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Parents need help with 23 year old son (Aspergers)

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Our 23 year old son was diagnosed with AS aged 8. We've been through the usual roller coaster of emotions and behavioural issues over the years. He's recently come to live back at home, after completing his degree. Last Saturday, we had a flare up, bedroom door slammed, and cross words spoken.

Since then, he's hunkered down in his room, refusing to talk to us, other than through gritted teeth telling us how much he "hates" us, hates the house, and can't wait to leave. He took a box of cornflakes with him, and that seems to be all he's eaten all week, plus glasses of water (he's rejected anything we've taken to him).

We went out yesterday for a few hours, hoping he might at least get something to eat -- but he didn't appear to leave his room.

We have a very angry young man with low self-esteem, and we're at our wits end to know what to do. We've never had anything last as long as this, or with such brutal determination before.

Does this situation sound familiar to anyone here? Can anyone suggest what we might do? 

Thank you.





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hello woodlarker

 i am autistic. the following is my opinion, my perspective. please take what you find useful and discard or ignore the rest.

 without knowing the details of what triggered the disagreement, i cannot fully apply my autistic problem solving mind to the issue and identify perhaps where the conflict is - saying that, of course i would only have your side of it, but then i'd have to hazard a best guestimate as to your son's position. in all things, there are two sides to any dispute, disagreement or otherwise....

 saying that, i can explore what you have outlined. there are two main areas that jump out.

 your son has returned from uni with a degree back into homelife. at uni, he no doubt explored independence and achieved self worth and self esteem for himself by completion of a degree. that validation on top, externally, by examiners to say "yes, you are x good enough" (x being the value of achievement in degree terms 2.2, 2.1, 1.1) will of course be an added perspective for him to reflect upon....

 your son returns home..... why? why is he home? has he no-where else to go? can he not achieve employment? does he have to rely on you? has he failed in some way?

 now to your side..... your son goes away to uni and returns with a degree qualifcation after three years of intensive study and has to return to the family home, back into his bedroom, his childhood bedroom, because he ????? .......... <---and here is the gap in the information. NO, you do not have to tell me, these comments are only to aid reflection....

 are you behaving in old patterns towards a now adult individual whom you previously treated only as a 'child'?<---YES, he is still your child, he always will be. flare ups do not mean that he doesn't love you. BUT, parents can be just as troublesome as teenagers can be for parents. often, for autistics, getting our message across can be a fraught business, even at the best of times, even with professionals we have to fight tooth and nail sometimes......

 so he can't wait to leave...... why? what is stopping him from leaving now? <----this i think is the real issue here. the problem he can't solve or feels inadequate about. and potentially that subconscious inadequacy is being reinforced, not on purpose, not with intention by you, but that is what is happening in a broader sense.

 so he wants to leave. that's his intention. he wants independence again.... why? what has taken that sense of independence away???? he is still the same person with a degree who has achieved but..... ?????? where did the sense of self empowerment go? where did the adult go? why is there suddenly a child again in its place?????

 i think neither your son nor yourselves as parents are deliberately creating this conflict situation. it is, as always with everything, a matter of communication and miscommunication, and listening and understanding perspectives. it's about roles, adult, child, parent. it's about who we are in any given situation.

 if your son just wants to stew in his bedroom and eat cornflakes, and you are happy to give your son what he needs and support him with a roof over his head and a safe space until he can work things out for himself, then why not just do that? why not just do the bear minimum? why not ask his permission if you want to do something for him, ask him: what do you need? we would like to help. and of course that help must be unconditional. if it comes with: you do this and do as your told because you are in our house our rules etc. etc. then that's just treating someone like a child and you need to ask yourself: would you do that to a friend who was in distress?

 as you can see, there are perhaps too many variables in the mix for me to be able to give an accurate reflection or analytical perspective on this. however, i will say that from personal experience of situations of major conflict with my parents over the years, it is often the case that best intention is always there, on both sides. a desperate need in the autistic to reconcile who they are with need to please the parent, and a desperate need in the parents to give to their child (any solution, even food) in order for their child to be happy.

 i hope the above does in some way provide even a tiny bit of information useful, if not, my apologies.

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Hello Ferret

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and very helpful reply. It really has helped us see things from a different perspective. We have made a little progress in the last day or two, with our son being a little more communicative with us. He's also leaving his room to get food from the kitchen, but only after we've gone to bed. We're taking each day as it comes,  and doing our best to continue to show our love for him.

Again, our heartfelt thanks for your support.



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my pleasure.

that does sound like your son has experienced a typical 'meltdown'. often as autistics when we are struggling to find a solution to a problem we get overloaded and unfortunately we spill over the top. it's not nice for us and unfortunately not nice for those around us. it's just a case of understanding, and sometimes it takes a while for even us to understand our own processes as we just function differently in terms of emotions and how we organise the experiences we have. what appears irrational, is only because what we experience feels irrational to us. it's a just a reflection. we just try to find a logical route through the ilogical and we get frustrated and emotionally distressed as a result. often this manifests in very basic emotions like anger, tears etc etc. we remain, however, peaceful in our intention at all times. we're just afraid of what's going on around us and it's too much information. we are sorry that we can't communicate this to others for them to understand, and equally feel isolated that we are not understood. we then find strategies to minimise the effects of what we perceive to be 'wrong' eg. venturing out to get food from the kitchen when no-one is around. this is because we don't want to hurt others by our words or behaviour. we feel like 'inconvenience'. we are very sad, often, and we lack the ability to communicate this 'state' of mind and being. we do get there in the end, though. 

3 hours ago, woodlarker said:

He's also leaving his room to get food from the kitchen, but only after we've gone to bed.

yup, this sounds and i see it as 'space-giving'. it's about boundaries. he's needing space and also trying to come up with the best solution for both sides to reduce conflict. resolution of his issues for himself are for him to deal with. obviously this is difficult to 'live with' from your side as you'll feel resentment of the house being treated like a hotel. but of course just bear with it. if it becomes untennable for you as parents, another solution must be sought for the benefit of everyone...

as i'm sat here i'm thinking of possible solutions, perhaps if there are financical restrictions on him obtaining a home for himself, perhaps he could explore for himself ways of getting independent living. the nas may help with ideas on this. but obviously it's a case of you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. sooner or later, the solution will present itself. i think you need to give yourselves some reflective time and do what is right for you first, and then the middle ground between where you stop and your son starts will reveal itself. that boundary, for you and your son, is the most important thing, in terms of wellbeing for both sides.

all the best. by all means do keep posting, i'm sure others will jump in and reply too.

also, if your son wants to chat, here or other forums might be a good idea so he can connect with others like him. 


ps. here's a little something extra from an independent source that may give yet another perspective... psychologytoday.com/blog/presence-mind/201306/parents-grads-beware-the-enabling-danger-zone

Edited by Ferret

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