Be a Hands On Autism Dad and a Supportive Husband

The thunderbolt of autism hit this family. Devastated by the diagnosis, they tried to get all the help that they could. They had heard about children ‘recovering’ from autism. But their little boy was still not speaking at age 6. Daily taunts from in-laws added to the young mother’s woes. She had zilch support from her husband.

 

The family decided that she and the child should move to Bangalore, since it is considered to be the ‘hub’ of autism services. The father could not move as he had the shop to take care of. After all, he was supporting his wife and son financially!

 

The responsibility of running the house and looking after her son fell on the mothers’s young shoulders. Her parents visited occasionally. That was the only support she had. Her husband called her every night to take a report on the child’s progress. He wanted her to recount all the happenings of the day.

 

Seeing no progress, he gave her an ultimatum. “There’s no need for you to come back. I’ve supported you enough. It’s your fault anyway.”

 

I wish this story was fictional. I was as horrified and furious when I heard it. How could anybody do this to his wife and his innocent child!

 

I moved like a zombie for the rest of the day.

 

The terrible mood followed me home. Anil, cool as a cucumber, heard me out without saying a word. The barrage of expletives about the father didn’t shock him.

 

Once I had it off my chest, he calmly said, “there may be another side to this.”

 

“You just don’t get this!” I said, walking away in a huff!

 

However, by the next morning, after a restful sleep, I was able to distance myself from the situation. Time to put the thinking cap on.

 

When something is too painful, we flee from it. The combination of pain and helplessness is awful.

 

Yes, this father’s response was extreme. But there are other signs which might appear normal that are terrible for the family as well. Extremely long hours at work, excessive smoking or drinking, illicit relationships… these are also signs of denial.

 

Autism opens up this Pandora’s box of reactions.

 

Thankfully everything is not bleak and grey.

 

I work with some of the most wonderful, compassionate dads in our Family Consultation Program. They have chosen to be proactive. And their proactivity has ensured that not only the child, but the whole family stays happy.

 

Here’s how they operate.

 

1. They support their wives

 

It’s a myth that autism is caused by mothers. It can affect anyone, anywhere. These dads stand up for their wives. They support them emotionally too.

 

Mohit was diagnosed 23 years ago. Anil stood by me like a rock! He held fort at home, while I travelled to attend trainings and workshops.

 

I would be exhausted after trainings and meetings with Mohit’s therapists. Anil would take Tanya out and treat her to her favorite chocolate pudding to ensure that she didn’t feel left out!

 

Without his support and care, I would not be able to achieve what I have.

 

2. They take care of themselves

 

They ensure that they’re physically fit. Some of them are marathon runners. Anil does yoga and also participates in laughter therapy sessions.

 

They take time out for themselves. ‘Me time’ is essential and so is emotional well being, even for dads. It’s important to strengthen the inner self. They don’t hesitate to take professional guidance from counselors if needed.

 

I truly hope that social stigma soon becomes a thing of the past!

 

3. They educate themselves

 

ASD is complex and affects each child differently.

 

These dads are plugged in to their child’s needs. They attend meetings, conferences and workshops. They want to make a difference to their child’s life.

 

4. They spend time with their children

 

‘What if’ is a powerful trick which the mind uses to keep you stuck in the past. Just like us, these dads sometimes encounter it too. But they also keep their eyes on the positives.

 

And yes, they do the ‘dad’ things with their kids. Playing cricket and squash are favorites. Biking, swimming, gaming are some other activities which they do together.

 

Every father should have a relationship with his child – autistic or not!

 

 

5. They work on their marriages

 

There is more to life than autism.

 

The diagnosis is like a dark, heavy cloud that engulfs you and numbs your senses.

 

But it’s important to spend quality time with each other.

 

Developing a friendship and having common interests is important. Both partners must commit to build a rock solid marriage.

 

And soon the bright sun will emerge.

 

 

I have a personal message for all you wonderful fathers!

 

Dear Dad of a Child on the Spectrum,

You didn’t choose this life,

It crept up on you,

I know the pain that you go through,

I just want you to know that It’s not your fault,

Denial is a coping mechanism. But it doesn’t help anyone in the long run,

Get through the grieving process. Strengthen yourself,

You’re running a marathon and not a sprint,

Things may get rough. Be strong. I promise you’ll get through it,

Your child needs you. He may not be able to say it,

But he craves for your company and wants to do all the ‘dad things’ with you,

Be your wife’s friend and emotional anchor,

Respect her for who she is,

Be patient with yourself. Everything that is important takes time,

Always remember that you have a choice,

I hope you choose to walk through this storm,

For I know that at the end of it- you’ll find the most beautiful rainbow.

 

With love,

Kamini

 

“The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” – John Wooden

 

18 COMMENTS

  • Anupama Srivastava says:

    Hi Kamani,

    Another excellent post. I would suggest that you write a book on Autism and publish it for the benefit of all. My son Sarthak is in a hostel in Dehradun. I would love to gift your book to his principal.

    Heartfelt gratitude, love and light,
    Anupama

  • Wow kaminiji, hats off to u and your husband, who is very supportive, thanks for sharing this article with us, I think u inspired most of thle parents.once agaon thanks to u and rdi also
    Congrates and all the best to u and ur supportive husband

  • Sekar Chidambaram says:

    Nice article.
    Your message to all fathers is excellent.
    The quote by John Wooden is wonderful and is essential for all children.
    The child’s mental health gets affected if there is no good relationship between Husband and Wife.

  • Lambodar Ray says:

    Fantastic post and inspiring to most of the parent

    • Thank you for the kind words, Lambodar.

      • sanjana says:

        Kamini a lovely and informative write up as always. I wish these words of good sense, positivism and encouragement could reach out to hundred thousands of women / husbands / families (from not so a privileged background) still struggling with stigma and apathy of the society they are embedded in. Indians are a collective society (unlike the West with individualism being the norm) which is a boon as well as a bane at times. Your family’s coping is truly admirable and wish you all the best for times ahead. Keep up the good work.

        Sanjana

        • Sanjana, thanks for the kind words and encouragement :)

          Your comment got me thinking about all those thousands of women who struggle with the issues of disability and social stigma. Truly, mammoth, concentrated, collective efforts need to be in place to support them.
          Your comment will stay in my thoughts dear friend…

  • Anjali Kalan says:

    The beauty of writing…

    I really like to read your blog and the topics. It always teach me to step ahead.

    God Bless You and Mohit.

    Regards,
    Anjali Kalan
    Aarush Mother

  • Reena says:

    Kamini,
    The article is so gentle yet so very powerful yet informative at the same time. Beautifully written….hats off to you!!

  • Ghazala says:

    Very impressive but some time efforts also useless lucky child and lucky parents that child improve my 6 year autistic child not improve every effort useless she can’t speak

    • Gazala- please don’t ever give up hope.

      Yes, things get difficult at times. But remember that it’s a marathon and not a sprint.
      Feel free to stay in touch. I will be happy to help in whatever way I can.

  • Shweta says:

    Wonderful Article Mrs Lakhani…..life becomes so much easier with Husbands and fathers support. I wish all parents a very happy and wonderful support to share all their lives and keep working with our children in most motivated manner.

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