How do you deal with autism and high-conflict co-parenting?

I have a four-year-old son with an ASD diagnosis. My son’s mother is in the process of getting a formal assessment for autism now as well. She has identified her own childhood was full of conflicts with her own mother and now her ability to maintain client relationships, thus negatively impacting her ability to sustain her business.

We are separated and co-parenting has been difficult. My perception is that autism influences the extent to which we don’t really understand each other’s motivation or accept each other’s points of view. It has led to police investigations and ugly disputes at family court over what I did or did not do according to her perception. i.e., the way I greet her on the street.

I see all of it connected to autism and a lack of understanding of what other people consider reasonable.

I don’t know to what extent my son has inherited these tendencies from both of our sides. If anything, he seems much happier than either of us, which reflects how hard we are both working to give him a good start.

I remember reading on your blog that both you and your ex-husband have autism and that you now seem to be getting on much better than before. I’d love to hear more about this.

1 reply
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    It’s great that you and your ex-wife both understand that you have autism and not just your kid. That goes a long way toward helping you get along with each other and effectively co-parenting your son. If you understand your own problems, you can deal with yourselves much better which paves the way for dealing with each other much more effectively.

    The way my ex and I get along is that I took on all our marital debt, and I agreed to support the kids myself and not take any money from him, and in exchange I got full custody of the kids.

    I make all parenting decisions myself, but I give him unlimited access to the kids and often subsidize it. He annoys me but I try to ignore it. I pretty much do whatever he asks. A lot of it is autistic habits – wash sheets twice, cook his food a special way, buy new toothpaste, turn off certain lights.

    I think if you asked him, he’d say he never complains when I bug him, and he lets me do whatever I want. So probably the truth is we both try really hard. And neither of us has significant others complicating things. Even when I was living on the farm, we all parented together. We ate together. All slept in the same house, etc.

    It sounds like you have a good understanding of your ex-wife’s limitations. Your son will probably go on medication for ADHD and anxiety (most people with autism need both types of meds) and when your ex sees how much better your son feels on medication, she might try it herself, then she’ll be more pleasant to deal with.

    Meanwhile, make yourself emotionally available to your son.


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