As more is understood about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), families with members with ASD mixed with neurotypical members may find themselves being advocates in their own home. Regular family dynamics and conflicts are affected when one or more family members deal with the sensory overloads associated with ASD.
One Redditor found herself wondering if she was wrong to intervene when she felt her daughter was exploiting her son and husband’s sensory processing disorders to get her way.
Redditor peachessecondary asked:
“AITA for punishing my 13-yr-old daughter because I think she’s abusing her father and brother?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
“My husband (36) and I have two kids, my husband also has autism and so does my son (17) both relatively mild cases. My daughter and I do not share this mental disability with them.”
“Now I’m a nurse which means due to [the pandemic] I’ve had to be at my workplace, my husband however could work at home. My children being school aged were also obviously home.”
“I noticed that after the first few weeks my daughter started receiving a lot more money from my husband, I noticed my son also giving money and when restrictions were eased car rides in addition seemed available to my youngest.”
OP found the new situation suspicious.
She soon got a chance to see the home dynamic first hand.
“I called in sick so I’m off two weeks [for the mandatory 14 day quarantine], and I’ve noticed that when my daughter asks for things from my son or husband she’ll try to either hug them or raise her voice. These are both sensory overloads for them and they’ll agree to anything to make it stop and avoid a meltdown, [because] they hate loud noises and uninitiated physical contact.”
“I know this because I admittedly have done this myself ONCE before when my husband didn’t want to go to the doctor. So I wrapped my arms around him for like half a minute while I asked him to get in the car and let me take him to the doctor. He agreed after he started to freak out.”
Mom felt something needed to be done.
“So I confronted my daughter about this and she said she didn’t know what I was talking about. I asked her to explain to me how it’s okay for her to try to overwhelm [them] like that and she started to get angry so she went to her room.”
“I then went to my husband and say we should punish her after I explained the situation. He got mad and said there’s no way he’s being taken advantage of by a 13 yr old.”
“I asked him if he was under duress when she asked for something from him and he refused to answer and went to our room and locked the door.”
After being chastised by her husband, OP went to Reddit to ask:
“AITA for trying to punish my daughter for taking advantage of my husband and son?”
The OP added a few notes after people began to respond.
“[S]ome you may want to look up what sensory overload entails in terms of ASD it’s not just being uncomfortable.”
“My son (her brother) says he was afraid of his sister after she made a habit of doing this.”
Redditors were asked to weigh in by voting if OP was:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Redditors were incredulous that the OP’s daughter could be so cruel.
“NTA. It is a good idea to teach your daughter at her age that manipulation is abusive.” ~ MLE_108
“NTA. Not only is this taking advantage of your husband and son, but it’s ingraining habits in your daughter that will follow her into the real world.”
“Can you imagine her abusing another autistic person’s sensory overloads to get her way, because she thinks it’s okay?” ~ edengonedark
“What the daughter was doing was not normal behavior, even for a 13yo. If I read this correctly, she was targeting family members that she perceived as vulnerable, and was exploiting their pressure points for personal gain.”
“It’s bullying, and it needs to be nipped in the bud IMMEDIATELY. If she learns that this strategy gets her her way, and there are no consequences, she’s likely to keep doing it well into adulthood.”
“And if she’s willing to do this to family members, you can bet she’d do it to other people if given the chance.”
“I’m not trying to say that OP’s daughter is a monster, but her actions show a concerning lack of empathy, empathy that you’d think she would have developed by now having grown up with autistic family members.” ~ MegStrix
Some suggested counseling and a lot of other options.
“This is above Reddit’s paygrade. You need to talk to a family counselor with experience with ASD.” ~ gymger
“NAH…. I think. She’s 13 and growing up in the same house as dad and brother, she should know better by now. And she needs to be made to understand the situation.”
“But….. this calls for probably a much larger conversation. This wasn’t something like being a brat or taking her brothers video games or something. This was a clear display by someone who does not understand the gravity of how her actions are understood by someone with autism.”
