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To the Dads of Autistic Children, You're Not Alone

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If you are reading this then there is a strong chance that you recently found out your domestic job title was changing from Dad to “autism dad” or something similar. This new job will likely be more demanding than your previous role and, like it or not, comes with more responsibilities. Effective immediately.

In all reality, the operating costs for this new job will be higher than your previous position and the hours will be longer. Unless you are planning to completely abandon your post  — that is, your role as a parent, partner and/or provider — you will need to figure out how to make the best of what you’ve got. But there’s a really strong chance this job will be rewarding. Additional compensation may come in the form of a new sense of purpose or an evolved sense of self.

There is good news.

While there is no established union or even a trendy crested logo, there is a group of dads just like you. Fathers and friends, and possibly family, who were handed the same updated job description without warning. For those who did get a warning, some chose to ignore the signs and others started hoarding provisions. No judgment here. We’ll find common ground at various points in our parental careers but this job is personal; really, deeply personal. You’ll probably do your job very differently than the rest of us but at the end of the day, we all find ourselves standing in front of the same mirror asking, “Now what?”

Welcome to the Club. The Elite and Esteemed Parents of Extraordinary Individuals. Gathered by Mother Nature herself, a collection of the under-slept and overworked. There are no membership fees and no participation is required. You don’t have to like the other members of the club and you surely don’t have to talk to them if you don’t want to. They won’t always be available to chat and probably won’t offer a shoulder to cry on. This club of ours, well, it is what it is.

Some of us are outgoing, talkative and can be the life of the party. Others work undercover and anonymous, preferring to go it alone. Some of us are willing and eager to talk about our kids, their individual challenges and the changes we’ve made at home. Respectfully, not everyone is interested in talking about ASD and the journey that follows the diagnosis. Some of us are afraid and some just don’t know how to talk about our emotions. We all battle similar issues but find answers in different places. Our solutions align with our abilities, comfort levels, resources and environment. Whether we admit it or not, we’ve all been changed and will continue to change. Some will fight away grief and others will sink into it. Some will stay positive and upbeat, embracing challenges with grace and zeal. There is no wrong way to be you, just be honest with yourself about what’s going on. Acceptance of the situation is crucial because taking on reality while high on denial is never going to work.

This is an invitation that requires no action. It’s an open-ended reminder that you aren’t alone and there are myriad resources you’ll uncover when you are ready to start looking. While these moments might feel like the end of certain hopes and dreams, I promise that you’ll find happiness in the most unexpected places. A happiness that is comparable to no other. And whether you are ready to hear this or not, know that you’ve got this.

We’ve got this.

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Originally published: August 7, 2019
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