Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum

Growing up

Transition periods, such as puberty or transition to adulthood, can introduce new challenges to many children, young people and families. The parents we interviewed discussed the anticipation of these challenges or what happened when their children experienced these transitions.

Most parents whose children had gone through puberty said that it was straightforward. As one mother said about her son; “He went through puberty smoothly. He is very quiet, very private.” Another mother said that “sexuality is no different in Asperger's than in anybody else. They get the same urges, and the same desires. The fact that they are autistic makes no difference. The difference is how they handle it.” Parents of daughters on the spectrum talked about how their children found periods difficult to cope with; in some cases this was linked to hygiene issues (see 'Self help skills').

Most parents with younger children were worried about how puberty would affect their child/ren. They thought that their children would not cope well with the emotional and physical changes; some worried that their child might behave inappropriately.

Another mother described how she had got a work book from the National Autistic Society and she will go through that with her son. A few mothers commented along the lines of “that is really where a dad has got to come in and do the fatherly bit”.

One mother said of her two sons who are both on the spectrum: “I know he does like one particular girl but it’s all very secret squirrel nonsense … whereas his brother has had about three that he has chucked already, you know”. Another mother said that her son was a good looking boy and “whoever he falls for, I hope it will be reciprocated…I just hope they will be patient”.

Transition to adulthood
For those parents whose children had made the transition to adulthood, the experience was largely negative. They talked about support dropping off when the children became adults and how fighting for services and support for their children continued into adulthood. Some parents described how there has been little focus on what will happen to the children on the spectrum when they grow up and this has left their children “floundering”.

Of the parents we interviewed whose children were aged 16 and over, three children were at colleges (either specialist colleges or colleges of further education), four were living at home and not working (one of whom was in the process of arranging appropriate support to start a university course) and one person was living independently in a flat close to her parents' home but had no paid job.

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Many parents whose children were younger worried about the future ( see ‘Thinking ahead’ and ‘Effect on parents; worrying about the future’).

We have interviewed a number of adults who are on the autism spectrum and their experiences are outlined in our section Life on the Autism Spectrum.

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Last reviewed July 2017.

Last updated November 2010.


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