Parenting a child with Autism is full of twists and turns, highs and lows, unexpected and exciting, joy and pain. In most of my encounters as a researcher and educator, Mothers have been front and center as the primary caregiver. When I ask parents, “Who does your child spend the most time with?” – 99.9% of the time I’m told it’s the Mother. However, I am beginning to see a shift in this trend and more than ever, Fathers are taking center stage. Because Autism is more pronounced in boys, Fathers are confronting the effect of Autism on their sons. It’s something about it being their son, that has a profound impact on the Father as a man. However, in my experiences at least, I have seen this impact generate a strong sense of purpose and commitment on one Father in particular, my husband – the Father of two sons with Autism. I remember the days before diagnosis, I could see that there was something not quite right with the way my son was behaving. But for my husband, there was nothing wrong with his son. He just needed more help at different times. Whenever we found something that our sons liked, my husband would go buy it in bulk. When my son started eating solids, for example, his favorite baby food was sweet potatoes. I remember coming home one day to see a whole cabinet full of sweet potatoes. Right now, one of my son’s favorite things is Top Ramen Noodles. Yes, you guessed it, we have a whole cabinet full! Being as they are boys, Dad is in charge of body hygiene. He is diligent about laying out their clothes in the bathroom, ready for them to put on after showering. It was Dad in the bathroom teaching them to lather soap, bathe, and put on deodorant. It was Dad dancing to music and humming while combing their hair. It was Dad making breakfast like only he can make – Seriously, I cannot seem to make eggs like Daddy! He calls his boys his “Supervisors” because he works for them. And he loves it! I see that caring for them and teaching them is deeply satisfying. It’s not because of Autism, it’s simply because they are his sons and he loves them.
For Fathers who are navigating their way through parenting a son (or daughter) with Autism, thank you for being there. Thank you for supporting your child and finding ways to bond. Continue to make meaningful connections and feel the joy in parenting. Choose to be there for them and for your family. The reward is priceless!
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