Fathers For Autism

I am a road-worn father of an amazing autistic daughter and NT son. I started this blog to provide information, a sounding board and a voice for fathers of autistic children.

More to see on my Facebook page.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day...

Dear Mommy,

They say that today is the day we should celebrate you. I just don't think that one day is nearly enough, considering you give so much of yourself every day of the year.

In the morning, when your angry alarm yells, you pull on your tights and your cape and soar into the air to survey your domain.

It's not easy being a superhero.

You have to battle monsters and demons, most of them trying to take me away...leading me down a dark path. They scare me and yet I can't resist them.

But, you never give up.

You hold my hand, give me a warm smile, and guide me through the cloudy darkness. You know I can't do this alone. I can tell that scares you, but it doesn't stop you.

You keep fighting for me.

I admire you. I hope, one day, to have children of my own. I don't know if I will, but I hope I am as good a parent as you are.

I am so very grateful for you.

I know I don't say it enough or even at all, but always know that I love you. You are my guardian, friend, confidant, warm blanket, and safe place. You show me the world, a world I wouldn't have seen without your guidance.

Thank you for being my Mommy.

Happy Mother's Day

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I met myself for lunch today...

I met myself for lunch today. 

Pre-children, my eyes had a different look to them: open, naive, trusting. I shook my hand firmly and sat down for a turkey sandwich and a quick chat. 

My younger self was already analyzing me. Hehe. As if my demeanor and body language would give him everything he would need to know about his life over the next 8 years. 

I smiled and waited. 

He smirked at me. My wife is right, my smirk can be a little infuriating...charming, to be sure, but infuriating all the same.

He said "ok, so...it's hard, it sucks sometimes, but its worth it right?"

He wanted to encapsulate the experience. Categorize it so he was prepared and then face it head-first. I'll admit, I'm a little impressed by me. 

The waiter came by with our food and I took a drink before answering, allowing myself a moment to collect my thoughts.

I said "well, you're going to have two kids, a boy and a girl". He smiles. He always wanted that.

"Your son will be a lot like you. Impulsive, intelligent and funny. He will also have your talent for finding, getting into and getting out of trouble."

We both laugh. It's a little surreal.

He says "that's pretty cool. What does he look like?"

I forgot how important that was. Before you have kids, it's all about who the child will look like and which personality traits they'll inherit. I don't think I have even considered those things in years.

"You'll see. I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise." I say. "Just know that they are both beautiful and incredible kids. You're going to have a rough time when their teenagers." We share a smile.

"Your daughter is autistic."

I watch his eyes turn inward. A million thoughts all at once. Disappointment, fear, insecurity, hopelessness, and a little bit of anger.

Sad. I expected more from me.

"She will also be the single most important thing to ever happen to you. She will redefine your priorities, alter your perception of the world, and open your heart to more love than you thought possible.

Until now, you have been very guarded because so many people hurt you both intentionally and unintentionally. She will love you so fiercely and so genuinely that you won't remember what it was like to not have her in your heart.

She will make you a new person and you will love her with every fiber of your being."

He sits silently for a bit, watching me eat. I give him time to think.

As I finish my sandwich, I look up at him again. He is staring off into the crowd, tears in his eyes. There is a little girl a few tables away talking to her Daddy.

"One day." I say, "One day she will talk to you, share her ideas, and be just like that girl. Just don't give up on her."

He stands up. I rise with him.

"Thank you" he says and holds out his hand.

I gently push it aside and give him a brief hug.

"My pleasure. Have fun...I did." I say with a smile as I walk away.

Friday, May 10, 2013

"Ugly pig!"...

"Ugly pig!"

My daughter was called that by a girl at school this week. 

Ugly. Pig. 

Hard to understand the bullying and name calling when they're so young, so fragile. Obviously, if it was an adult that said this to another adult, there would be an argument or a conflict, but this was an NT 8-year-old saying this to an autistic 7-year-old. 

My daughter has, since this incident, broken down crying several times, hidden away in her room, and violently destroyed her glasses. She's also gotten destructive with chairs, cups and food.

Two words did that.

Hopefully, we can get her to understand that words are simply tools people use and can be accepted, challenged and discarded. They only have power if we let them.

For now, we will teach her more self-advocacy skills to give her weapons against those that would try to harm her emotionally or physically. It may never be enough, I can remember several times in my life when I was told something and it still stings, but she has no defenses at all.

I'll add "ugly pig" to the list of words that have caused me pain. I'll try to teach her to forget them and move on.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Before you had kids...

Before you had kids, did you feel sympathy for parents of autistic children?

When you heard, was your first reaction "Oh, I'm so sorry..."?

