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Autistic stepchild-birth mom conflict

BCD182012's picture

My stepson is 9 years old, and I have been dating his father since he was 5.    We are married now, and have another child.   He is with us most weekdays, as his mother moved two hours away and he goes to school in our town.  He has autism, is verbal and high functioning.   He has lots of issues socially, comes off as being abrasive and can’t make or keep friends.   When we go to family functions, he does not want to say hello or interact with family members.   He sits on his electronics and ignores people when they ask him questions or say hi.   His birth mother thinks this is the way he is going to be because he has autism, and is against any kind of behavior modification/therapy.   I feel he needs to learn to get along with people, because the world is not going to cater to him.   His father agrees with me, but does not agree with punishing him/taking away electronics when he refuses to interact with family members or is rude to his peers.  

Recently, birth mother has said that I need to stop taking things personally because stepson has autism and I’m the adult.   All I ask is that he does not ignore me when I ask him to do something (ie turn off his computer when dinner is ready), and say hello to me when he walks in the door instead of “Where’s my dinner”.   And I hate to admit this, but I prefer my days with my husband and daughter when my stepson is at his mother’s house.   It is very hard to have a relationship with someone who grunts when you ask them a question, complains when we have family outings, and pretends you are not there lots of the time unless he needs something.

I am venting here, but any advice is appreciated.    Thank you!

tankh21's picture

My OSS has high function autism (Asperger's). He is 14 years old. He is a pathological liar and a manipulator. He also has social issues and lacks empathy. I cannot stand him and I count the days that he goes back to BM's. BM and my DH use his autism as a crutch. They make excuse after excuse not to try to correct OSS's behavior. I will just simply not tolerate with being disrespectful and letting this kid do whatever he wants in my home. My DH and I fight constantly about OSS so my solution to this situation is to just ignore him because his parents don't care about correcting his behavior. I mean don't get me wrong I will not be disrespected but I will not let OSS push my buttons either like he has been doing for the past 3 1/2 years. You need to disengage from the skid. You have a DH problem.

GoingWicked's picture

My first question is where is your DH in all this?  BM shouldn’t be criticizing you, or at least your DH should be the one talking to her and filtering out this nonsense.  You are totally allowed to have hurt feelings.  Ideally BM and DH really should have a therapist guiding them on how to get this kid ready to become a functioning adult.  Obviously that’s not happening and it isn’t your job to correct it.

My SD does this and she doesn’t have autism.  It’s not just me, we will be out, someone greets her, she will literally ignore them, that is unless she thinks they’re a good person to manipulate.  I try not to take her out anywhere where I think she will offend.  I pretty much gave up greeting her at all.  If she ever greets me (which she doesn’t) I’ll respond.  Also, for that same reason I have DH fetch her for dinner or anything else he wants her to do or attend.  I also don’t initiate conversations with her since she’s manipulative and she tells so many lies—I don’t know how to deal with it without upsetting her, and through her DH.

Anyway, this is your DH’s kid, stop worrying about him and drop the rope, let your DH take charge and make whatever mistakes he’s going to make.  You sit on the sidelines, take care of yourself and your kid.  It’s a lot less stressful that way.

BCD182012's picture

First of all, thanks to both of you.   You seem to completely understand the position I am in.   My husband has different standards for him when it comes to disrespect than I do.  He thinks that when his son ignores me, it is because he doesn’t hear me and I have to stand in front of him and get his attention.   I’m well aware that his son hears me the first time I ask him something.   Sometimes, he gets an annoyed look on his face because he clearly doesn’t want to do something or answer a question.   He also thinks more of his behavior is due to the autism, while I think it is behavior his son can control.   I would love to see him grow up to be a good human and functioning member of society.   Stepson hates being corrected/told he is wrong - even when he is not being punished.   He also lacks empathy, even for his parents.   His parents have adjusted to him being this way, but for me it is distressing to see him be rude to his father when his father is so sweet and patient with him.   Also... my husband did get upset when birth mom said I needed to stop taking things personally,  but he has made comments like that to me too.

