [social science subject]. My father, apropos of nothing, will launch into long discourses at the dinner table about the history of his science, detailing scientists’ names and dates, which the rest of the family must “sit through” in its entirety or he will either fly into a rage or sulk.

My mother acts as if this is perfectly normal. However, she also will recite in excruciating detail, terrible stories about tragedies that happened to people she has known in her life or go into “professor mode” about some topic. If we then change the subject, my father will just “zone out” or go into a funk until we talk about something that interests him.

I should mention that my parents are both immigrants who are currently 80–for 40 years, I thought their behavior was due to their immigrant heritage, but reading your website (at which I found myself “laughing out loud” in recognition) has convinced me that it really has been AS all these years.

My parents are completely isolated, they have no friends and rarely ever talk about their families in their homeland. For instance, about 8 years ago my mother mentioned that her mother had turned 99. I did not even know that the woman was still alive! However, three months later, I was informed that my grandmother died!!.

My parents have always had very rigid routines for eating, sleeping, going to the store, etc.

They have a tendency in public to rub people the wrong way. They pick fights with waiters about where to sit in a restaurant, they argue with salespeople over tiny discrepancies, and they can be physically pushy.

At the same time, reality and truth are relative concepts–my parents openly lie about the most trivial things and for years I thought I must have a “bad memory” because I couldn’t seem to keep straight what the current “reality” was. It was not until I was dating my husband and he was astonished by one of their minor lies that I realized that they had routinely lied all my life!

In arguments, they must always be right–if I began by talking about some misunderstanding or slight by them, they would immediately turn the argument against me saying that I was being “disrespectful” and should apologise for even bringing anything up. Then they would launch into all the “bad behavior” I had ever done over the last ten years (much of it “made up” or “twisted”) to prove that they deserved an apology instead of me. But they never apologise for anything if they can help it.

My parents never hugged us and barely ever touched us as we were growing up and they rarely played with us–my father’s idea of playing with me was to give me addition and subtraction problems to do (at age 5!)!

How has this affected my family? I came across your site after having had another huge fight with my parents (who said some really prejudiced things about people from my husbands ethnic background in front of my husband) during a dinner.

Almost all the holidays, birthdays, and other celebratory events in my family have been marred in one way or another by my parents’ bad behavior. They picked fights with all of us right before our graduations (they did not even go to some of my younger sister’s); birthdays were either treated matter-of-factly or devolved into fights; Holidays were opportunities to either “lecture” or rage or sulk. They refused to come to my bridal shower and the rehearsal dinner for my wedding (embarassing me in front of my soon-to-be in-laws) and threatened not to come to the wedding the week before it took place (to which I just said “fine”–they relented and came when they realized I meant it).

As a result, about 15 years ago, I stopped talking to them for about three years. After a lot of therapy, I have been able to cobble together a “relationship” of sorts with them–though I am not talking to them at the current time. … My older sister tries to spend as little time as possible with my parents when she comes and there have been numerous times when she has visited and left precipitously in a rage.

My sisters are not currently speaking to each other. So AS has had a very detrimental effect on my family.

What do I hope to get our of ASpar? The knowledge that there are other families like mine that have suffered (that I am not alone)–and the hope that other people can suggest ways of dealing with an ASpar parent. I do think that AS has a strong genetic component.

Short-takes on AS mothers

Dianna

I have been reading a lot about Asperger’s and I am convinced that my mother is a ‘Strong AS’ case, as it tends to explain her extreme eccentricities, and my HORRIBLE NIGHTMARE of a childhood. I love my mother and I have always sensed that she could not help it, but she neglected her children’s emotional and practical needs, and I was/am more like her parent.

My brother and I lived on the street from an early age, though our mother had an apartment, there was no reason to go home. My mother never had food in the house, never cooked meals, never did laundry. She was unpredictable, and I was afraid of her screaming at me. We were dirty hungry little kids and she didn’t miss us when we stayed at a friends house for weeks/months at a time. One of the saddest memories I recall is being 7 or 8, no food in the house, and a stack of unused expired food stamps sitting on top of the empty refrigerator.

I really thought my mother didn’t care if we lived or died. She was/is happiest when talking about her special interests, and they are more important to her than any of our immediate problems/needs. My mother was/is consumed with babbling about literature, poetry, quantum-physics, druidism. She has no interest in anything I have to say, and always changes the subject back to one of the forementioned topics! This is very embarrassing when having dinner with strangers. Although she was college educated, she worked as a dishwasher and barely paid the rent. She threw childish temper tantrums and blamed us, her children, for her problems(?).

Ann Marie

monologues, limited interests, no manners, no social graces, demanding
and bossy, 1 or no friends, repetition, hates “small talk”, failure to
realize they have any disorder, mumbles to self, bad language/tempers,
etc. I feel that I am an “expert” on AS, especially the genetic
component that families either don’t see or ignore.  Life can be a
nightmare at times, especially when I know that I am the “NT” or
“normal” one and they make me feel I am crazy or “need help”.

