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Young Adult Stepson (High Functioning Autism)

(8 Posts)
FrauMoose Sat 02-Mar-13 15:37:19

Over the last year it has emerged that my stepson - who's now in his mid-twenties - is on the autistic spectrum. In some ways knowing this makes it a lot easier. However Stepson himself probably doesn't really know this. It's been suggested to him by a relative but he rejected the possibillity then - and certainly isn't admitting it if he does suspect it. He's living with his mother, also someone with autistic traits, who is extremely protective of him and has let him get away with a great deal. But my partner is going to try talk to him about possibly being on the autistic spectrum soon.

Anyway my knowing why he is as he is doesn't make social situations that much easier. Yet again he didn't reply to a message sent a week back inviting him to lunch today. Until 3pm when he rang and I was the only one is. I have realised that I've always found it really difficult when he rings and say, 'Hi, can I speak to Dad?/Hello, is Dad in.' It always sounds as if he dislikes me/doesn't want to speak to me. (We get on okay. I don't think he does dislike me - though he does tend to believe people should give him unconditional admiration.) But I really want to say - more than ever -. 'No, that's not what you're meant to do. You're meant to say, 'Hello FrauMoose. How are you? Oh and I'm sorry I never replied to that text Dad sent. By the way, is he in...'

Kleinzeit Sun 03-Mar-13 18:18:54

I’m not quite clear – how has this “emerged”? It doesn’t sound as if he has had a formal diagnosis by a professional – so do you just mean it is “suspected” by a relative? Or was he diagnosed in the past, but never told?

If you believe he has autism, then it will make social interaction a lot easier if you can accept that he simply isn’t any good at managing social interaction on the phone or by text or however else. Hold on to the fact that he’s not doing it on purpose, he is not trying to irritate or offend you, he is not being careless or thoughtless. Instead it is something that is genuinely extremely difficult for him – and it may always be extremely difficult for him.

And also, especially given that he’s an adult now, his having autism (or any diagnostic label) will not suddenly give you the right to point out his failings to him or start correcting him unless he asks for your advice. Instead keep trying to see the person behind the words -- or lack of words!

FrauMoose Sun 03-Mar-13 19:48:48

It's a bit of a long story. Essentially my two stepchildren were encouraged by their mother not to talk about anything to do with their life with her/her family, and to regard their relationship with their father (and me) as belonging in an entirely separate compartment.

My stepson did well at school until his teens, and some of the difficulties he then experienced could have been put down to adolescent upheavals. His secondary school did not do pastoral care well, and they also didn't do communication with separated parents well. So my husband was kept out of the loop by both his ex and the school - though it became clear that there were ways my stepson was struggling as time went on.

It's only as my stepdaughter has become more independent that she's felt a blt to tell me that she has got two uncles with Aspergers and two cousins. She reckons her mother has high functioning autism and that her brother - my stepson - does as well. As a young man who has graduated rather belatedly (two gap years, then a four year degree course) he feels adrift in the world, and rather resentful that a some wonderful job hasn't appeared. In lots of ways of he functions very very well and of course it's not his fault that he doesn't 'get' other people, systems etc.

My stepdaughter says that his mother - who continues to provide him with a base - over-protects him and praises everything he does, which perhaps doesn't make it easier for him to understand that other people might expect a bit more from him. And it's my stepdaughter who's said to him that she reckons he may be on the autistic spectrum. He's rejected the idea. My husband wants to talk to him about this too. But my stepson tends to run away if anyone says anything that he doesn't like

I sense that it is not going to be easy for him to make his way forward in the world and I feel sad about that.

My own emotions are complicated by the fact that it seems increasingly likely that my late father had Asperger's syndrome. It was very difficult being brought up by someone who lacked empathy and interest and awareness. And inevitably my stepson's inability to communicate in a two-way fashion does bring back some unhappy memories.

Kleinzeit Sun 03-Mar-13 21:14:54

Oh dear, there aren’t going to be any easy answers are there? Things have drifted along for a very long time, and there’s no way to force your stepson to seek a diagnosis now if he’s not interested (and there wouldn’t be much benefit to a diagnosis if he’s not interested, anyway). I do hope his father can make this seem like something positive and useful for him.

Meanwhile you could try treating him as having autism and see if it helps – e.g. if you text him to make arrangements then tell him explicitly when to reply. But mostly it’ll probably be a matter of lowering your expectations. Part of the difficulty with autism is that it’s hard to know exactly what is causing a problem – is it social anxiety, or not realising what behaviour is expected, or difficulty planning and organising himself – and if he’s not willing or able to explore the details it will be hard to help him come up with solutions.

I sympathise with your feelings about your father. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s it brought painful questions to the surface about some other people in my family. It’s not easy!

LemonDrizzled Sun 10-Mar-13 21:43:10

Hi Fraumoose I am very interested in your problem and the replies. My DP has a son in his twenties who graduated a year ago. He has moved back and is unemployed and increasingly resentful at the world.
He was diagnosed at 17 with Non Verbal Learning Disorder and is on the Autistic spectrum. I find it hard to fathom whether he is lacking in initiative and motivation because of his condition or is bone idle! We are putting a roof over his head and feeding him but not giving him money. He is a lovely lad but clumsy, wasteful, unhelpful and thoughtless. I don't think any of this is deliberate but I struggle to understand him when he is so different to my DC.
Do you know of any resources for parents of adult children with learning difficulties? This lad will not easily cope with independent living I fear. But DP loves him dearly and will never give up on him.

FrauMoose Mon 11-Mar-13 14:21:41

I don't think there are going to be any quick fix answers for our family. My partner did have a conversation with my stepson on Friday evening, which is the first time he has raised the issue of autism. The conversation didn't go too badly, which is something. Stepson is rather nomadic and unsettled, and I think it may take some time before he finds anything like a real way forward. I did read in the Guardian recently about a project which supports autistic people towards employment - perhaps you can Google in case that is suitable for you and yours?

FrauMoose Mon 11-Mar-13 14:24:51

Oh, the project was called Prospects.

LemonDrizzled Mon 11-Mar-13 20:55:03

It is a slow process I am sure. And being intelligent almost makes it harder because it obscures the nature of the problem and raises their expectations I think.

I struggle with reading my DSS' mood. Unless I interrogate him I don't know if he is enjoying something or not. I am unsure whether he likes me or not. My DP says he does and that he talks to me a lot, but how does he know?? My DC express themselves so forcefully I am in no doubt of their feelings.

Prospects sounds great but London is a long way off.

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