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A generation of parents are revealing some advantages of the condition, even when their children don’t share the diagnosis.
Hurley was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age 23, when her son was about 14 months old. Alex received his own autism diagnosis about a year later.
Hurley is not so far out of the ordinary as one might assume: A surprising number of people diagnosed with autism are raising children. Autism can pose challenges for parenting, their stories indicate. In addition to dealing with sensory overload, helping a child learn social skills can be difficult for people who struggle with social interactions themselves, for example. But autism can also provide valuable parenting skills, especially with a child who is also on the spectrum.
The lack of research so far not only offers these parents little support but also leaves society unprepared for the larger wave of people diagnosed with autism who are just coming of age and may be considering having children. Without enough information or support available to them, these young people may conclude that becoming a parent is just not an option for them.
Parents with autism may face practical challenges borne of their condition. For example, many people with the condition struggle with executive function, the set of complex mental processes that allow people to plan and carry out daily activities. They also have a tendency to become deeply immersed in what they are doing—to the detriment of other priorities. Hurley says in her case, this has made it difficult to meet the logistical demands of raising her children, such as getting them to school on time and keeping them clean and fed.