You experience a certain growth as the parent of a child with autism. When my son Nick was first diagnosed at three with severe autism, I was all “We need to get going on this thing! How are we going to fix this?” I was anxious, nuts, not grounded, if you will.
Over time, you realize you’ve done what you can. Like the stuff to make Nick more appropriate in the community. We hope the community understands what’s going on with Nick, but we don’t demand that the world accept him. We’re more interested in what will give him more opportunities in the community.
With Nick, the learning is never done, so dealing with autism as a dad is really sort of a spiritual thing. It teaches us how to change, accept, tolerate all the uncomfortable things in life.
Today, Nick is 28, and the biggest challenge of all is not the job at hand—the caregiving, the structured life for our son—but our daughter: knowing my wife and I are not going to be here forever and wondering how to avoid putting the responsibility on our daughter.
‘My advice for fathers beginning this process? Be proactive. Do what you need to do. We need to understand the issue and resolve it. It might feel like you’re in the tank, but it’s not the end of the world. We can face and manage this the best we can.
Early intervention is key because it leads to good outcomes. If mom and dad are concerned, then the people around them need to be concerned. Engage the support of your immediate family and your friends.
And be ready to educate them. When they’re trying to blow off one of your child’s behaviors or an affect that doesn’t feel right to you, bring them along. You’ve got to have family and friends!
Sun contributor David Graham is a long-time autism advocate and father of a son on the autism spectrum.
This text was edited for consistency of language and message and appears in the October–December 2015 issue of the Autism Delaware™ quarterly newsletter, The Sun.