The Military Enthusiast

I am one of three (neurotypical) adult children raised by an
autistic parent. Although he has not been formally diagnosed, there is
strong evidence to support that my father is mildly autistic. He is an
isolated individual who rarely displays any type of outward affection. A car
ride to the doctor’s office for a deep cut or a broken arm would be the
extent of his compassion towards us. Since my mother worked nights, dividing
her time between her three children was difficult. In desperation to be
noticed, we would often resort to getting negative attention from her as
well as our father. It was the only attention my father would give us and my
mother couldn’t ignore.

           In addition to my father’s aversion to social situations, he
exhibits external habits associated with autism. He is an interminable
pacer. It is extremely rare to see him at the dinner table or even seated
while watching television. While he paces, he rubs and claps his hands
together in front of his face while uttering low grunts. He is almost
completely unaware of this habit and will do this under the scrutinizing eye
of the general public. The intensity of his current mood seems to trigger
the frequency of his rubbing and clapping. Severe anger causes him to shout
and his rubbing and clapping transforms into rapidly flailing arms above his
head, not stopping until well after the shouting ceases.

His unusual obsessions stretch farther than pacing. He is a reclusive
encyclopedia of knowledge for World War II facts. He can watch the same
documentary on General Erwin Rommel’s battle strategies against British
occupied South Africa ad nauseam. Only on a few occasions would he share
some of his information. His infrequent war speeches were spotted with dry
coughs (no medical correlation) then he would trail off and pace in another

             My father also has a habit that is uncharacteristic of
autistics. He seems to have somewhat of an imagination. He enjoys playing
with toys. He used to set up my younger brother’s figurines and have pretend
battles for hours at a time. While playing, he would often pause to clap and
rub his hands together. He would never play toys with us though. This was
one of the many activities he preferred to do alone.

            My mother never made excuses or attempted to “cover up” my
father’s eccentricities. She would apologize to us for not having a father
that was more “involved” in our lives. Divorce wasn’t an option because of
their financial situation so we were all forced to live in a tense
household. She knew my father had problems and pleaded with him to get help
or medication, but he refused. He stubbornly concluded that nothing was
wrong with him and he was always right.

I was always embarrassed to have friends and family visit us. Holiday
dinners consisted of everyone trying not to stare as my father inhaled his
food then ran off to the basement to pace and clap for the duration of the
day. In addition to this, my father also thought that demonstrating
infantile behavior was funny. Releasing bodily functions in front of others,
or especially strangers, was hysterical and also the pinnacle of my father’s
socialization. To contrast the examples my father would set, my mother
exhaustingly attempted to teach us that dad’s behavior is not normal and we
shouldn’t model after him.

I spent years researching publications on autistic parents and have hit
continual dead ends. Of my many e-mails to organizations, the Autism Help
Line sent me a link to the ASpar website which was a relief to find. I was
fully aware that high functioning autistics grow up and have families, but
couldn’t find any publications from people raised by them.

In becoming a full member of ASpar, I hope to find available resources from
people who have gone through this as well as offer my experiences to aid
others. My siblings and I have always felt different and isolated in having
an unconventional father and it would be supportive to hear other
experiences similar to ours. I feel strongly that there should be a
heightened awareness of autistics becoming parents so that acceptance and
understanding can reach those children who have the difficulty of being
raised by autism.

One thought on “The Military Enthusiast

  1. I am married to a man with whom we’ve recently begun to pursue a diagnosis of Asperger’s and it is through all this research and talking to counselors that I’m beginning to suspect that my father also has Asperger’s. One of the key indicators for me was that I can count on one hand the number of times my father either held my hand or gave me a hug. My sister and brother both maintain the opinion that our father doesn’t like them or even love them. I cannot believe the similarities I am finding between my husband and father – it is crazy!

    Sorry to go off on a tangent there, but the real reason I wanted to respond was to share some resources that I have found.

    This one is key:
    This website is a group designed for families of people with Asperger’s. I have found many fantastic resources and a support group here (I’m not a member … yet)

    And here are a list of books, some I’ve read and some I’m still waiting to order:

    “Asperger Syndrome and Adults… Is Anyone Listening?” Essays and Poems by Spouses, Partners and Parents of Adults with Asperger Syndrome by Karen E. Rodman

    “An Asperger Marriage” by Gisela and Christopher Slater-Walker
    (reading this has helped me understand my parents more, as well as understand some of the more mystifying complexities in my own relationship)

    “Asperger Syndrome – A Different Mind” by Simon Baron-Cohen
    This is a DVD, but also very good

    And the best one so far is this: The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood

    There are a lot of good resources out there, I wish you the best of luck!

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