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PENSACOLA, Fla. --David Bodkin says his wife, Amy, is akin to a translator in a foreign country as they raise their daughter, Jessica, now 4.

"Amy sometimes knows what Jessica is thinking before she does," David said. "She's able to explain why Jessica does some things and acts certain ways."

There's a special reason for that.

Amy, 29, a school counselor turned stay-at-home mom, has Asperger's syndrome, a disorder on the autism spectrum. Jessica has autism.

They're among a growing number of parents and children who are finding links as they jointly live with autism or autism-related disorders.

Dr. Teresa Mahaffey, a pediatrician at Growing Child Pediatrics in Pace, said the parent/child genetic connection is a relatively new concept.

"Now that people with autism are having children, it's going to be interesting to see if their kids have it or not," said Mahaffey, whose 20-year-old son has autism.

Take one example of the link between Amy and Jessica Bodkin.

When Amy was a child, she liked to repetitively press on her eyes because it was visually stimulating.

Jessica also started sticking her fingers between her eye and socket.

"It makes the sun come up," Jessica said.

With her own history, Amy immediately understood.

Autism is a disorder that affects the normal development of social and communication skills.

Asperger's is considered a high-functioning form of autism in which people affected have trouble interacting socially, repeat behaviors and often are clumsy. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders because linguistic and cognitive development are not affected.

Amy studied the behavior of people with autism and Asperger's syndrome when she was enrolled in coursework at Mississippi State University for her master's degree in psychometry, which is a discipline of psychology and education.

Those studies cleared up a lot of questions she had about her own behavior.

David is grateful for that insight.

"Amy is able to say, 'She can overcome her disability like me' as opposed to a normal parent who might say, 'My child is disabled and will never be normal,' " he said.

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