“This girl needs to learn that she isn’t just wrong because she’s trying to get extra perks (technically in her mind, she’s working the system, kids always learn the system and learn to work it with parents—I remember when I was a kid I’d negotiate like nobody’s business to get sleep overs and such).”
“But your daughters system is different than that of someone who has all neurotypical family members and she needs to be educated on this now while she’s young. Just punishing her is going to cause her to grow up with resentment toward her father and brother.”
“It also sounds as if she’s learning how to deal with things from her father. You confronted your daughter, it made her angry, she stormed off to her room. You confronted your husband, it made him angry, he stormed off to his room.”
“Where do you think your daughter is learning this behavior? I understand your husband has autism, but he’s also an adult and a father and will need to work on developing some coping mechanisms that allow him to keep his anger under control because he needs to be able to set an example for his children in just the same way you also need to.”
“I also found it concerning the way you talked about autism in the beginning stating that you and your daughter don’t share this ‘mental disability.’ Autism isn’t a mental disability.”
“It’s a developmental condition which causes neurological/communication problems. Make sure you’re framing autism correctly around your children, it’s important that they’re both very educated on the topic.” ~ sunflowersandyou
People with autism shared their perspective with other Redditors and the OP.
“Just to comment on that last part: that it’s a developmental disorder doesn’t mean it’s not also a mental disability. Clearly the impairments it causes are primarily mental rather than physical in nature, and I can assure you that they are also disabling to various degrees (and that’s even though I’m about as high-functioning as it gets, far as I can tell).”
“Other people with autism may disagree, but personally I’ve never quite seen the point of focusing on the semantics like this (same with the ‘autistic person’ vs ‘person with autism’ thing I see as well sometimes). It doesn’t make actually having autism any easier (it has its upsides too, I’ve found; but certainly wouldn’t recommend it, regardless). And it also doesn’t make people understand it any better either.” ~ MeanderingDuck
“NTA – It’s not an ‘uncomfortable’ feeling when there’s a sensory overload. People on the Autism Spectrum don’t have neurotypical responses. It’s uncomfortable for you, it’s excruciatingly painful for some of us.”
“I’ve vomited because of sounds or smells that didn’t bother anyone else. I’ve had my blood pressure skyrocket and ended up on a heart monitor in the ER after eating something everyone else said was ‘mildly spicy’ but was painfully hot for me.”
“A friend’s son literally passes out when he has a sensory overload. I know a man who loses control of his bodily functions. It’s not fun or funny and not everyone can develop coping skills that override your body/brain.”
“If a person with autism says ‘don’t do this to me,’ you doing it anyway is assault in the same way that it would be if you hit us. Because the result is the same: pain and trauma.” ~ LakotaGrl
Responses varied from NTA to YTA to ESH to NAH.
“NTA- No child should get away with something like that, especially if the noise is that irritating to them. What she’s doing is manipulative and she needs to learn that it’s not okay.” ~ weewooooooooo
“YTA. Your daughter is 13… loud and obnoxious comes with the territory. The fact you think your daughter maliciously sensory overloads her father and brother is wild.” ~ Kushmon420
“ESH. This needs some family therapy to navigate this conversation.” ~ nobody_really6214
“NAH. You need a family counselor who can work with your daughter to understand WHY that behavior works and how it could actually be harming her dad and brother.” ~ Sexycornwitch
Some Redditors felt only the parents were at fault and the daughter was too young to understand right from wrong. Others disagreed strongly with this idea.
Some felt everyone except the son was being an a**hole. While others felt no one was deliberately being the a**hole. Some blamed just the mother while others blamed just the father.
In the end, the majority of Redditors voted NTA, the mom was “Not The A**hole.”
The only consistent viewpoint was that the behavior needed to be addressed and stopped. The 13-year-old is exploiting her brother’s sensory overloads to extort money and rides from him, that was not OK with any Redditors.
The father is a parent and has more authority and control over the situation, but the son is still a minor. The parents have a responsibility to protect him as well as to educate their daughter about appropriate behavior.