Was there LOVE????

Something is missing from the lives of autistic children.

If the insights I am gaining from adult reports of their childhood are any indication.

Growing up I truly believed my family hated me and could not wait to get rid of me,
did not want to hear from me, was not interested in anything I had to say, how I felt,
what I thought. I believed they looked for reasons to try to hurt me, to shame me, to humiliate me, to cause me emotional pain and to punish me. I learned to be wary, defensive, self protective, afraid and anxious.

I still remember vividly almost every incident in which I was treated this way . To be fair, my perceptions might have been skewed due to my very poor visual and audio processing, which did not allow me to experience anything in “real time”. I was not equipped to understand a thing I saw or heard (human interactions face to face or in any person to person settings such as family interactions, school classrooms and free time association with others, watching tv, movies, or today watching you tube or other online visual and audio presentations). Nobody knew or understood about autism back then. I do understand (now) how it happened.

I remember family sometimes said they loved me, but in day to day experiences it was very difficult to believe. I remember my sister asking me if I believed I was loved, and I replied that I believed my mother when she said she loved us. That’s what she said, one did not doubt mother!
But I never felt loved. I never understood the concept of love. Nobody ever explained it. I could not see it, so I could not feel it. Looking back, I can see signs ( now ) of concern and caring, but at the time of my family and youth experiences growing up, I did not see or understand. Nothing in my childhood was ever explained. I was simply ‘told’ and had to accept whatever i was told, and accept it immediately, whether it was good or bad.

I rely on my autistic brothers and sisters on several forums to give me insight and understanding of how my autistic life experiences compare with others’.
I rely on insights they provide to make adaptations or adjustments in the way I see my world. They explain much that has remained hidden to me all these years. I asked on a couple of the larger forums (over a thousand members in each) this question.

“When you were growing up , did you feel loved?”

Hundreds of answers poured in over a period of days. If the answers I got were any insight, the majority (approximately 19 out of 20) reported that they did not feel loved. I was not alone!
I had suspected as much due to the large number of posts with memories of difficult struggles and cruelty reported of childhoods past.
In other conversations, Autistic parents swear they will not intentionally make their child feel unloved, uncared for, ignored, or cast aside, isolated or as though they were being discarded.
I believe it is human nature for parents to want life to be better for their children than the childhood they experienced. (but I don’t know many people who had happy childhoods).

I then asked a follow up question and asked the people who gave me insights to answer another question. “if you grew up unloved, what could have changed to make you feel loved?” and
” If you grew up feeling loved, what do you think made you believe you were loved”?

Overwhelmingly, the answers to this question were so moving. First of all, many of us needed to feel safe. Many of us remembered frequent emotional or physical punishments, criticisms, pointing out of weaknesses and scoldings, never feeling free to be themselves, feeling the anger, disgust, contempt and revulsion of their family members and just waiting for the next round of attacks on their bodes and or their psychological/emotional existence.

Most said they wished they had been listened to, encouraged, had explanations or discussions about so many aspects of life, had been approved of, had been included in family activities, had been at least sometimes the focus of loving and kind attention, instead of being ignored, criticized, cast aside or isolated.
One point brought up over and over, was being kept from family outings, family events, family activities that other siblings were included in.
I remember being sent to my grandparents, who did make me feel loved and worthy and who encouraged me, engaged me, and were kind to me.
I was in about 4th grade when I finally realized that the weekends I spent at my grandparents were weekends that family outings without me happened. I got full reports from the sister next younger, about where they went and what fun it all was. When I protested, and asked whi I could not have gone too, I was told “you had your special time with grandma and grandpa”.

The weekends when my siblings went to visit grandma and grandpa, the rest of us stayed home.

Many others had similar memories. Not welcome in my own family circle to do the fun things they did. What message does that send?


I think I really did not understood about all the facets of love and all its implications or the ways it is shown. I know I tried to make my own children loved, and as young adults, they report I succeeded in that. Somehow that is so precious to me. Of all the things I longed for as a child, to feel I was loved was at the top of the list. I never felt I succeeded with my parents or my siblings. Love may have been present but I did not experience it. I did not believe it. How much of my experience and its interpretation was the truth, and how much was my processing struggles and my autism keeping me from understanding???

I have struggled, as many autistic folks do, to sort my emotions and understand them.

Not until my learning about my own autism, and examining my previous experiences through the understanding of how autism has affected everything in my life did I have more than crumbs of understanding taken from clues in my early life, and most of it I “got wrong” or was incompletely informed. It is a lot to digest, it is a lot to understand. I am still working on sorting it out.

I hope that autistic children today are getting explanations about everything, the nature of things that are not black and white cut and dried in life, things like emotions- love, hate, how they can happen in a relationship at the same time and what it means. How emotions work, how to recognize them, how to understand other peoples’ emotions and what to do about it all.

Parents of autistic children, please keep explaining everything… what, how, why, when…. it is so important your child’s understanding of the world, their place in it, and to their sense of self and their perception of life as it unfolds around them. Don’t assume they understand what seems evident to you. I am fully intelligent, and I can learn, but sometimes I need to have the nature of things explained. In the case of those with auditory and or visual processing struggles, a lot that is evident to neurotypical people can be missed or misinterpreted.

