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.

Neglected and living on the street

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(?).

Felicity’s mother

My Mother has always been unemployed but since my Dad’s health is bad she now works full-time as a checkout operator. She had almost no personal hygiene skills and did not teach any to my brother and I, she had difficulty with basic cause and effect situations, she was fluent and self-taught in ASL and had a passion for almost nothing else but signing, she would leave me alone as a baby in my crib and go to neighbor’s houses to watch TV.  

Even in the face of severe abuse at the hand of my Father she would still not speak when he demanded she tell him why she did things that made no sense (hide the bills, spend all the money, never clean the house).  As a young adult I thought my Mom might have had a stroke or something.

My whole extended family is very disconnected. Just a week ago I went on a road trip to see everyone. It has been 20 years since I have seen or spoken with these people. When I told everyone about my 3 years old recent diagnosis of autism I was told for the first time that I have many autistic cousins and second cousins with it. Also, most of the kids in my family did not speak until a very late age and have poor social skills. People began to tell me stories about my Mother’s odd habits. I made the connection easily at that point and solved a 30 year mystery of severe neglect.

I can forgive my Mom. It is also funny that myself and some my cousins that do not have autism all have photographic memory and went into fields of human services. I became interested in autism in my early 20’s and am now a behavior specialist. The irony of having a daughter with autism after the fact was explained by discovering my Mother’s autism. It makes sense that I was led to this field. I was able to recognize years ago that I do what I do because my Mom never spoke that much even in the face of being abused for it. It is funny how things come full circle. Since I am so new on this journey I am hoping to find ways to get my Mother the help she needs without having to confront my Father with the fact that he severely abused a vulnerable person. He stopped over 15 years ago but is still selfish and controlling. He is the type of person that would kill himself if I confronted him. I think that if I find out he did know I don’t know what I would do. I think hearing other stories will help me define this new information.

Johanna’s mother

[Note:   This post comes from a writer with a non-English speaking background, and should be read in that context]

My mother worked as a cleaner (in office buildings).

She never showed any emotions. She could come home from work and say that she was in a good mood, that she was glad today. And as a child I saw that she was lying, she wasn’t glad at all, and I could never understand why she constantly lied about that.

I have never seen her happy or unhappy, never seen her laugh or cry. But now, as an adult with insight in Asperger Syndrome, I understand that perhaps she was glad when she said she was…

She was very rigid in her movements, and when she touched me she just grabbed me, almost violently. And I as a child I was afraid of her, especially when she wanted to touch me, or hug me, because she just
couldn’t hug at all. And her facial expression when she approached me was completely weird, which just made me more frightened.

She couldn’t keep a dialog, either she was silent and I or someone else talked, or she went on with long monologues.

She was completely naive, and had no way of telling whether someone was lying, or teasing her, or honest. She interpreted everything that people said literally.

I think she was of normal intelligence, but as a child I saw my mother as the dumbest dumb mother that anyone could possibly have. I see the tragedy in it all today, and I so much wished that she could show and
receive emotions, I would have wanted that so very much!

She dressed weird; with coats of thick cloth in weird colours. And she held her body and walked in a weird rigid way. I was ashamed of her, and when I was out with my friends and she happened to walk by and say hello to me I pretended not to hear her or know her. When I came home and she asked me why I didn’t say hello, if I didn’t see her, I was again ashamed. I was ashamed that I was ashamed, and had tons of guilt.

She always asked me how I felt. As a child I became annoyed over these questions everyday, and just yelled at her “Can’t you see that!”. Today I realize that she probably couldn’t. That she was
unable to see how I felt, that she was completely cut off from the feelings and emotions that the rest of us shared.

[My mother’s AS has affected me] profoundly! In almost all aspects, except: My dad kept the hold of our economy in the family, so I guess that this aspects was perhaps the only one that worked well. My mother had no sense of handling the household economy.

She was a complete loner, and sometimes accused us of saying things behind her back (a little paranoiac, but she is not suffering from paranoia).

I hope that I can contribute a little with my understanding of Asperger Syndrome in my mother, and of a two other people, men, that I have come to know later on in life that also has Asperger Syndrome. These two men have helped me a lot to understand how Asperger Syndrome affected my mother, and the reason why my mother acted as she did.

I also hope to share some understanding of these issues and problem with others. I understand today that my only brother also has a mild form of Asperger Syndrome, which meant that it was only me and my
father who were “normal”.

I have felt so completely alone with these feelings and insights that there is nothing else in the world I would want than to be able to share this with someone else who can understand it!