One Dad's Story about Autism
When our daughter was born, I was the most proud daddy in the world.
As I am sure you have read in other stories about autism, she was doing very well until she turned about 18 months.
That was when we noticed that she was losing words and when she stopped interacting with us.
Knowing that the teen years were a LONG way off, my wife knew something was up long before I did. I was the one who believed the doctor when he said she is just a late starter, and since she is an only child we should enroll her into pre-school so she could interact with other children.
My wife was insistent that something else was wrong. After all, yes she is an only child, but we have a HUGE family and our daughter interacts with literally dozens of other children on a very regular basis.
I remained unconvinced. I kept telling myself there was nothing wrong with my little girl. She was going to be ok. All the while, time kept marching on but her progression stopped. We went to see a hearing specialist, and I thought “Yeah that must be it.” Because that was fixable. I could learn to sign and everything would get back on track. My little girl would be ok. Well it turned out she has better than normal hearing! NOW WHAT!?
My wife finally convinced me to come with her to a developmental pediatrician. We filled out a form asking all sorts of questions about our little girl before the appointment. The doctor then took her in and looked her over, observed her for about 30 minutes and gave us her diagnosis, AUTISM. Ton of Bricks!
But wait, I thought, there is the form we filled out – she didn’t even look at that. She only handed it off to an aid who took it back into the room. What was that all about I asked her. She replied, “Oh yes, Kathy can you bring in that M-Chat this family filled out? How did they score?” Kathy came into the room with our paper and the doctor hit me with the other ton of bricks. “It looks as though you have given her the same diagnosis. Look at this document.” And she told us how they scored it what the scores meant.
This was the worst day of my life! I had just been told that all of my hopes and dreams for my little girl were dashed. All the truly horrible things I said about kids who were different when I was a kid were coming back to me. I felt like the entire world was crashing down all because my little girl had Autism.
WHAT AN IDIOT! All of that time and energy in fear, sadness, and anger was nothing more then a waste. That is time that I will never get back that I could have spent learning about autism and how to more effectively communicate with my little girl. I could have spent that time learning how to more effectively pull my little girl out of the world she was in and into the world that we lived in.
Since that time I have learned really, the only one with a problem was me. My focus was the problem. I was focused on autism and not my daughter. I mean really, what is the most important thing in the world to me? My family! How could I take the focus off of them and place it on myself? I am not a selfish guy.
I have learned some very valuable lessons in the 6 years that followed the day I described above. I think the most important lesson was one of the power of action combined with attitude. Before I realized I was being a selfish jerk, I thought there was nothing anyone could do and my daughter would live in a bubble for her entire life.
Now I know that attitude was all wrong. Autism is only a disorder. Through the proper implementation of therapy, education, and discovering just how she learns, we were able to convert that positive attitude into positive action. We have learned how to keep our daughter in our world most of the time. We learned how to teach her how to talk, and we are working on teaching her how to properly communicate with others.
Our daughter is well on her way to living a great life. Is it normal? NO – but really who wants to live a normal life anyway? Do you think Einstein, Gates, or Beethoven lived normal lives? I bet Johnny Smith lived a normal life but have you ever heard of him? Yeah me neither…
Our organization, The American Fathers Autism Network is dedicated to helping dads go from where I was on day one of the diagnosis to the realization that their kids are perfect just the way they are. Our deepest desire is to help dads and families to stop wasting time and help their kids in which ever treatment path they, as a family, decide to follow.
Right now we have an online community and an online monthly magazine filled with useful tips and information about autism, treatment, and just stuff in general. We are currently building programs that will help our kids in emergency situations, and we are even working on a way to help dads become reengaged in the lives of their kids
So check us out at WWW.AutismFathers.Org and www.myspace.com/autismfathers Our web site isn’t what we want it to be, but it is on its way. Soon you will be blown away so keep coming back!
American Fathers Autism Network
I am A.F.A.N. of someone with Autism
Autism: A Case Example of Hope
Autism: Lin and Sam Wessel’s Story
The Autism Diet Connection
Autism: 10 Tips for Everyone