Take time, explain everything. Your children will thank you some day.

The best way to work

Autistic strengths and weaknesses of function
Find the best way to understand everything!

I have been spending time examining the ways I learn. I am beginning to understand all the best and worst ways I deal with the world.
I spent more than 65 years not knowing that it was near to useless to attend a lecture or live demonstration of any technique or process. I simply can not absorb the information presented.

I spent more than 65 years never understanding that what I heard and saw in lectures, live demos, and other audio or visual presentations such as television, video, or podcast would be wasted time for me.

I spent 65 years wondering how I could be so stupid, and how come I didn’t
seem to “get it” or understand what was evidently plain to others. Any social interaction or gathering was nothing but confusion, chaos, misunderstandings, frustration, and disappointment or humiliation or both to me.

I finally found out , through neurological testing once I knew of my autism diagnosis, that my sensory processing in all things audio and video, and especially in a combined format was only 30 percent or less functional. That is very very low! Finally I understood.
Try this. put on a pair of sunglasses, tear a tiny hole in a paper napkin and cover the lenses of the glasses so that you can only see the bit of light and image through the hole. Then put on earplugs, the kind that muffle all sound. Now go watch a movie or a video you have never seen or turn the radio on and listen to it without raising the volume . How much did you understand?
That is what most of my life experience has been like! No wonder I ‘didn’t get it’!

In order for me to learn, and to understand, I must read the information and look at diagrams, line drawings or simple photos in order for me to truly absorb and process information.
I will always struggle to understand real life interactions with others, or anything I observe (think of baseball games at the stadium, a concert or an opera, a lecture or appearance by somebody you admire) Real time is always too fast for my processing. It is how my neurology works.

Do you know how the neurology of your autistic children , autistic parents, spouse or friends works best?
Like my parents, peers, siblings, bosses, co workers, and teachers all those years ago, are you thinking I am being stupid, obstinate, willful or deliberately mean when in truth I do not understand what is expected of me, why, nor understand what might have just happened to create the upset situation I have somehow caused?

Neurological tests show I have high average intelligence… it proves I can learn.

But I also have real definable handicaps to understanding most things around me that happen “in real life” or “in real time” around me. Think of how this affects me every day. Interactions at the grocery, post office, doctors office, with neighbors, spouse and family, any ordinary interaction for you is filled with social hazards for me!

Sensory processing is how we receive any information, make contact with our world, or understand
what is happening around us. Sensory input is how we interact with others, with how we learn.

I have become convinced that knowing my strengths is the best way for me to proceed from here forward in light of my autism diagnosis.

Now I wonder about all the ways other autistic people process information. It seems that most autistic persons are highly visual. Movies, live demonstrations, videos can all be helpful. If the person has audio processing struggles, or is not visual, but is able to process audio spoken or sung words, etc best, learning techniques can be adapted. Not only learning, but what of every day life? What if the person whose best strengths are visual could use visual reminders of things needing to be done, of schedules or lists or to learn new ways to do things? How can this strength be put to work for better successes in every day living?

What if the person whose strengths lie in hearing and audio input could use those to learn, to deal with lists and reminders, to find new ways to do things? Recorded information, books on tape, audio reminders on phone or hearing/listening devices would boost learning and performance. How else could tools that aid audio processing help every day?

People whose strengths are in physical performance, or related to scent, tactile information, or other ways of processing the information accessible around them could all be aided and supported better by finding ways that utilize their strengths.

I am especially concerned with children being forced to participate in meaningless rituals of social and traditional ways of ‘teaching” and other interactions, when in many cases very little benefit is to be gained. I struggled through out grade school. I was constantly scolded, punished, chastised for not paying attention when indeed I was trying very hard to understand what was being presented. It was demeaning and frustrating and I simply did not understand why I could not listen and learn. I was a very unsatisfactory pupil, and very unhappy almost always. I was completely lost! And I was trying so very hard to be good, yet getting scolded and demeaned almost continually. Nobody knew!

I got very little out of school until I was in 6th grade and the lecture method of teaching was augmented by assigned reading. I finally was able to read the assigned chapters and understand what all of the spoken lectures and demonstrations were about. I finally began to do well in school classes. Because my visual and audio processing lags so, I was never good at and never will be good at social interaction on a face to face, ‘real time’ basis, nor on the phone…… but because I get most out of reading and writing, I can still have a decent social interaction with people on the internet or by email. We can exchange ideas and information because I can process what I read at my own speed and do not make others or myself uncomfortable with my odd reactions, expressions, appearance, or easily misunderstood demeanor or emotional or flat expression in my spoken words. I do not get anxious to respond within moments to spoken requests, questions, statements, etc. I can take my time to understand the words in print, and to formulate my responses in print as well. Perfect media for my situation and particular strengths and weaknesses.

I urge parents to look deeply into learning the best ways to reach your child. The same for spouses, caretakers, teachers, and others interacting with autistic folk. By changing the methods you use to communicate, teach, interact, express yourself, you may find you change the attitude and outlook of the autistic person/s in your life. Find new ways to do everything , keep trying until you get positive responses.
It will mean all the difference in both your lives to find the best ways to make the “real” world’s input make sense and to share information.