Part of me wants to disengage.   Another part of me thinks counseling for myself may be a good idea.  Being a stepmom is hard at is it, and having a stepson who is unlikeable makes it SO much more challenging.

SayNoSkidsChitChat's picture

Just disengage. YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE for the person he will grow up to be. YOU cannot care more than the idiot bio parents.

Focus your attention on your real kid who is your moral and legal responsibility.

elkclan's picture

I can imagine how frustrating this is. I was married to someone with high functioning autism and it about killed me. All the same issues. Never asking me how my day was. Repeatedly failing to put down the laptop to come down to dinner after I'd been cooking and toddler wrangling. Being rude in company, etc. Or one that used to drive me nuts - when HIS parents were visiting, it it got too much he'd just slink off to the bedroom leaving me to deal with those unpleasant people.  It's even more frustrating because he CAN sometimes behave like a normal human being.

It is exceptionally hard for them to engage and do the social niceties, but they do not and cannot understand how that drives everyone else up the wall. But believe me when I say that they cannot always help it, so your DH and BM are right in a sense. But they are also failing him by not coaching him more. I also disagree that electronics should be taken away for autistic behaviour. Partly because it won't be effective, and partly because, well, do you really want to deal with the consequences and the meltdowns?

I definitely suggest disengaging. Stop repeatedly calling him for dinner. If it's your job in the family to make sure that there's dinner for everyone, I'd go head and cook portions for him, too. But it's definitely not your job to get this kid to the table. I also definitely suggest therapy as well, because the level of disregard and apparent contempt from someone who is autisitc can be damaging to your soul. Plus, you have your younger child to consider and it will be hard having two sets of rules in the house, one for your kid(s) and one for the little prince, so you may need some strategies to deal with that.  Plus while some of this behaviour isn't personal, some of it probably will be. 

The only thing I wouldn't disengage on is making sure this kid gets some behavioural therapy. Not arranging for it, just insisting on it. This kid does need to be a productive member of society if at all possible and OUT of your house, but it's not your job to teach this to the kid. Honestly, it requires either a parent's love or professional skills and it doesn't sound like you have either of those. (I know it sounds critical, but it's just a statement of fact and not meant to be judgmental.)

ETA: I might also investigate schooling options near BM if that's at all a possibility...

Also you have the right to refuse to respond to rude questions. You can say "I will not respond to questions unless there is some sort of acknowledgement of me as a person before I will respond." Say it once and then just ignore, ignore, ignore. 

Rags's picture

This BM thinks that infecting the world with her illbehaved spawn is her right.  Nope, either she steps up and parents .... or someone else will and it won't go well for the kid when it happens.

The whole "society needs to change and be accepting" is horseshit IMHO.  People need to raise children to be viable adults who are additive to society and not degrade it.  Even developmentally challenged kids need structure, behavioral standards, performance standards and to be held accountable for bahavioral compliance.   Consequences may need to be structured differently, and standards adjusted but both standards and consequences must be applied.  Kids deserve the best from their parents and that means raising them to be the best that they can be.  

The best is not catering to or justifying their shitty behavioral choices or crappy performance.  Parental best is not catering to their every whim and justifying their behavioral shit to the world.  Parental best is holding children accountable, being an example, mentor, advocate and disciplinarian.  It has nothing to do with being their buddy or catering to their every whim.

Being rude to his peers will get him busted in the nose.  Parents need to work on behavior  before the kid has to experience that.

SayNoSkidsChitChat's picture

You stop communicating with HIS ex. Ghost and block her from YOUR life. She is your DuH’s  problem, NEVER yours!

Stapteverr's picture

It's rather late for behavioral or intervention techniques, they need to start really early to have any effect. But, I suppose the parents could try. Don't do it yourself, you are not the parent and its not your job plus the mother will no doubt be against it and undo all your work. Believe me, I've been there. 

You need to realise that he won't change. Save yourself the heartache. With regard to the BM, she's telling you to be the adult when she moved 2 hrs away and left him with you guys? How convenient for her, the least she could have done is stayed put and done 50/50.

Just make sure this kids problems don't rub off on your child. I hope he's not aggressive.