Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum

Communication; relationships

Facial recognition
Some children had difficulties recognising people’s faces. Parents described instances when their children did not recognise other children from their class when they were out, or even recognise their own parents at times. One mother described how:

“At the age of five and six, when we were walking into school, all his friends, not his friends, all the people who knew him would say, “Hi Joseph.” And he wouldn’t even hear them. And I would say, “Joseph, that person over there said hi, who is that?” And he said, “I don’t know.” Totally not interested. They were just not there in existence, yet if they offended him, he knew. He didn’t remember their names and he didn’t remember who they were.”

All the factors discussed so far meant that few of the children we heard about had many friendships. Some children had a group of friends they hung out with but most did not. One mother described how; “Sometimes he says his friends come and play with him, which means two boys come and play with him for maybe two minutes out of the whole day and the rest of the time I think he is on his own.” Another mother said her son has never really believed he was a child and could never understand the behaviour of other children.

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A few of the children became very intense about a particular friendship and would become upset if the friend played with other children. Understanding how friendship works was difficult for some children and a few parents described how upset their children were when they began to notice that they were not included in other children’s games. One mother had the problem that other parents would not let their son play with her son - she did not know why.

Several parents talked about how hard their children tried to fit in with their peer group and this was also a common theme within our interviews with adults on the autism spectrum (see 'Feeling different'). Trying to make sense of information as well as having heightened sensory awareness could be very tiring for the children (see 'Fears, anxieties, sensory issues and meltdowns'). One mother described her son as running an ‘emulator’ spending every waking moment trying to fit in.

Being loving
While many of the children had difficulty communicating, some parents emphasised how loving their children were with family members; a characteristic not typically associated with autism. The children were described as “very loving, very kind and very clever” and “loyal”. One mother described her son as “surprisingly empathetic and surprisingly considerate” and another mother said that empathy was something the children could learn over time.
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However some parents said that their children were not loving. One mother, for example, said her six year old son with Asperger’s syndrome had “no compassion, no empathy with anybody” and some children also very much disliked being touched which was difficult for their parents.
A related area of everyday life that was difficult was going out and this is discussed in ‘Going out’Strategies for going out’.
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Last reviewed July 2017.

Last updated November 2010.


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