When our son was first diagnosed, my husband had a full time job and I was the stay-at-home mom.
When we understood the commitment we had to partake for our son’s issues, our decision was relatively easy – he remained at his job and I was responsible for the 22 hours of autism-related therapies and programs per week.
I was the parent talking to the therapists, making the calls, asking endless questions, and studying for the IEP. In those early years, I committed many more hours of learning about autism than my husband due to sheer exposure and time availability.
Occasionally, my husband would be able to go to a therapy session – we had a speech therapy on Saturday mornings – and he always made time for each and every IEP or IPP meeting.
In some households, the situation is different. The mother goes to work while the father stays home. And, of course, there are countless situations where both parents have to work or where the household has a single parent.
We were fortunate that we could exist reasonably well with only one income. It was one of those situations where I considered us lucky.
This split in the learning curve of autism, however, created an unbalanced situation between my husband and me. I was simply far ahead of my husband in terms of experience, learning, and discussions about autism. I was very hungry for knowledge. I not only had the time to learn, but I could be right there for a therapist to show me something in person.
We experienced some trouble with this unbalanced situation. One problem we had was when my husband was home, I would explain something to him and often I would not explain things very well because I was just learning as well. At times, we would both get frustrated.
I think my husband – especially during those early years – might have feel like he was being cheated. He wanted the same knowledge I had had, but he couldn’t invest the time. Fortunately, at some point, we both received parental training. This helped a great deal.
Additionally, my husband was able to find some time to invest. For example, when he had to take some time off from work due to a medical issue, he spent that month sitting in on every therapy session. That’s how badly he wanted to catch up. He decided he could recuperate and learn about autism at the same time.
This leads me to my Father’s Day tribute.
My husband has always had a great bond with our son. He may have struggled early on to “get” our child, but today their relationship is incredibly strong.
He has also been very supportive over the years to me and he’s trusted my instincts. I have believed in picking my battles. If there had been something I wanted to fight in the autism world, I explained it to my husband, we discussed it, and if wanted to move forward with a fight, he supported me.
I believe as a couple we have done a decent job of being on the same page when it’s come to autism-related decisions regarding our son. We’ve been a “united front.”
I’m proud to say that my husband has caught up with his knowledge and understanding of autism. He “gets” our son and can predict build-ups and deal with our child in a reasonable manner. He now has experience and knowledge and feels comfortable.
He has also come out of his “autism world” shell and volunteered with me at autism-related events. I was the first one to volunteer and get myself “out there.” My husband took a few years to get comfortable with the idea, but now he’s added those experiences to his resume.
I’d like to salute one dad on this Father’s Day… my husband. It’s a huge commitment to become a parent. Add autism into the mix, and almost anything can happen. The divorce rate between couples with special needs children is higher than the average divorce rate. I have witnessed divorces where parents cannot agree on autism-related treatments and they cannot form any type of unity in regards to how to cope with their children.
Happy Father’s Day to an awesome autism dad. If you know a father like my child’s father in your life as a special needs parent, give that father an extra salute. They deserve it.