Autism Dad: Fake it ’til you Make it
Prolonged unemployment and financial collapse. Divorce. Collection agencies. Home foreclosure.
Been there, done that.
Still, none of it compares to my sense of loss when Ben, only 3 at the time, was taken from me. That’s how it felt when my first born was diagnosed with autism–or more specifically, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, a rare form of autism. There was a period of mourning, of trying to accept and understand how this beautiful boy, with all the potential in the world, and in whom our hopes and dreams were invested, could simply shut down. It was as if the Energizer Bunny had lost his juice, and we watched helplessly as he sputtered to a halt.
Perhaps Ben was autistic the day he was born. It could be that the symptoms had lay dormant or existed in mild form. Then something happened, that big mysterious something, to cause an acceleration of the symptoms, including rapid regression in Ben’s speech. You want desperately to understand. You start to question your memory. You become a Monday morning quarterback: why didn’t I connect the dots sooner?
If there was an initial sense of loss, it didn’t last long. Out of crisis comes opportunity, as they say. Some people need a big event to startle them from their slumber, a wakeup call that says, hello, the status quo is not working. Ben’s journey awakened my own journey and set me on a new course. I sensed that I had been summoned and that my world was about to change.
And change it has, as I morph from absentee father to caring and committed dad. It’s the story of values and priorities shifting like tectonic plates. I am not transformed, but I am transforming. I have not arrived at my destination, but I am moving in the right direction — inch by inch, day by day. My descent was vast and rapid, but out of this adversity something beautiful and more lasting is emerging.
And while this is my journey, in many ways you will recognize it as your own. The themes resonate across different countries and cultures, and are all too familiar to increasing numbers of families who have been touched by autism, divorce, and financial collapse.
Ultimately this book is a celebration of family and fatherhood, of second chances, of recovering and rebounding from our misteps, restoring our dignity and rebuilding our lives.
Thank you for letting me share our story with you.