my father is an autism denier...I need to get through to him

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technical_cat
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22 Feb 2015, 9:29 am

Hello, sorry if this is in the wrong catagory - I'm hoping for some suggestions.

I'm 42 year old woman, AS diagnosed late in life, I work, manage my house and 14 year old daughter and have a structured social life and friends. I work with people on the spectrum professionally.

I told my father of my autism last summer, as he approached me and said he thinks he has it and needed counselling - his marriage had begun to break down after 30 years or so. Since then he has had a complete turn around in his thinking. When I told him I'd been formally diagnosed in January this year, he said that I should "try not to think about it".

I have tried to get him to read my diagnosis report, given him information and tried to talk to him. He denies AS exists and that I am autistic. He says doctors are wrong and HFA/AS isn't real.

He has a terrible tendency to come too much into my personal space, I have an extended personal boundary. In fact I observe him being inappropriately intrusive with respect to everyone's personal space.

I suspect he's autistic as well, have discussed this possibility with him, but he aggressively defends now that he's not - and so I don't mention it anymore as it stresses him, instead I try to explain his behaviour and mine in general terms without using the "A" word.

I am seeing a lot of him at the moment as his marriage has just failed, he calls at my house a lot. Usually I can cope with him in small doses on my terms - as in being able to get away ! I Love him and am trying to support him as he's going through a bad time.

This week I had to explain that I feel really bad, and unravel when he's constantly invading my personal space - I was trying to prepare a meal and he kept leaning in really close to me trying to have a conversation and showing me things on his phone. I'd asked him several times to give me some room but he ignored me.

He told me not to be so stupid and laughed - his usual reaction to everything I try and explain to him.

Later he told me as he left that "I better not tell his new girlfriend not to get to close when I meet her, or say anything like I'd said earlier".

He's keen for me to meet her, she was a psychiatric nurse, so I think she will understand - and it's unlikely she will intrude my personal space in any case.

I'd like to meet her, but have told my father that I won't, and that we need to talk again about my personal space. He thinks I'm making a fuss about nothing and cut the conversation short.

I'm finding his attitude to my autism exhausting.....

Anyone successful turned around an autism denying parent ?



Adamantium
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22 Feb 2015, 9:49 am

If he approached you about it, but now denies that it's even a thing, he is probably really scared, threatened and fearful about the idea that he may be that thing. He is probably thinking on some illogical level that if he denies that it exists then he can't be it. But it isn't about the label, it's about behavior--and I think this might be a productive approach for you.

Forget trying to make him accept the label for you or him, instead focus on what you need and expect from him and define your boundaries with him. Don't try to explain or attribute the unacceptable behavior, just shut it down.

"I need space to cook, here dad. please go stand over there. If you can't stop yourself from trying to show me your phone while I cook, you're going to have to leave."

"You know, I really don't like it when you ignore me and call me stupid. Please don't come over if that's what you want to do."

When you need to explain your needs to him, don't ascribe them to autism, because then you will argue about that--instead just focus on communicating your needs: "I need more space and you make me uncomfortable when you do this. Stop. Now." You have a right to this.



kraftiekortie
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22 Feb 2015, 9:58 am

I agree with the above.

Adamentium: glad you're back in full circulation.



technical_cat
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22 Feb 2015, 10:17 am

Just to clarify - I don't mention the "A" word to him at all now and didn't in the cooking a meal scenario.

I think what you're saying is that he can't be around me if he won't listen to what I need.....but the reason he can't "hear" what I need is because he's autistic. .....

I've done everything you suggested.

I also explained that he has to respect what people say they can and cannot cope with when we chatted about a friend recently.

My father is incapable of accepting how someone else feels, even when he's told, if it's not what he's feeling.


I'm looking for advice from anyone who's successfully got an autism denier parent to accept it - as none of my current strategies *I.e. avoiding the topic and speaking in general terms* are working.

Also he is warning me not to disclose to anyone he cares about I think - but I may need to. I can't not disclose if I need to because he's embarrassed.

Also, more importantly he's telling me not to tell his gf that I need physical space, without even using autism speak.....because he thinks me needing space is stupid and weird because he doesn't feel like that.....

I know he's scared, which is why I don't mention the "A" word to him anymore - as I said in my post.


I would also add, I don't usually spend a lot of time with my father, wasn't bought up with him, until his marriage breakdown recently.

Anyone with any effective strategies, apart from consequences of excluding him if he doesn't stay within my boundaries ???

I really need to try and turn him around if possible - maybe time is the only thing that will help.
thanks.



technical_cat
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07 Mar 2015, 3:47 am

I'd just like to update here in case it's helpful to anyone.

I explained again to my Dad, without using the A word, that I really can't handle people in my personal space, adding that I've ended friendships and relationships because of this problem. I also said that the reason I was so upset about it is that I didn't want to have to ban him from calling around because he's my Dad.

He asked me if I was going to have a boyfriend again, and I explained that it's harder for me for just this reason that I have been trying to explain to him and that's why I'm single - I asked him if he ever remembered me bring physically close with my last boyfriend - and he agreed that we weren't.

I went on to explain that it didn't mean that I didn't really love that boyfriend, and me being weird about people in my space is absolutely no reflection on my feelings about that person.

I explained that even with my daughter who I love very much, I don't want to be physically close to her - and asked him if he remembers seeing her in my space - he agreed that he hadn't seen that unless she was upset and asking for comfort.

This kind of explanation seemed to get through a little.

The problem has also been addressed somewhat because he's moved in with his girlfriend and is happy, So he's not calling to my house.

I did see him last night in his new place, and hugged him as a greeting and on leaving, he teased me and said "oh, it's ok with your personal space now is it?!"

So I replied "yep, I can get away from you in this situation if I need to Dad, just don't stalk me in my house again when I'm trying to get stuff done !"

I said it in a jokey way, and even though he's not fully accepting it, and I think I'll have to keep reminding him (maybe forever?) - I feel a bit more positive that he's getting the message.



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07 Mar 2015, 12:58 pm

Your technique is known as "Disclosing the symptoms/traits" . Glad it's working for you


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“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman