aspergers and familiesParents of any child with differences struggle with feeling isolated. One of the challenges for families with Aspergers Syndrome (AS) and nonverbal learning disabilities (NLD or NVLD) children is that these children don’t look different.  They’re bright and verbal; their quirkiness, sensitivities and apparent oppositionalism aren’t easy to understand. As a result, parents often feel blamed for their children’s special challenges.I know one mother who was told bluntly by her brother, “You must be doing something wrong. Give me two weeks with that kid in my house and I’d straighten him out.”

Parents are well aware that rigidity meeting rigidity doesn’t work and only leads to meltdowns. Aspergers and NLD children require unique parenting skills based on understanding, acceptance, and appropriate interventions. Blaming and punishment don’t make family life any better and don’t encourage positive growth in children.

Sometimes family members are open to education. Two clear explanations of AS are the descriptions on the site Aspergers101, https://aspergers101.com/aspergers-syndrome/ and on the AANE (Asperger/Autism Network) site, https://www.aane.org/about_asperger_syndrome/what_is_asperger_syndrome.html.

A good description of NLD is on the LDA site, http://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/non-verbal-learning-disabilities/ and the SmartKidsWithLD site, http://www.smartkidswithld.org/first-steps/what-are-learning-disabilities/nld-overview/.

A good explanation comparing Aspergers AND NLD is https://www.aane.org/asperger_resources/articles/miscellaneous/asperger_nonverbal_learning.html. I’ve also written a blog with “real life” examples of both on PsychCentral: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/aspergers-nld/2016/03/recognizing-aspergers-or-nld/.

Some family members aren’t educable. They’re convinced that diagnoses are excuses for poor parenting, bad behavior, a lack of character or poor motivation. Any family therapist will tell you that “identified patients” are a focus for all the usual family dynamics: sibling rivalry, good child/bad child favoritism, traditional splits and roles played out over and over.

My best recommendation in that situation is the Serenity Prayer: grant me the serenity to accept what I can’t change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. If arguing is fruitless, stop trying. Simply say, “I’ll think about that” and move on. People have their limitations.

It may feel upsetting that you’re “giving up” and also that you can’t prove you’re right. It’s accepting you can’t make the situation into what you’d like to happen. These expectations are painful when you’re only fighting the same losing battle over and over.

If you can’t look to your family for support, look to local autism groups or organizations for parent groups, social activities, etc. You do need support from someone who “gets it.” There may be other parents at your school, religious congregation or neighborhood. I find when I talk about Aspergers, I usually find people have a family member or friend with a child on the spectrum or with spectrum-like challenges (NLD).

There are people who really “get it” if you allow yourself to look. [email protected] has a place to search for parent groups by state http://www.aspergersyndrome.org. PsychCentral forums include a subgroup on Aspergers and Autism. Googling can find your state networks and local resources. These connections are priceless in sharing ideas, experience and just feeling you’re not alone.

Man and boy walking photo available from Shutterstock