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From One Dad to Another


From One Dad to Another


From One Dad to Another
A Father's Day Message
      Father's Day is Sunday, June 17, and for the father of a child with Autism, this day takes on a special meaning. I entered the picture late, being a step-dad to an 8 year old with Autism. While Jonathan is not my own "flesh and blood", I still am his father and he is still my son. I have the feeling that there are many who are in my situation, but this article is for all of us Dads who face the daily struggles of autism, whether by birth or choice.
      A strong family is the key to dealing with Autism. Autism is not selective about who in the family it affects. It affects everyone. As a father, it is vital that we maintain a strong bond with our spouse, our other children, and our "special children," as well. Statistics show that over 50% of marriages where an Autistic child is involved end in divorce. This is tragic since without a strong family tie, Autism becomes virtually impossible to cope with. Fathers need to provide the emotional and spiritual leadership to the family, so that each member does not find their burden too great to bear. The absent father is usually unable to do this, and it makes life for their child much more difficult, as well as the lives of the other family members. Fathers need to be actively involved in the day-to-day lives of their child with Autism, and this means being there. Autism is not an illness that can be managed via long distance.
      Many times, fathers never progress past the denial phase of the grieving process. I hear countless stories about fathers who just can't accept that their child is Autistic. Instead of dealing with the issues that are presented by their child's illness, they blame Mom for the problems, citing a lack of proper child rearing techniques as the reason their child doesn't behave like others. This problem is compounded by grandparents who can not accept that "grandpa's little boy" isn't like other kids. I submit that both of these attitudes are damaging to the family and to the child with Autism.
      So why not give yourself the best Father's Day Gift yet? Spend some quality with your children and your spouse. Don't let Autism dominate your life as a family. While it will change some of the things you are able to do, a strong family unit is one of the best support systems the child with Autism can have. And it's one of the best support systems a Dad can have as well. With a strong family, Autism is easier to live with, for both you and your child.