Growing up, I developed expectations of what fatherhood would entail. For raising a son, I expected Little League Baseball, tossing the football around, cheering my son at high school football championships, and the like.
As we parents of children with autism all find out, autism changes all expectations, and it requires some adjustment and acceptance. It creates a need to define a new “normal.”
Early on, I realized I was experiencing a deep sense of loss. I lost the son I thought I would have, the typical son. Once I came to grips with my self-pity and moved forward, a really great, productive transformation began. I realized that my son Andrew has given me, as his dad, so much—and in a way that, only now, I can truly appreciate:
He gave me an opportunity to focus on others as opposed to myself.
He taught me how to move beyond embarrassment and anger.
He directed me toward self-awareness.
He taught me patience and acceptance.
He opened my eyes to how incredible he is.
These gifts are priceless and so is Andrew. While different, he is quite normal in many ways: He is bright, searches for happiness, works to please others, and wants to be and is productive.
Andrew is only different, and thanks to Andrew, so am I. As with sons with autism, dads with sons on the spectrum need to put on a different set of glasses to see the world. And while different, it is really nice.
Sun contributor Rob Gilsdorf is a long-time autism advocate, father of a son on the autism spectrum, and former member and president of Autism Delaware’s board of directors.
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.