I had some important news from my eldest child the other day. She had put off telling me because she thought I would get cross and shouty. While it hurt my feelings a little to hear this, as I’ve tried many times to tell all my children that they can talk to me about anything, it also made me think about how children who have one or more parent on the Autism Spectrum can be affected by it. So, I decided to write this as if my children were reading it. Hopefully, one day, they will.
- Firstly, and most importantly, do you understand what Autism is?
Autism is a neuro-developmental disability, which affects around 700,000 people in the UK. That’s more than 1 in 100 people (source :National Autism Society). In my case, it affects how I process information and emotions. Remember, though, it’s a spectrum and everyone with Autism is different. Still, some of the broad issues run through many people on the spectrum. Things like telling people what we need, saying how we feel, struggling with meeting new people and making friends, even understanding what other people are saying and thinking. I can’t read what your face is saying to me and sometimes your words don’t give me any clues. I have repetitive behaviour and routines, also I find it difficult to handle when people change plans that involve me.
Many Autistic people are not diagnosed until they are adults. I was not diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome myself until I was in my forties.
I know that having me as a dad on the spectrum will have affected all of you in a number of ways.
- My Dad doesn’t seem to understand if and when I’m feeling down or upset and I don’t know why?
As an aspie it can make it very hard for me to understand and process how people are feeling. You maybe upset or angry but I might not see this like other dads might, due to the fact that I can’t understand your body language or facial expressions. This can also mean I find it difficult to know if and when you need a hug. I’m not very good at hugging or close contact with anyone. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, because I do, I just don’t understand how you are feeling right now.
- I can’t tell whether my dad is listening to me sometimes.
This is a very simple and straightforward one to answer. Just because I don’t look you in the eyes when I’m talking to you doesn’t mean I’m not listening or that I’m talking to someone else. it’s because I can find eye contact painful and hard to do. If I do, it can seem as if I’m staring, and this can feel awkward and embarrassing for both of us.
I’m sure that as kids growing with me as an autistic parent it might have been lonely, scary and confusing, I may have acted strangely and even had the occasional panic attack or meltdown while you were around. You might have been annoyed at me because I wasn’t cool or normal like your mates’ parents, If this is the case, I’m really sorry.
It’s important that you talk to other people about your experiences. It might help for you to confide in another adult – a friend or family member – about what is happening. Above all you can talk to me about it. I won’t get angry. I understand myself and my surroundings much better since I was diagnosed and settled down. For my daughters, your future children might be affected by this spectrum and it will be helpful for you to understand a bit about it.
Although I might not seem totally normal to you, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I will always be there for you, and I love you more than you will ever know.
Stay Safe X