Please help me reply to my mom's email concerning Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
August 30, 2009 4:50 PM Subscribe
My mom sent me an email today acknowledging for the very first time (that I am aware of) that she experiences symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder. I would like to write the best response that I can to her, with some links or information about possible next steps. I don't want to screw this up, please help me help her!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have spent my adult life aware of her serious emotional and cognitive problems. My younger years with my parents were awful – I was rebellious and angry and unable to accept the serious dysfunction in our family. For the last 10 years I have been in therapy intermittently (taking breaks due to geographical and financial difficulties), where I have successfully learned to be accepting yet necessarily distant from both of my parents. There is no question whatsoever between all of my therapists and me that my mother suffers from severe Aspergers symptoms (almost every single criteria in the DSM IV fits her), as well as some emotional difficulties. My dad has some emotional problems as well, but they don't seem to be as severe as my mother's. They have a happy marriage, but its been lived blissfully in denial. My brother and I have suffered immensely. I have recovered, my brother hasn't. We are not close.
Fortunately for me, I learned to be very independent from a young age. I also do not display any pragmatic or negatively-impacting symptoms of ASD. I do however experience intense passions and focus, am able to see patterns in things that others don't tend to pick up on, and show an aptitude for understanding complex systems like language, puzzles, mechanics, etc. Basically, I seem to have some of the socially desirable features of ASD, with none of the social impairments.
I say all this, because in an email exchange today with my mom about language and ASD (I study pragmatics and sent her a link to an NPR talk in reply to a question she asked), she responded with the following, "Do you think you may be Autistic? I am wondering about me and my sensitivity to sound and light. Mom."
I would love to reply to this email in the best, most encouraging way possible. Maybe include a link to a place near her to get a professional test to determine if she has ASD, and where to go from there. Maybe a support group number, or a reason why it might be beneficial to understand more about the possibility of a professional diagnosis.
I am trying not to get my hopes up about this opportunity to help her. My mother has lived a lifetime of pain and confusion, not understanding why she miscommunicates with those around her (she often unknowingly offends others to the point where they scream, yell, or otherwise distance themselves from her). My dad literally shelters her from the world, sacrificing the needs of others or dismissing them in order to keep my mom calm, all the while praising her for being quirky. He means well, and wants the best for her, but this approach has prevented her from being able to stand on her own, seek answers and grow.
I am not close with any members of my family, and have been independently successful and healthy for some time. Through the advice of my previous therapists, I have limited my contact with family members to brief phone conversations and emails. This has done wonders for my relationships with them, and I don't wish to disrupt the balance. However, I see this email as an opportunity to take some important growth steps to self-realization...for all of us. I want to do it right.
MeFites: Please provide me with some advice, links, or ways to approach this subject that might resonate best with her and help her. How would you handle this situation? What would you write back?
FYI, I am female, early 30's, not currently in therapy due to financial constraints, but definitely reconsidering going back now to get some help understanding and processing these new developments. I'll be happy to provide more info as necessary. Throwaway email address: firstname.lastname@example.org