Parenting an Aspie: A Cerebral Task

03 Feb

What if I were to tell you that parenting a child with Asperger’s Disorder is (as not-so-simple as) having an argument without emotion? Perspective and patience, neither of which are plentiful for Aspies or for participants in an argument, are the keys to success.

Let’s face it. An argument takes on a life of its own. It is a verbal joust without rules, order, or logic. At their worst, arguments can be about “winning”, putting others down, and getting revenge. At their best, negative emotion fuels negative emotion as the initial trigger for the argument is shoved aside by anger, frustration, and impatience.

What happens when you replace the word argument with debate? The emotionality of the interaction is completely drained and replaced with rules and structure. A podium allows for uninterrupted speech. A topic is provided beforehand, affording each side time to construct their thoughts into cogent arguments and counterarguments. Emotion is for emphasis but is not necessarily effective or desired.

Let’s take a mom and an Aspie. Our Aspie has failed to brush her teeth after four reminders because the latest installment of Pokemon is far more interesting. Our mom has a long day ahead of her and little sleep and just needs our Aspie to brush her teeth, so they can leave for school.

Brush your teeth.

BRUSH your teeth.



When this shift occurs, from problem-solving, from logical, practical thinking, to emotionally laden speech, we lose our Aspie. We bombard her/him with tone of voice, facial expressions, postures, emotive language, and gestures that simply





Brushing anything is farthest from our Aspie’s mind as she tries to make sense of the emotion. Her mind whizzes, she panics, and she has no idea what to do. As she tries to make sense of the emotion, her mom continues to expect that task to be completed. A full-on argument ensues, and our Aspie’s ability to problem-solve, to think rationally – a typical cognitive strength for Aspies – is replaced with a Flight or Flight reaction (depending on the day).

When the dust settles, and the teeth are brushed, our Aspie cannot be left to pick up the pieces, attempting to understand both the problem and the emotion. We need to have a conversation with her, asking her: How can we avoid this next time? How can I communicate better?

Parenting an Aspie is a cerebral task, a constant one at that. By no means am I saying you can parent a neurotypical child easily or mindlessly but they can make sense and learn from your emotions. Your Aspie cannot. You will parent an NT with your gut and an Aspie with your brain. Your Aspie needs you calm, logical, and with your emotions in check.



Posted by on February 3, 2012 in ASD in the Grand Scheme


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10 responses to “Parenting an Aspie: A Cerebral Task

  1. thatawkwardkid93

    February 3, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    Very well done. I agree with you completely.


  2. quirkyandlaughing

    February 3, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    I can’t get over how true this post is. Especially this line – “When this shift occurs, from problem-solving, from logical, practical thinking, to emotionally laden speech, we lose our Aspie.”

  3. Mgrowing

    February 5, 2012 at 5:10 AM

    I am loving your blog. Do you have any Asperger-savvy therapists in the Washington D.C. area to recommend for our 11 year old Asperger daughter who is being bullied? She has worked with two therapists who are not familiar with Asperger’s, and she is now in worse shape – is showing additional stress-related symptoms.

    • jholverstott

      February 5, 2012 at 11:52 AM

      I do not off hand, but let me contact a few people and see if they have recommendations. You will hear from me!

      • Mgrowing

        February 5, 2012 at 1:04 PM

        Thanks so much. We are in Arlington, VA, a suburb of DC.

  4. solodialogue

    February 10, 2012 at 3:13 PM

    Well, you got my attention. This post is valuable because I’m pretty sure you’ve described me to some fair degree here. The problem is, how much can I reason with a five year old? I’ve tried but I might as well be speaking Swahili. Maybe this rings true for older children or maybe I’m missing something…

  5. ScienceMama

    February 18, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    You are so right. BUT, I am soooo tired of having to think smarter and be a creative problem solver ALL the time. Any suggestions for getting them to do the personal hygiene chores or perhaps even homework.. My Aspie just tells me he is thinking whenever he is told to do something. He spends hours trying to plan how he might get something done without making an effort. UUUGGH! I am just too tired to think anymore.

  6. globeonmytable

    December 7, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    Just found this post.

    This is definitely true. Learning how to get back to calmness, logicality and low state of emotion is crucial. Just practice and look into yourself until you know how best to do this. Also, learn how to spot yourself losing calmness etc at the first signs. Learn how to have as soothing and comforting a life to support your efforts as a parent.


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