Eve

My parents “home” had very little in it – no love, bizarre meals (usually just one ingredient, e.g. all eggs, all beans, all dairy, etc),

Socially, she is extremely pedantic and most new acquaintances excuse themselves after a few minutes.

My mother’s behavior had never fit any psychological profile that I had encountered but I recently met with a psychiatrist and a genetic counselor and they offered the Asperger diagnosis. have felt very let down in the past because others had so little understanding of the harm this type of terrible parenting can inflict.  I have never met any woman who reminds me of my mother and I have never met anyone who has described experiencing the type of bad parenting that I received from my mother.

Rona

She didn’t seem to realise you talk differently to children than you do to adults, especially very young children. My friends couldn’t get away fast enough. Once she caught you it was hard to get away from her monologues about filmstar’s cvs, the plots of romantic movies, told in a meandering monotone.

Leanne

. we were never allowed to have visitors to the house and she isolated
herself from her own family so we had little to do with our many
aunts/uncles and cousins

. she was strict,authoritarian, cold, bullying, prone to temper
tantrums, anger outbursts and not only in the home but outside as well

. she always fell out with the neighbours and we had to move about every
two years

. I never remember being kissed or cuddled or shown any affection and
was not allowed to make my won decisions about anything including food
or clothes or friends

. the house was kept obsessively tidy

. at some point she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and given electric
shock therapy and once tried to commit suicide

. my parents marriage eventually broke down and she just threw us out at
16 and 18 without money or any home to go to. The family scattered

. my brother has continued to try and support her periodically but she
is so destrctive to be around he eventually leaves

. she has continued the pattern of falling out with people and
neighbours getting more and more isolated

I think AS has robbed both me and my brother of a proper childhood, made
it difficult for us to have good relationships, stopped has having any
sort of supportive family so left us to fend for ourselves, subjected us
to constant trauma anxiety and a shifting lifestyle, left us with huge
guilt why we could not love or understand our mother, and generally made
life very difficult. Both of us feel utter relief at this discovery and
things are starting to make sense. My dad died reletively early and I
believe the constant stress, my mother pestered him for twenty years
after their divorce, contributed.

I have suffered with a chronic illness brought on I believe by having a
childhood and a marriage with AS and not understanding or having any
help or support.

I hope to understand more about how this has affected me as a person,
and I am desperate to find out more. I would love to talk to others who
have been in a similar situation too. I am hoping to finally make some
sense of my life

Short-takes on AS fathers

Julie

My father has said that he wishes people were more like computers, in that computers make sense and people do not. When I was growing up, he was constantly angry with me, and whenever I displayed normal childlike (i.e. spontaneous) behavior, I was punished, I think because he viewed me as a machine that was malfunctioning, as he had not asked me to behave in this way and therefore was unable to make sense of my actions. To this day, he claims that I was a very troubled child, as whenever he “talked” to me I would begin crying.

Ellen

He toe-walked, paced, had no friends, was completely without affection for his children had no ability to relate to children, had difficulty with his temper, difficulty with changes in his regime, very self-centered. Very bright and verbal, was a prominent neurosurgeon. Had difficulty with empathy or seeing anything from anyone’s viewpoint but his own. We were terrified of him.

Felicity

He has never been able to show affection, say he loves you or give you a cuddle, when he takes my children out i worry about whether he will remember he has them. He has no sense of anyone else at all, how they feel or how his behaviour can make them feel. He is very focused on his hobbies and persues them with obessive tendencies. I used to think he was very selfish, he just seems unaware of the world around him.

Janet

 … his obsessions with a very few subjects, which he turns all conversations back to, to the point it’s often impossible to hold conversations with him about anything else. – the difficult insistence on adherence to routine, the inability to understand or manage emotional reciprocity, the general sense of something always just being off somehow in interactions with him.

Bridget

high verbal skills but poor writing, inability to understand other people’s emotions, dependence on routine, emotional coldness/distance, inability to express or understand normal emotions, difficulty making normal eye contact, incredible disorganization, obsessive “collecting” tendencies, obsessive tendencies to follow a certain pursuit or pastime without deviation (and then drop it just as suddenly), and others

Short-takes on denial by the NT partner

Denial and the NT parent

Jan

I have a brother who is violent, often beating me when we were growing up, right up until I was 18/19 years old, he is two years older than me. Mum was too busy putting on a “front” and dad was oblivious.

Cathe

I am still recovering from the pain and sense of isolation that having a  parent like that brings – made worse by my mother’s insistence until later years that he was wonderful: handsome, intelligent, brilliant, special.  He was all of that, but he was also anxious, depressed,intolerant, controlling, insensitive to the point of cruelty.

