I’m a dad of 3 children, each different, with different needs, with different characteristics, likes and interests. But only one of my kids got additional support needs. The middle one on top of his autism he’s also diagnosed with developmental delay. The world doesn’t know and understands much about autism. I would like to tell you a few things about being a dad to a child with autism.
A different point of view.
My boy loves his DVD’s and he’s got quite a collection. When B&M still had a DVD shelf, we used to go there weekly and he was picking his DVD. He never wanted to take more than one. I think that he finds pleasure in browsing and collecting them one by one. Sometimes he comes to me with his iPad open on Amazon page, showing me some rare DVD’s telling me – Daddy? This one.
He’s a fan of old school stuff, got him boxsets of old good Danger Mouse, Wallace and Gromit, he’s also a fan of any superhero cartoons but he’s favourite of all time is Toy Story. He used to quote Toy Story to communicate with us, it was his first direct communication and we knew exactly what he means by it. It was mind-blowing. I wrote about it in our book The A Word where I share our journey through the diagnosis of autism from a father’s perspective.
Refusal = Patience
When our boy was much younger he wasn’t able to communicate, at the beginning of our journey while attending appointments he would from time to time stop walking and I would often not know what was the reason behind it. I would ask, show him pictures, used PECS or timetables but he never responded. I was always patient, I knew that he’s mind works differently than mine, that he’s not able to understand that I don’t know what’s on his mind. It’s called Theory of Mind. When around the age of three children are able to distinguish differences between their thoughts and understand that us, as parents are not able to know what they think about without telling us. Many times I just sat down on the pavement waiting for him to change his mind. Taking to strangers and explaining. autism. I don’t mind.
Other children’s approach.
Recently our neighbour gifted to all kids in the neighbourhood his very large trampoline. On Sunday my son grabbed my arm and took me to the hall. He showed me his shoes and said – Daddy? Trampoline? I praised him, and straight away we went to the trampoline at the back. M. likes to jump but he absolutely loves laying down on the trampoline and enjoy a slow motion. Like floating the waves, just gentle motion.
Soon after we arrived, our neighbour’s children came over and joined the fun.
They wanted to jump, play games and do challenges. M. is not responding to questions, he is just not able to comprehend that kind of communication. Children have been asking him if he wants to play or if they can do things with him and he just did not respond. This is the way he is. You would have to come over, stand in front of him and say things to him, but yet there is no guarantee that he will respond.
I could see that both kids felt very uncomfortable after a few minutes of approaching him from different angles. I decided to get involved – Maks is not responding to questions like other children. He’s a bit different and please feel free to play with him, but he will not be talking to you as he’s not really a talker – I added.
It’s hard to explain autism to two children aged 9 and 5, right? – Is he alright?– asked the boy. I said – yes he’s fine, he’s just seeing the world differently and he likes to do stuff his own way. M. was enjoying himself but after a few minutes he decided to leave as more than one person is a crowd for him.
I felt proud that I accept my son as he is, but at the same time, I wasn’t sure if I was able to explain his way of seeing the world understandably for those children. The everyday dilemma of a father.
Our son loves to vocalise. This is his way of communicating with the word. This is noises of excitements, happiness. He’s loud sometimes, but this is my boy, this is the way he is and I would not change any of it. Sometimes people are looking at us weirdly but you know what? I don’t care. I smile and look at my boy with proudness and love.
It took me some time to understand why people are looking at us like that, we don’t care about their opinion, about what is ok what’s not. The quintessence of my son is in each noise, move, with each breath. I love his noises, his way of communication. You would not ignore crying child, why you want to shush a happy one?
Limitations are in my head.
Many times I caught myself thinking – He will not be happy to do it, he will not like it, it will be challenging for him – and always I’m wrong. He loves hiking, he loves swimming, he loves playing music, he loves our camper van and adventures in it. Many times I was worried that we will not be able to do things, but I have learned to ignore my worries and move on. As a dad, I had to learn to deal with difficulties when it will arise. He proved me wrong, he has made me proud. It’s important to give your children opportunities and let them explore life without our own limitations and worries.
This is how it’s to be a dad of my boy with autism, this is how it’s to be a parent who has autism myself. But I wouldn’t change a thing.
What’s your experiences?
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