Michele shared a lot of her experiences with our children and our journey with Autism from a Mother’s experience and she really wanted me to share what it was like from a Father’s experience.
For quite some time Michele was under the impression that I was in a great stage of denial about our son. In some ways I think I may have been, but I think that is also natural in some ways. Being the Provider or Patriarch in the family you carry different weight then the Mother typically does. I was raised in a time when the Mother was the main care giver for the family, especially the children, and the Father was the main support for the family. When times are tough I have always believed that it is the Father that is the Rock that the family holds on to for that support in times of trouble. When the news of Jackson being diagnosed with Autism was given to us it was a huge paradigm shift to our world and I just knew that I needed to keep the course as best as I knew how.
I was raised in a small family, my sister and I were the only children and my parents moved a lot when we were kids so we were never around our immediate family for any extended periods of time. Being the youngest in the family I was also never raised around younger children that my own age so I had never experienced Infants or Toddlers until I had one of my own. Sure we had friends with babies and other family members but knowing what to expect from a child on their development stages was just not that clear for me as I really never had first hand experience.
When looking back at the start, our son Jackson seemed to be developing as a normal child. He walked at an appropriate age, he started speaking at an appropriate age, and was doing a lot of what seemed to be typical development. As he came closer to three years of age it didn’t seem that this progression was continuing. At this time Michele was becoming more and more concerned about his development and overall situation. She started researching and looking into possible solutions. We were finally directed to have him evaluated by a Psychologist.
We started that day in a play room and the Doctor just wanted to watch us interact with our son outside of the room. Jackson and I always have fun playing, being a Dad we like to rough house and roll around. It never really dawned on me at the time that there wasn’t much eye contact or direct communication as we always just had fun. We played and laughed, isn’t that a normal reaction?
About 90 minutes after several other test and interaction with the Psychologist the Doctor informed us that our son was Autistic and that we need to look at next steps for additional treatments/ therapies. For me I didn’t really know what to think or how to react. Many questions came to mind… What treatments? What Therapies? Is there really something wrong with him? He is a happy and healthy kid, there should be something that we can do, right? Again, Michele thinks that this was a Denial piece and maybe it was but I also wanted to be optimistic as well. Sure it was a reality that neither of us saw coming but Jackson is still the same boy we walked into that doctor’s office with… He is still my fun playing boy… He still is affectionate and wanting of our attention as much as he was before the diagnosis. We could find a way to beat this diagnosis, right?
In reality, it is very tough situation that no one ever wants to have happen to them. I watch my friends with children the same age as ours and the kids are learning how to play T-Ball or swing a golf club or learning to skate. Jackson isn’t able to do these things right now. He may never want to do these things either but I have to believe that one day that he could. Living with this diagnosis of Autism isn’t the end of the world, it is just a different perspective. Typical is what everyone else is doing. Atypical is doing something else. Every day is a learning experience and it may not be as easy right now for us as it is for other parents but that’s ok. We have happy and healthy children and that means so much.
Tomorrow will come and we will keep doing what we need to for our kids every day. Lord willing with the strength of our family and daily efforts we will work towards our goal of having our kids grow into independent adults one day.
I’m proud of my wife for building a support system for mothers who care for children with disabilities. Like I said, we carry different burdens and my hope is that D.A.M.E.S. will help other mothers cope with this dramatic change in their lives by providing them with the help and the support they need.