Life on the Autism spectrum

Autism & family

Family relations varied among the people we talked with. Some people had very close relationships, while others felt distant from their parents, siblings or other family members.
A few people reflected on how difficult they had probably been as children or adolescents and how this had affected their family relationships. A couple of people, diagnosed in adulthood, hadn’t discussed their diagnosis with their families.
 
Not feeling understood or feeling very different to family members was discussed by some people. 
Some people had very close family and talked about feeling safe within the family home. Christopher, for example, has a very large, close family that he is very protective of. 
 
 “We have our moments and growing up we’d fight a lot”
Some people felt that their siblings were the opposite to them. Damian, for example, describes his brother as “very zappy” and opposite to him in some ways, but similar in others. Several people didn’t get on with their siblings when they were younger but had grown closer in adulthood.
One woman summarised her relationship with her two siblings:
“I just don’t relate, and I never have related to [older sister]. It was always as a kid I just have not been able to. She would learn all the pop music because she wanted to fit in everyone. She would want to wear the fashionable clothes. She would be embarrassed that, you know, she had weird sisters. And so I get on really, really well with my youngest sister.” 
 
“It’s like the blind leading the blind”
A few people we talked with had children and, in some cases, they had children on the spectrum, or suspected their children may be on the spectrum. One couple, for example, had several children, one of them with Asperger syndrome. 
Parents said little about having a child or children on the spectrum. Autism was part of their family life and, in some ways, was unremarkable. The parents on the spectrum shared an understanding of different aspects of life with their children. One father and son, for example, shared a dislike of storms and both pace around the house.
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A few partners of people on the spectrum talked about the effect their partners’ behaviour and actions had on their children as they were growing up. Daniel, for example, engaged in horseplay with his children at inappropriate times like bedtime or in the middle of a shopping centre, and Margaret found the excitement this caused difficult to manage. 
Several people thought that one of their parents had been on the spectrum although they had never been officially diagnosed. As one woman said:
“We have a strong suspicion that my dad has got Asperger's as well and it was a big problem, sort of growing up with my dad because he is so distant and sort of, he basically used to lock himself in the garden shed all the time and it was this thing where both me and my sister went through a period where we just hated my dad because we thought he didn’t love us. We thought that he didn’t care. We basically felt like we had just been brought up by my mum because my dad was so not there.”

Last reviewed July 2016.
Last updated November 2010.

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