Autism: A Father’s Perspective
Hi, my name is Saikou. I am very proud to be the father of a 6-year-old boy young boy who is also on the autism spectrum. I did not know much about Autism at the time of the diagnosis and had to scramble to get educated. I learned a lot about schooling, insurances, Medicaid, and attendants and tried to map out a future for him just like we had planned before he was born. As a father, I believe that it is my responsibility to make sure that my son succeeds and fails on his merit. I resolve not to accept the limitations created by the current environment and fight to ensure that he has an equal chance to live the life he wants to live. The diagnosis has made me pay even more attention to inequalities in all forms. At work, I am mindful to consider the role of gender, education, background, and experience because I am aware of how quickly we pass judgment.
While I want to be my son’s friend, I also want to challenge him. I am so afraid of the low expectations society has of him that I overcompensate and sometimes fight with the school system to trust him and allow him to express his full talent. At the end of the day, I want to see my son living an independent life doing what he loves and making a decent living out of it. Regardless of the diagnosis, I resolved to try to live a full and rich life as a father, friend, husband, and human being. I am committed to love and care for the child I have and not yearn for the one I do not have.
One thing I learned is that I don’t know what I am doing most of the time as a dad, which is scary and freeing. I also learned that It is ok if I do not have all the answers. I rely on Faby even more and trust her advice, judgment, and observations. I have learned to have difficult conversations and listen to her concerns. I have come to appreciate how different we are in temperament, worldview, and background. Because of that, I frankly do believe that having such a unique son has helped our couple tremendously. I know that our son is being exposed to two very different perspectives and personalities and I hope he is better for it in the long run.
If you are the father of a newly diagnosed child or already have a child on the spectrum, I want you to know that things will get better. With a combination of therapy, medication, and straight-up love your child can be whatever they choose to work at being. Soon, you will only see your child and not your child with a label. You will be invited into a new and wonderful world that you could never imagine. Your child is going to take you on fun, challenging, and difficult journeys but guess what? That is the journey of every parent who cares deeply about the wellbeing of their children. You will have to be a champion for your child by learning about the system and educating yourself. You will have to create a support system for your family, just like you intended to be before you knew about the diagnosis.