One of the good things about having a child with autism spectrum disorder is that he or she won't necessarily pick up on or understand the tension and angst that parents often feel when in the midst of a family crisis. In this episode of Parenthood for example, Max clearly doesn't understand all of the underlying confusion and anger that Adam and Kristina are directing at Haddie, nor is he picking up on Haddie's sense of loneliness and isolation.
Individuals with this disorder do not register nonverbal communication very well; in fact, when "silent" arguments are going on around them, they may miss them entirely. In life, this can be both a disadvantage, and at times, an advantage.
Although we try to teach this skill to those with ASD so they can better understand the world around them, sometimes parents worry and struggle with adult issues that their children - with autism spectrum or not - are too young to really understand. When a family is faced with times of great grief (such as a family member passing or a relationship ending), the parent logically wants to shield the child from the heartache that the adults experience. Despite these efforts, a child without autism spectrum - even a very young child - usually picks up on the tension and sadness of the parents. But the child with ASD will likely not do the same.
In a way, it can actually be a blessing that the child with ASD won't understand all the adult troubles of the family and world, and that innocence may reign for just a little while longer.
Written by Sheila Wagner, M.Ed.