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How do I build a relationship with my ND child when I too am on the spectrum?

Author: Jeremy Rochford

Jeremy and Charity Rochford have written the chapter on “fruit-filled parenting” in our new book Uniquely Us.

These questions are an ask from our listeners!

As an Autistic father of two Autistic children, one of the questions I get asked rather frequently is:

“How do I build a relationship with my ND child when I too am on the spectrum?”

I’m not going to lie; this was tricky for me at first. Like most parents, I had grand visions of

playing Hockey with my daughter and spending Sundays’ hanging out with my son watching

NASCAR (both of which are my personal special interests). But alas, my daughter would rather read Percy Jackson and my son would rather play Lego’s.

So, what’s a guy to do?

Well, there are many things I could do.

I could force them to be involved in my own special interests.

I could get upset and offended when they get bored and walk away.

I could even play the “Dad” card and pull out a few “because I said so’s” when their lack of

interest comes across as defiance.

These are all things I could do...Or I could take a moment (while I’m regulated of course) and think about the legacy I’m building with my children.

I could stop and ask myself;

  • How do I want to be remembered as a father?

  • How do I want them to speak of me when I’m not around?

  • How do I want our relationship to be when they’re adults and no longer “have” to be around me?

For me, the legacy I want to build as a father is one of love. I feel this is not only noble but also biblical. If we, as the head(s) of the household, are to be the first model(s) of who Christ is to our children, then why would we want to settle for anything less? Woe is us if the only picture we paint of heaven for our children is that of an Old Testament God of wrath while completely omitting the New Testament God of grace.

The fact that we get to see both sides of God throughout scripture shows that we too can offer correction while also offering grace. Yes, I fully acknowledge that Autism and ADHD can present a challenge when black and white thinking are involved, but through the spirit, and using Galatians 5:22-23 (the Fruits of the Spirit) as a guide, patterns can be disrupted, and balance can be had. For me, it started by doing 3 things.

First, I had to remember that my children are tiny humans. I know this might sound “simple,”

but it grounds me in the reality that while yes, they are my children, they’re also them-selves.

They have their own hopes, dreams, wants and desires. Just like I did when I was their age.

By first seeing them as what they are (tiny humans), it allows me to be set up for the next thing.

Which is…

Second, I’ve adjusted my expectations. Notice what I didn’t say there. I didn’t say “lower” my

expectations. Rather, I said “adjusted.” What this means to me, from a practical perspective, is that my goals have shifted. Rather than trying to “bond” with them I’ve simply made my goal to be present. Which ironically has allowed me to bond with them more than I ever could have imagined. By simply seeking to be “present” I don’t set myself up for failure or dysregulation. All I have to do to be a good father is be present. Now, if my ADHD kick’s in and I start to get bored with what they’re doing, I’ve made it a point to get curios rather than disengage. So, when my mind starts to wander, I start asking my kids questions about what we’re doing. Things like “Why is this musical your favorite?” or “What about this Lego set impresses you.” While getting curios not only saves myself from getting bored, it also allows my kids to feel like I’m truly engaged.


Which brings us to…

Third, I remember that time is short. Like it or not, everyday we’re making memories. We’re the ones who get to choose whether they’re happy and positive, or sad and regretful. I’ve learned that if I focus on getting the first two right (acknowledging their humanness & adjusting expectations to simply be present), the third takes care of itself.

Full disclosure, this was not an overnight process for me and I’m still not perfect at it. There are times my dysregulation can make things more challenging than I’d like. But having this 3-step process at my disposal have given me a framework to go through and by using the Fruits of the Spirit, I’ve set guidelines in place to make sure I’m doing it right.

By doing this, my wife has been happier.

My children have been happier.

And I’ve been happier.

My hope is that you’ll take these three steps and start to make your own version of what

“happier” looks like in your home and relationship(s). Because I know that if I can do it- so can you.

Thank you for reading.

If you’d like to connect further about what you’ve just read or to learn more about what we do at NeuroFam Family Coaching, you can reach me at

Or simply comment below.

Jeremy and Charity will be on the podcast mid-May!

Follow the launch of our newest book at: 

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