One of the reasons I started wanting to write was to reach out and find fellow parents, particularly other single Dads, of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I’d like to create a safe-zone for parents to discuss their thoughts, worries and hopes about their family situation; to share tips and advice to others on navigating the choppy waters of raising children ‘on the spectrum’.
Their mother and I having separated a few years earlier, I find myself alone most weekends with my two wonderfully amazing, bright, beautiful and…ummm…well, challenging children. As any single, weekend Dad with children (and I do mean that in the plural sense…those of you with only one really don’t know you’re born) will tell you, it can be an exhausting, albeit rewarding, experience. Add ASD into the mix and exhaustion is compounded by frustration, heartache, guilt and a hundred and one other feelings that leave you wondering if you’ll ever get out of this thing alive.
“Are instructions included?”
They used to say children don’t come with a handbook but a five minute wander through your local book store will soon put that particular aphorism to bed. These parenting books tend to provide general advice to the novice parent. Mostly common sense stuff like putting bottles of bleach out of arms reach and not letting the little darlings play with knives. But I get it. Becoming a parent is scary, and those who want to make a proper fist of it will seek out any advice going in their bid to be Superdad/mum and create a world of security and opportunity for their little ones.
The trouble is, what if the general sort of advice these books offer don’t quite fit your situation? What if you need information and advice on more than just the run-of-the-mill dos and don’ts of parenting. Thankfully nowadays, as diagnosis of ASD is improving, so are the resources to which the parents of children with ASD can turn.
…I’m winging it
However, and here comes the first confession of many that I will write about, I haven’t read that much about ASD. I don’t know about you, but a lot of the time I’m winging it.
There. I’ve said it. I’ve written it down. I haven’t researched all the latest, empirically tested techniques on helping children with this condition (is a ‘disorder’ a condition? I don’t even know that). The reason? I’m scared. No, hang on….it hurts. No, I’m scared and it hurts. My boy; my first born. I want him to have the perfect life; a life unaffected by any disorder/condition or whatever the latest name that is tagged to this behavioural trait that has my son in tears at the thought of things being beyond his control; hitting himself, unable to control his emotions and running out of school classrooms;
I’m an intelligent man. I know a perfect life is not possible for any child. All children will encounter obstacles. It is by facing difficulties that children grow to be resourceful and resilient. I’m scared that my boy will struggle in overcoming such things. I’m hurting because I can’t ‘fix’ this for him. I’m his Dad for crying out loud! It’s my job to fix things. Accepting that ASD cannot be ‘fixed’ was the first and most difficult thing to accept. I still struggle with this.
So please, if you are in a similar position, know that it is OK to admit to being scared. Tell me what your worries, your fears and your confessions are. No judgements here. Just hopefully parents sharing ideas and helping each other out.