When you were a pre-teen, did you make fun of special needs children? Call them names, do 'impressions', use derogatory words with your friends?

It's ok. A lot of us did. 

In fact, many of us became more popular because other kids thought we were funny. Mostly because the focus of scorn and humiliation was on someone else.

There is a safety in that. An immunity that only comes from mob-like behavior. As if you are better, smarter and less flawed because you are pointing out the flaws in someone unable to defend themselves.

I am absolutely not condemning the 10 year old version of you. I get it. I said a lot of cringe-worthy things in my day that I would never say or even think now.

I suppose I have grown up, matured, become more aware, and taken responsibility for my thoughts and actions. My experiences taught me that my past ideals were far more flawed than my targets.

I'm not 10 anymore.

So, that said, why are there still so many people unable to make this change?

Experience plays a big part in it. Like I said, we still thought autism was sympathy-worthy prior to becoming immersed in it.

I suppose many people choose to remain 10 years old and they may never come around.

This generation of autistic children is going to break preconceptions, I just hope the cost isn't too high emotionally.

Because there will always be 10 year old boys, even when they're 40.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Kicking Bad Guys...

I had both kids and Mama Bear on the couch with me tonight. It was a warm, amazing family moment. 

We sang karaoke songs together and laughed a lot. 

During a quiet moment, I looked at the Redhead and Handsome Boy and said "I believe in both of you. I need you to know this. Whatever you want to do, whatever you want to be, I will always support you. Just don't give up. No matter what happens, no matter how tired, frustrated or scared you are, don't ever give up."

My son looked at me and said "Daddy, just like when I tried to kick the bad guy in the face for a million dollars?"

"Umm...yeah, buddy, just like that."

Friday, May 3, 2013

I know you...

I know you... 

I know that you like Baskin Robbins and Haagen Dazs strawberry ice cream, no strawberries, and no other brand.

I know you won't sleep until I cuddle up beside you and you hate sleeping alone.

I know you love to collect My Little Pony, Littlest Pet Shop and Moshi monsters. I know that you know how many you have and all of their names. You also like to play their games on the iPad.

The iPad is a safe place for you. You can block out the world, fall into yours and be at peace. I love when you do that, but wish you'd let me come in too.

You love to have your feet rubbed when you're stressed out. Who doesn't love that?

Your eyes will be the death of me when you're a teenager. I'm fairly confident the boys will flock to you. I can't stop them from loving you, I can just try to make them afraid of "loving" you.

You have the most amazing smile and laugh. I've seen you light up a room, brighten a stranger's day and get out of trouble all too often by just smiling. You have power in that, I hope to teach you how to use it well.

Oatmeal, chicken, smiley fries, and Domino's cheese pizza. Who knew they could power a person for 7 1/2 years?

Sad music makes you cry and the can-can makes you dance. So does Gangnam Style, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. I know that you like it better when I dance with you and, like I taught your brother, a gentleman never refuses a dance.

You read better than your friends, can do math in your head, and are not afraid of speaking your mind.

You stop and smell the flowers. In fact, you often see flowers others pass by without a glance. I love that. I hope my daily flower to you instilled that perception of beauty.

You know that I love you. I know that you love me. There is no power, no disagreement, no event that will ever weaken or change that bond. You are my fairy princess and I am your champion.

Oh, and you are also autistic. It's true.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


"Daddy, I have tears."

These are the first words I heard this morning. She was sitting up in her bed when I walked in, with a little tear in her eye and a faraway look on her face.

I knelt in front of her, gave her a hug, and asked her why she was crying. No words, she just squeezed back.

These are the times I wish she could express herself more clearly. I know she wants to, I know she has the vocabulary to try, I just don't know how to help her get the words out.

So, I hold her for a while. I ask questions gently, trying to simplify things to make it easier.

"Did you have a bad dream?" (She shakes her head).
"Do you have owies?" (Shakes head).
"Do you just need Daddy hugs?" (Nods).

We hug for a little while longer, me kneeling on the floor and her on her bed, as I feel her body relax. I feel a shift in her energy, like a generator turning on inside her, and she starts babbling again. 

All thought of whatever made her upset is gone from her face.

I study her for a time to see if she is hiding her pain from me or if it is truly forgotten. Honestly, I just can't tell. She has buried it too well, hidden it too deeply.

It hurts that I can't talk about these things with her. I want so much to be able to help her, support her, guide her through the emotions she is discovering. I know the hugs and the fact that I am always there for her makes it better, but I could do so much more.

I want to do so much more.

I breathe, knowing that she and I have a long road together with many more emotional moments to come. She knows I will always be there, kneeling in front of her, arms open for a hug.