Autism: Is It A Family Thing?

It’s been a week since I told you about my sisters. And some of you are probably wondering if there’s been any further contact. 

I haven’t learned any more about the sister with MS. And there has been no communication with her older sister. 

But there has been more information from the distant cousin.

The younger sister has said that she is unsure if her older sister would even understand what is going on. She conveyed that she is very child-like.

I’m surmising several things from that statement. And I am reluctant, due to this information, to do more at this time.

To give you a little family history…

My maternal grandmother had Scarlet Fever as a child and was also very child-like. I was led to believe it was due to the illness. But I’m not so sure of that being the only cause.

Many of you already know these things; some of you will not. So I will reiterate. 

The three times I was in my mother’s presence, I could see that she was very much like my grandmother. 

She was very child-like too.

Now I’m told that the sister is very child-like. So this makes me even more certain that something in the genetics of this family is involved. 

I’m thinking perhaps a more severe form of autism could be at play here. For I doubt very seriously that three separate generations of women could have these same traits and it be coincidental.  

This from the CDC (Center For Disease Control & Prevention):
“Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Scientists do not know yet exactly what causes these differences for most people with ASD. 

“However, some people with ASD have a known difference, such as a genetic condition. There are multiple causes of ASD, although most are not yet known.

“There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but they may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.

“The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.

 “A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.”


If any of you are trained in this field, or have a relative such as I’ve described, I’d appreciate any information you could share.

Here is a wonderful article on autism and social interaction in Autism Parenting Magazine.


Similar Posts


  1. My late brother was autistic, but back then no one knew what autism was really. I feel sad that as a child I didn't know and maybe could have been a little bit kinder to him. Glad that you are looking into it and it will be interesting to find out more I'm sure.

  2. My oldest son has two boys and they are both on the autism spectrum. The eleven year old has it mildly but the 8 year old is non-verbal, and unfortunately not potty-trained. My son had minor learning disabilities as a child. I'm not sure if their mother did.

  3. My cousin's two little boys (ages 6 & 8) are autistic – one mild; one severe (non-verbal). We don't have any autism on our side of the family and neither does my cousin's wife's family. I also know a few families (two from church; one a neighbor) where only one out of the 2 or 3 children in that family is autistic. And they all have said the same thing – no autism on either side of their family.

    Seventeen years ago, I worked in the school system as a one-on-one aide to a 6-year old autistic boy. I got to know his family and again, it was said that autism didn't run in either side of their family – that Jon was the only one that had it. Jon had two siblings, neither one with autism.

    I also know two adults (both males) with autism and neither of them fit the description of "child-like".

    There is still so much unknown about autism and what causes it…there's so much speculation out there. I wish you the best in learning more about your family.

  4. I don't know enough about it to contribute other than a neighbor who had 3 children had an autistic son…their oldest. Yet this son had many many serious health problems as well. This is my neighbor who is in the Air Force and who the AF let him stay in this area until the son passed a few years back…I took Lily for them ; I couldn't see them suffering the loss of their child and having to see the dog go to a shelter on top of that.

    He was severely autistic in some ways and gifted in others, and endured terrible health issues with his heart 🙁

  5. Brenda,
    I've been teaching Special Education students for many years but primarily ones diagnosed as MID or, Mild Intellectual Delay. Of course, within that group, I've had some who have had their diagnoses modified to PDD-NOS, or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).

    From what I've seen, there is sometimes a familial link yo autism, but not always. But however autism manifests itself in a person, as an educator, I would nevery use tge term 'child-like' to describe them. As for your grandmother and mother being described as child-like, I'm confused. Back in those days, men most certainly wouldn't marry someone described as child-like because women needed to be able to raise the children and keep house. Child-like people were usually doomed to stay unmarried and in the care of their families.

    Most autistic people have no interest or far less interest in developing the social contacts necessary to lead to marriage (of course, I think you're quite an exception).

    Perhaps your mother and grandmother were very mild cases of ASD and their behaviour was viewed as child-like because they were stubborn and inflexible in their thoughts and ideas, much how some might view a tantruming 2 year-old. They HAD to have their way.

    Whatever. It would be very difficult to come to any true diagnosis at this time. Just a lot of guessing and surmising. I would totally throw the PDD-NOS thought out the window. They have very noticeable developmental delays that would preclude any man from marrying/pairing up with them.

    That's my 5 cents worth anyway. It's just heart-breaking that you have had so difficult a childhood and even now are left with so many questions. I will say, that I find reading your posts to be consistently interesting and enlightening. Thank you for all you bring to me. It's especially great now because I'm 5 days post-surgery on my foot and you fully understand what that means.


    1. My grandmother was never married. She was raped when out with her sister and her sister lost track of her. So my mother was a product of rape. My mother was very pretty, and married a much older man. Yes, I definitely understand your condition with your foot. Good luck!

  6. My dear friend is the parent of two boys on the spectrum. Her husband is also on the spectrum. We adopted 3 children who have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Dissorder. They are on the same spectrum as Autism. They are testing at 1/2 they're chronological age.

  7. My Mother had scarlet fever as a child and exhibited none of the traits you mention. I think you are on the right track and are doing some good research. Thank goodness some of these things are beginning to be understood.

    1. I think perhaps no one really knew. But it was probably easier to blame an illness than to think there was something wrong at birth. People in those days looked at things differently.

  8. I was an elementary teacher the first twenty seven years of my career, the last four of those years as a special education teacher. I remember one family of a first grade child I worked with. He was autistic and had three younger brothers all of whom had been diagnosed with autism. I moved onto high school for the last four years before retiring. There I worked with mostly students who had Aspergers. Each one of those students were highly gifted in at least one area usually math, music or computers. I have come to the conclusion that there is a strong genetic component. Often one or both parents, though not formally diagnosed, displayed signs of being somewhere on the spectrum.

  9. I think you are right, Brenda. Too many markers in place to make that all coincidental. I hope whatever happens that it is to your benefit and does not drag you down or disappoint you further. Blessings- xo Diana

Comments are closed.