Rona

She was from a middle class background and he was working class. Her savant skills in languages got her a university degree, even though she couldn’t put 2 and 2 together in real life, and was I now realise intellectually disabled in parts!, (problem solving, sequencing, prioritising. no inductive or deductive logic). Yet she was one of the few women of her generation who actually went to University. He was so impressed with her, and guilty too about never being able to give her a better life. Well, he was simply too tired from labouring all day, then coming home to do all the cooking, cleaning, sewing, under a constant rain of recriminations and accusations. He was a battered husband and couldn’t leave.

And she was beautiful. They were a handsome couple.

Before we went out anywhere, my parents would make me rehearse the elaborate lies we would tell to others about our domestic misery. Keeping up the front was all important.  We were pretty much social pariahs anyway, because my father’s self-esteem was gutted and he couldnt keep up with successful men of his generation who had wives to nurture their careers. And people couldnt get away from my mother’s monologues fast enough.

Alicia

I begged him to save himself from her constant screaming and blaming but people in his circle didn’t do that kind of thing, divorce was unheard of, so he endured. He was a wonderful man and highly responsible, and afraid she couldn’t survive without him. I guess the odds were high that she might have ended up a bag lady, or permanently drugged and  institutionalised and misdiagnosed perhaps as a schizophrenic, if he hadn’t. He simply couldnt leave her to that fate. It was easier for him to convince himself that nobody was perfect. His mantra was: “People fight because they care for each other. People who don’t fight in their marriages are more of a problem. Your mother is just highly strung.”

Violent mathematician

My father has never had any friends that I know of. He has a PhD in math from a prestigious university. He tried a career in academia but left after he got into a fight with the chairman of the department over some small point about grading. Of course, the way my father describes it, the fate of the universe depended on his sticking to his point of view no matter what. But it always seemed to me kind of silly. Anyway, he then had a succession of different jobs, each one ending in a lawsuit when he got into fights with his bosses. My parents have always been self-righteous about these cases, but to the extent that I was able to understand what was going on, my father always seemed to be ethically in the wrong. For example, he left one job after being given a large sum of money and signing a “non-compete” agreement. He then immediately went to work for a competing company and sued his original employer, claiming he was forced to sign an unfair agreement!

He is clearly OCD and perseverent. As I child I used to watch in puzzlement as my father would come in and out of the kitchen four or five times an evening and run his hands over each of the stove dials, checking to make sure they were turned off. Ditto with the lock on the back door. He was incredibly rigid about certain things- for example, we had to line up our shoes exactly in an order specified by him in the cupboard

Some memorable topics of perseverence include: “Why Actors Are Not Artists,” “The Early Days of Computer Operating Systems,” and “The Fundamental Theorem Of Algebra.” Even though he could talk in great length about such things, in actual fact he made little sense. The meanings escaped him, even in technical subjects. He was just stringing together concepts by association, not by meaning. For many years I was so hungry for his attention that I would listen to him and try to bring something meaningful into the conversation. But his reaction to anything different from what he was saying was just to repeat himself in a louder tone of voice. He could get quite angry and even fly into a fit of rage over such things. If I didn’t want to listen to him he would become like a sulking child. Yet he never changed his behavior in the least.

He would lecture us constantly on such topics as Responsibility or The Way Things Are or How To Behave. It only took the slightest “infraction” to get him going. Again, he made no sense. He would rant and rave, literally foaming at the mouth. In this condition, a wrong word or look could result in him suddenly hitting a child. He had no clue how to relate to children (or to adults for that matter). Any show of normal human emotion or desire would often send him into a rage. He became desperate to stamp out the offender and the offense. He used to demand we give him reasons for what we wanted or were doing, but any appeal to our feelings would be answered with, “Feelings aren’t reasons. You could say you feel anything. How do I know if its real or not? You have to give me logical reasons for what you want.” Failure to comply would result in him getting louder and more aggressive and saying the same things over again. Of course we tried to comply and it has taken me 45 years to get to the point of unraveling that mental knot.

My father was also extremely paranoid, always thinking that people were out to screw him in one way or another. He did not know how to manage conflict, even minor ones, like a misunderstanding over a hotel reservation or a mistake in a restaurant bill (which he always obsessively checked). He would either become incredibly aggressive and threatening, or else if he could not intimidate the other person, he would withdraw and later obsess and perseverate endlessly over how wrongly he had been treated.

As a child, his touch was a source of major freak-out to me. It his hard to describe but it gave me the creeps whenever he touched me. In my mother’s case, her touch was often very mechanical, like I was a piece of luggage, not a child. I didn’t like her touch but it didn’t make me feel yucky. But my father’s touch had the effect of making me cringe. There was some kind of weird energy in it. I really don’t know how to describe it. I would go out of my way to avoid being touched by him and when I couldn’t avoid it, the feeling I had was as though I had just walked into a damp, cold morgue with dead bodies lying around. Honestly!