You just learned your son-in-law was diagnosed with autism. What’s your next step? How should you feel and think about this?

Discovering that your daughter’s husband is autistic can bring about a range of emotions and questions.

Autism in your son-in-law is certainly not what you signed up for.

Here are 12 next steps if you’ve recently learned that your son-in-law is on the Autism Spectrum.

Educate Yourself About ASD


The first step is to learn about Autism Spectrum Disorder.

This neurotype – or alternative way of processing information – varies widely in its manifestations.

The variation amoung Autistics is just as great, if not greater, than is the variation among those without autism.

Some autistic people may be the quietest person at a social gathering, while others with ASD may be the most talkative.

Some may be overwhelmed by driving and hence, not have a driver’s license, while others might work as an Amazon delivery driver.

Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of autism through reputable sources such as the Autism Society or an online community for autistic adults.

Attend local autism functions or social events. 

In fact, at one of the autistic adult social meetups that I attended (I’m autistic), I began speaking to a young couple and asked if they were autistic.

Neither were, but they said their two-year-old had just been diagnosed.

They were there to get a glimpse of what their son might be like as an adult.

The irony was that this couple would certainly end up realizing that there was no way to tell how he’d end up, because the diversity among the many Autists there was quite considerable.

In short, don’t expect your daughter’s husband to fulfill some stereotype of autism or rack your brains wondering why he’s okay with loud music, a crowded room or can actually initiate conversation.

Embrace Neurodiversity

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Recognize that autism is a natural variation of the human experience.

Embracing neurodiversity means understanding and valuing differences in brain functioning.

This perspective fosters acceptance and reduces stigma.

Think of ASD as a different operating system rather than a processing error, or a computer running on Linux software in a room full of computers running on Microsoft.

Open Communication

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Initiate a conversation with your daughter and her husband about his autism.

Approach the topic with curiosity and respect.

Ask how he prefers to communicate (text, phone, email, in person) and what support he finds helpful.

But don’t be surprised if he says he doesn’t need support beyond just accepting him as he is.

Not all autistic people need atypical accommodations when with family members — at least depending on the environment.

So he may seem typical when at your home for dinner, but at a professional hockey game, he may require earplugs with noise cancelling headphones and hence, not be able to hear you talking to him.

This dialogue can build a foundation of trust and mutual understanding.

Respect Boundaries

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Autistic individuals might have specific needs regarding personal space and sensory inputs.

Respecting these boundaries is crucial.

If he prefers not to engage in certain social activities or needs a quiet space during family gatherings, you should accommodate these preferences without judgment.

An example would be that of accepting his need to wear noise cancelling headphones at a wedding reception, or his periodic stimming (self-regulation) with a fidget device.

He may also conduct stimming with repetitive body movements such as rocking side to side or tapping his fingers to his head.

There’s no need to feel embarassed if someone asks you, “Why does your daughter’s husband keep doing that?”

A good response (with a smile), though, would be, “Why don’t you ask him?”

Another good response is, “For the same reason many people tap their fingers on a desk or armrest.”

Supporting Your Daughter

Listen to her expectations. Your daughter might have her own insights and experiences living with her autistic husband.

Validate her feelings and ask how you can support her in their journey together.

Never openly blame any of their arguments or issues on his autism.

For example, don’t say things like, “Well if he wasn’t autistic…” or, “That’s what happens when you marry someone with autism.”

And never, ever make suggestions of a “cure” for autism. There is NO cure. First of all, autism isn’t an illness; it’s a neurotype.

Second, it should not be seen as something to “cure” any more than being neurotypical is something to cure.

Encourage Self-Care


Being married to an Autist can come with unique challenges, and it’s essential for your daughter to take care of her well-being.

Encourage her to seek support from online autism communities or through a local autism organization.

Encourage her to regularly exercise – both aerobics and weights, if she already doesn’t.

Having a strong, fit body will do wonders at combating mental stress.

New Name on the Block

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So you now know that your son-in-law is on the Spectrum, and you may have even thought, “That explains it!” upon learning the news.

However, you also must realize that just because there’s now a name that goes with his “quirks” or differences, doesn’t mean he’s not still the same person!

There’s no need to acquire a dampened spirit over the diagnosis.

Autism is a name of a neurotype, albeit a very important one that helps connect the dots.

Focus on Strengths

Encourage activities and conversations that highlight your son-in-law’s interests and abilities.

This positive focus can enhance his confidence and your relationship with him.

Don’t wonder, though, why he can’t instantaneously calculate in his head cubed roots of four-digit numbers or some other superhuman feat.

Only a very small percentage of Autistics have “savant” abilities, though many do have exceptional skills or gifts in more than one area.

Problem-Solving Together

Challenges will inevitably arise. Approach them collaboratively.

If social misunderstandings or sensory issues cause tension, work together to find solutions. Patience and flexibility are key.

Remember, an autistic person, such as your son-in-law, can’t make the autism go away any more than you can make your neurotypical nature go away.

Connect with Other Families

Joining support groups for families with autistic members can be incredibly beneficial.

Sharing experiences and strategies with others who understand can provide comfort and practical advice.

Your local autism society’s calendar might have meetups for neurotypical spouses, for instance.

And of course, there are always various online communities.

Educate Extended Family

Helping extended family members understand autism can create a more supportive and accepting environment.

However, there is always the possibility that once an extended family member learns that your daughter’s husband is autistic, they might interact with him differently.

For example, they might talk down to him or talk loudly and/or more slowly.

You must remind yourself that this changed behavior is rooted in stereotypes, myths and ignorance about ASD.

Also remind yourself that autism is NOT an intellectual impairment.

Challenge Your Assumptions

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Reflect on any preconceived notions you might have about autism.

Challenge stereotypes and strive to understand autism through the lens of lived experiences of autistic adults.

Some YouTube channels, for example, are by autistic people.

Put aside some time to view them to gain insight into the autistic way of thinking and seeing the world.

Bonus Tip: Don’t Pity Him

Learning your son-in-law is autistic doesn’t mean you should pity him or feel sorry for him or for your daughter.

The man your daughter married is just as “enough” as is the next individual. He is not “less than.”

Supporting them doesn’t mean you must show worry, feel worry or stress out.

Don’t view him as handicapped or disabled, even if he has notable struggles such as navigating a room full of people at a social event.

I myself had trouble navigating the socializing aspect of my niece’s pre-wedding social event which had a LOT of people.

But there are other realms in which I kick ass.

Truth is, nobody can shine in every single type of environment.

Your son-in-law may bomb at understanding small-talk humor and knowing when it’s his turn to talk in a group conversation, and he may make inappropriate comments or be blunt without realizing it, but – he may also be the go-to person to get your new computer up and running or answer any question anybody has about nutrition or astrobiology.

In a Nutshell…

  • Embrace AUTISM!
  • Don’t be despondent over the news.
  • Focus on his strengths and gifts.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical and fitness topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. In 2022 she received a diagnosis of Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder. 


Top image: ©Lorra Garrick