In part 2 of this series, we will look at poor cognitive shifting in parents on the autism spectrum:
Research in the area of cognition reports that adults with Asperger's (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have problems with updating the scope and focus of their attention. This attentional deficit may be due to an inability to reorient attention rapidly, which can be problematic when the mother or father has care and control of younger kids. Moms and dads need to be able to reorient their attention frequently, and often need to be able to do so under pressure.
Research also suggests that many people on the autism spectrum have a deficit in the shifting of attention (e.g., paying attention to what someone is saying while being distracted by sensory stimuli). This trait affects parenting as well. These deficits blend with other neurological differences of AS and HFA (e.g., sensory hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity), and together they affect the core tasks of parenting (e.g., the appearance of a sudden strong smell may prevent the parent from noticing what her youngster is doing).
Related to attention problems are the deficits in the use of visual attention, problems in attending to both auditory and visual information, and problems in attending to many visual stimulus simultaneously. For example, an autistic parent with three or more kids may struggle with information and sensory input at playgrounds and parks. In this case, the parent may claim that she is over-stimulated and overwhelmed neurologically, or she may blame others around her for her misery. In this way, the parent is a lot like an autistic child who becomes frequently overwhelmed due to sensory sensitivities.
In addition to sensory issues, moms and dads on the spectrum often state that they find it difficult to tolerate the normal mess, noise and chaos of their playful, inquisitive children for any length of time. These parents cope with what are basically neurological insults in a variety of ways (e.g., shutting down, melting down, withdrawing from the unwanted stimuli, etc.). As a result, this may leave the kids to fend for themselves.