When it comes to raising kids with autism – we usually hear from moms. We see moms writing books, blogs and raising awareness via social media. We see them interviewed on television and we read about them in magazine articles. But there are many dads who are sharing the responsibility and the joy of autism parenting.
After Norrin was diagnosed with autism, my husband, Joseph was devastated. Just as I had expectations, Joseph had his own expectations for Norrin. He imagined their time spent out in the parks tossing a ball around or going to sporting events. He talked about Norrin playing football, he fantasized about him being a pro athelete. Many dads want to live vicariously through their sons. Joseph was no exception. And when Norrin was diagnosed with autism, those dreams and expectations seemed so uncertain – almost impossible. For a while, I think Joseph wondered how he could make that father/son connection.
But Joseph really stepped up to the plate. It would have been easy for him to let me do all the work. But he read books, he came to meetings, he sat in on therapy sessions. Joseph knew that it had to be a team effort and we worked together. And in time, Joseph found ways to connect with Norrin. I feel really lucky that Norrin has such an amazing dad who has really taken the time to understand him.
Because that’s what our kids need. To be understood. Accepted. Loved. Not just by moms, but by both their parents.
Sunday is Father’s Day and I wanted to highlight five really special dads (including Joseph) and have them share their thoughts on raising kids with autism. Autism doesn’t mean a child needs their father less. It means a child needs their father even more.
Awesome Autism Dads 1 of 6
Click through to meet five awesome autism dads.
Yuji with his son Kai 2 of 6
I just said goodnight to my son and told him that I would be leaving for a business trip at 5AM tomorrow morning. I know he is planning to wake up and see me off because that is what he did the last time I had to travel. On that occasion, I found out later from my wife that he told her that he was lucky he got to see me before I left. Raising a child with autism, sometimes everything seems magnified; the challenges seem greater, the struggles mightier. Ah, but the love. The love has to be greater. Because I can't imagine anything better than the love my son gives me every day.
Follow Yuji's blog Hanabi Boy.
Robert with his daughter "Beauty" and son "Macho" 3 of 6
What is it like having both a boy and and a girl with autism? Actually, I feel that their gender has little to do with it. They say that when you've met one child with autism, you've met one child with autism; each child is unique in ways that run far deeper than whether or not they have a Y chromosome. My daughter loves to draw pigeons and play with puppets. My son is fascinated with tools and loves to be tickled. Each has their own individual personalities, quirks and dreams. Autism makes those things harder to discover, but as a dad it's still just as rewarding when you do... perhaps even more so.
Robert's wife, Margie, writes the blog Speaking on the Spectrum.
Chris with daughter Cameron and son Matt 4 of 6
My name is Chris but more importantly I'm called "DaDa" by my two-and-half-year old son and "Daddy" by my teenage daughter. Both my children are autistic. I love my children with every ounce in my body. It can be very very difficult raising a child in general but two autistic kids can be mind numbing. But it's worth it, with every new step they take, all the work, all the bad days, all the melt downs are worth it every time my daughter says "I love you daddy" (probably because she wants a new doll) or when my son pulls me in for a huge before bed (anything to stay up longer). As much as I'd love for their lives to be easier, I don't know if I'd change anything about my children.
Dad of Angel 5 of 6
When you have a child with special needs having a support system is absolutely critical. Last year, Angel's dad wrote about the importance of a support system. He shares:
...a support system is a plan of action where parents get much needed assistance with the things that can make life easier for everyone in the family. A neighbor, an aunt, an uncle, cousins, a grandparent, a godparent, and even older siblings of the child can make up the foundation of a support system. Without the blueprints to follow and the desire to help out, this support system will not exist.
As a parent of a child with special needs, I can honestly say that the support system I have is sufficient, but not at its fullest potential. I can count on my hands how many family members have disappointed me by not being around for Angel. This has made me stronger and more selective as to whom my child will be around. I thought I did something wrong to not have a large ongoing support system but I realize that I would be better off with someone being around because they want to be there.
You can read more about Angel and his wonderful parents at Sailing Autistic Seas.
Joseph and Norrin 6 of 6
I always knew Joseph would be a good dad but I have really seen him evolve as a man, husband and father these last five years after Norrin's diagnosis. We don't have deep discussions about autism and how it's impacted our lives. But two years ago, Joseph wrote a post on my blog for Father's Day and it really helped me better understand him.
Raising a boy with autism these past years has been a challenging and daunting task. Initial expectations have been replaced by new ones. Skills that parents of "typical" children take for granted are met with over ecstatic zeal. Some fears that I had after the diagnosis have subsided, while new ones arise and I find myself with new trials to face and new triumphs to celebrate.
Happy Father’s Day to ALL the amazing dads, step-dads and father figures that work hard to make a difference in their child’s life.
For more awesome dads, be sure to check out Babble’s list of Autism Blogs from a Dad’s Perspective.
Read more of Lisa’s writing at AutismWonderland.