Autism has been a part of my life for about thirteen years. As an autism dad, my experience has been similar but different from that of my wife. I would never want to impose my experience on other autism dads but there may be areas of overlap. This is my story.
The journey begins with the diagnosis. I did not begin to grieve right away. My first reaction was, “How do we fix this?” I wanted to read about autism and find out from other people what was working.
When our second child was diagnosed, it just felt like a kick in the head. Life was unfair. All I wanted was a “normal” child. All the hopes and dreams that I lost with my son I placed on my daughter and now they were gone as well.
My wife grieved right away but it took me about a year for the autism to go from my head to my heart. When it did hit, it hit hard. Perhaps it was good that my wife and I staggered our grief so we could keep going.
One of the things that I felt was guilt toward my wife. I felt like it was my fault that our children had autism. If only my genetics were slightly different, our children would be able to speak and learn the way they were supposed to.
I also felt guilt toward my children. I remember one experience in particular. I took my son to McDonald’s which should have been fun. Although he was no longer a baby, I put him into a baby seat to keep him contained. He hummed and made all sorts of weird sounds the entire time we were there. I was embarrassed. I could not believe that I was embarrassed of my own son! I instantly felt guilty and that regret has never quite left me.
I don’t want you to think that life as an autism dad is all bad. There have been many great times. I am extremely proud of both of our children with autism. Embarrassment is by far out of the picture now. When I am out in public with them and they are “doing their autism thing,” I hold my head up high. They are who they are and that is perfect.
I also love watching their development. Many children have a gradual development that you can barely notice. Our children jump from one level to another. It is very exciting to see.
I see the humour in autism. There are so many times that the kids say or do something at just the right time. We laugh and laugh and they laugh with us. Laughing together takes away so much of the stress.
Do I enjoy being an autism dad? To be honest, I wish my children did not have autism. But I am proud of my children and that means that I am proud of being an autism dad.