If my child is Autistic, does it mean that I am, too?

For those connected to the Autistic Community, listening to Autistic voices, and soaking up every new finding about autism and Autistic culture, it is common knowledge that autism runs in families. Does that mean that if your child, sibling, or parent is diagnosed as Autistic, that you might be Autistic, too?

Quite possibly it does.

Humans tend to gravitate and attract people who are like us. People who “get” us, relate to us, and accept us for who we are. So it makes sense that if we are Autistic or Neurodivergent in other ways (such as ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, or Tourette’s) it is quite possible that our family members, partners, and close friends are neurodivergent, too.

When an Autistic person tells you they think you might be Autistic, it is not a criticism. It’s a compliment! We are saying, “I get you,” “You’re awesome,” “We are kindred spirits,” “You’re my people,”or “You’re one of us!”.

They consider you Autistic in a good way. In the best way.

You may not know it yet, but Autistics see it. The “Spectrum Radar” is strong in those who accept and embrace #AutisticPride. 

Of course, not everyone with an autistic child (or parent, or partner, or sibling) is Autistic or otherwise Neurodivergent.

But many are. Could you be?

If all we know about autism is the negative, stereotypical, outdated version (the medical model), then of course we don’t see it or suspect it. We see nothing of our own experience in that stereotype.

To even consider it, we need to overcome our own internalized ableism, a natural byproduct of an ableist society.

For those of us who have spent years identifying as neurotypical advocates for their Autistic child, it can come as a rude shock to realize that we unconsciously hold ableist views, too– that when it comes to considering that we may be autistic, we may feel defensiveness, shame, or embarrassment.

It’s hard to admit that all the Autistic Pride you have been encouraging in your child or loved one doesn’t translate when it relates to you being autistic.

That’s ok. It’s normal. We’ve been there. It’s all a part of the journey.

There has been exponential growth over the last decade (particularly over the last 5 years) in scientific understanding of the brain and nervous system. This, combined with the groundswell of #ActuallyAutistic voices rising up all over the world, via the accessible platform of social media, has come together to create a perfect storm in which everything previously thought to be true about autism has been challenged, debunked, or reframed. Professionals are catching up with what Autistic people knew all along, and the tide is turning.

It’s an exciting time to be Autistic!

When the first person in a family is diagnosed as Autistic, we may think, “But everyone does that,” or “That’s normal,” or “What’s the problem?”

It certainly is mind blowing to learn that actually, no, the majority of others don’t think or feel or experience the world like we do.

It seems so normal to us as often our family of origin is also neurodivergent and we attract like minded confidants, so often many of our friends are neurodivergent (although they probably have no idea that they are, either). 

There is no problem. It is normal– if you’re Autistic. But no, not everyone does that. Thinks that. Experiences that. Or, at least, not to that degree.

It may come as a shock to learn that non-autistic, non-neurodivergent humans actually think and experience the world very differently to us! It was a surprise to me, too.

The more we listen to #ActuallyAutistic voices explain what it’s really like to be Autistic, the more it can start to make sense that we may be, too.

For some of us, this leads to seeking a professional assessment and diagnosis or confirmation of autism or another neurodivergent condition. Others are happy to self-identify, and that is enough.

Identifying as Autistic in an ableist world requires courage. #AutisticPride is a journey that doesn’t always come quickly or easily.

Many autistic people live their whole lives never ever suspecting or knowing they’re autistic.

Others spend their whole lives actively denying and defending their position that they aren’t Autistic.

Then there are those who “love their child, but hate their autism.” They’re the parents who want to rid their child of autism, find a cure, or fund research which aims to eradicate autism. Those whose identity is so caught up in fighting autism, they would never in a million years consider that they are autistic, too.

But if you are reading this, you are on your way. You are listening to Autistic voices, learning about Autistic culture, and keeping an open mind.

Considering you might be Autistic requires a paradigm shift. It’s a process. It takes time. Whether you end up identifying as Autistic or not, you will have learned a lot more about what it means to be Autistic. And that’s good thing.

Good luck with your journey, wherever it leads. 

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4 Responses

  1. I got diagnosed about 2 years ago at the age of 43. I started to see the same traits as I have identified in myself (both positive and negative) in my father, as well my paternal uncle and grandfather (now deceased). It gives me a tremendous sense of pride. My daughter is only 5, and I don’t think I see much of those traits in her yet. But I do see: tremendous memory, great ability to concentrate.

  2. As someone who was diagnosed late (at agea 54) I really relate to your point about how society’s misconceptions about what Autism is (which we have grown up with) impedes our ability to not just grasp, but to celebrate, who we are.

  3. I was diagnosed at 2 1/2 and I am the only one thats diagnosed. Since then, I am wondering whats the cause of it, so I mainly look for clues in my family. That cause seeking for me is essential and for me its linking the source of my “conditions”. I just view my autism as not all a great thing because its also has great challenge in the past and I feel like I really don’t belong here in some cases. But thats just me, I just really liked the connection and hope that I can see a connection with my family and hopes theres a link.

  4. I’m almost 100% sure my mother in law is autistic. She’s 70 and will probably never be checked. But I don’t see any of the traits in my husband or his sisters. There are only 4 grandchildren and I don’t think any of them are autistic. My son and husband have ADHD. And mother in law was diagnosed with adhd as well but her characteristics are way different. She definitely has adhd but she is autistic too. I’m sure of it. I just think it’s curious that none of her children or grandchildren show any characteristics. It makes me wonder if one day I might end up with an autistic grandchild. Like it has to do with who we have children with and if the genetic make up has to be right to show up as autism.

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