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Autism

Emotional Challenges of Asperger’s

12/29/2011

Question:

My son is a young adult living with aspergers.  He says he feels guilty for being a "burden" on us and that we would be better of without him.  While living with his father and I, he has been sucidal and has had several attempts to take his life.  After he became more stable, he decided to run away, and cut off all ties from us.  He now lives far from us and is renting a room in the same small town as his grandparrents.  He gets a good size check every month, he is also has a job and is taking a PE and math class at college.

Finacially he is not responsible on his own.  He ignores bills and bill collectors call me looking for him.

This is a difficult thing for us as his parents.  I need some help to try to understand why he would leave and stop talking to us.

 Is this just another way of them trying to find their place in life? Is this another way of not being able to handle things? Should I try to bring him home or would it hurt him?

 

Answer:

A child with any kind of disability multiplies the angst that any parent goes through with any child leaving the nest. If the adult child is obviously incompetent, a parent might apply for guardianship. In this case it sounds like this young man is making some positive moves to take responsibility for himself, albeit with many mistakes. One of the difficult tasks any parent faces is to allow the child to make enough mistakes to learn from them. 

 
And at some point, the parent has to let go. This is taking a chance, of course; he might do something disastrous, e.g., resulting in death, jail, or other undesirable outcomes. But attempting to hold on and protect carries its own risks, as you point out. 
 
Parents in situations like this should seek some professional counseling for their own grief, disappointment, anxiety, guilt feelings,and worry. Only after resolving some of those emotional entanglements will you be able to decide on a reasonable course of action --or decide that it might be better not to act. 

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Response by:

L Eugene Arnold, MD, MEd L Eugene Arnold, MD, MEd
Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University