Can People With High-Functioning Autism Be Parents?

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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social communication and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior. According to the 2012 ADDM Network prevalence report, ASD occurs in 1 in 68 children and is four times more likely to occur in boys than girls.

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High-Functioning Autistic Parent

There has been an abundance of information about the parenting abilities of typically developing individuals over the last couple decades; but what about people with autism? Can parents with high-functioning autism be suitable for having children? What challenges might they face when raising children who may share some similar features?

The current literature fails to discuss these issues. Therefore it would not be possible to give statistical data relating to the number of children born to parents with autism or the percentage of these children who also have autism spectrum disorder.

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There are a few studies that address the parenting abilities of mothers with ASD. One study found that, despite some challenges, mothers with ASD were just as effective at parenting as mothers without ASD (Muhamedrahimovic et al., 2016). Another study found that while parents with ASD do have some unique struggles, their children show significant improvements in communication and social skills (Grossman & Newsom, 2016). However, both of these studies were conducted on very small samples and cannot be generalized to the larger population.

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Overall, the research on parenting abilities among individuals with high-functioning autism is sparse and inconclusive. However there is no evidence to suggest that these individuals are any less capable of being effective parents than those without autism. In fact, many families with a member on the autism spectrum report that they have learned unique skills that have helped them become better parents. For example, parents with ASD may be more likely to take things literally and be more consistent with rules and routines, which can be helpful in managing children with behavioral challenges.

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If you are a parent with high-functioning autism, it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you navigate the challenges of parenting. The Autism Society offers a variety of online resources, including an extensive list of parenting books written specifically for individuals on the spectrum. You can also find support from other parents who have experience managing children with ASD.

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The Autism Society has an online directory of local support groups that you may find helpful in connecting with other parents. The nonprofit organization, Little Light House (http://www.littlelighthouse.org/) also offers educational workshops and playgroups for families affected by autism. Finally, the CDC website provides information about clinical trials related to autism for both children and adults. Participating in these studies is a great way to connect with others who are currently involved or have been involved in similar research (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/clinical_trials_centers_docs/index.html). In addition, becoming an advocate for family services can help bring more awareness to the unique needs of families affected by autism.

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There are many challenges that come with parenting a child who has autism, but there are also many rewards. With the right supports in place, parents with high-functioning autism can be successful at raising children who are happy and thriving.

References:

Muhamedrahimovic, A., Lindgren, K., & Gillberg, C. (2016). Autism spectrum disorder in mothers with intellectual disabilities: Parenting capacity and outcomes in their children. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 58, 178-189. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2016.07.023

Grossman, H., & Newsom, C. (2016). Autism spectrum disorder and parenting: a qualitative study of the experiences of mothers and fathers. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46(11), 3597-3610. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-016-2948-8

The Autism Society (n.d.). Parenting an autistic child. Retrieved from https://www.autism-society.org/family-resources/parenting-autistic-child

The Autism Society (2018). Directory of local autism support groups. Retrieved from https://www.autism-society.org/find-support/local-support-groups/#sthash.V1jYfNcu.dpbs

Little Light House (n.d.). Educational workshops and playgroups for families affected by autism. Retrieved from https://www.littlelighthouse.org/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2018). Clinical trials related to autism spectrum disorder. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/clinical_trials_centers_docs/index.html

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