Fathers: Top Ten List of Coping Skills
1 This is war! Don’t kid yourself. This will be the most difficult thing you will do in your life – therefore it will also be the most rewarding thing you will do in your life. This is your chance to be a “hero.” You are your child’s champion.
2 No ego parenting. This is not about you. This is about your child. Withdrawal is the enemy! Stay engaged. Along the same lines – banish guilt! Firstly, your child’s autism is not your fault. If you believe it is, you’ve been lied to. Secondly, guilt will not help your child, it will only get in the way of you helping your child.
3 Both parents need to cooperatively define their roles. Whatever works for you is great, but I would suggest that you become as involved as you can. Do your research so that you understand the point of and methodology associated with any interventions you are attempting. That way you will not miss any subtle improvements. It is these small victories that will sustain you – don’t miss them.
4 Understand from the get go that you will be facing a multitude of small battles and you will certainly win (at least) some of the time. I used to refer to autism as a dragon that I had to slay. My strategy was to continually weaken it by winning small battles – the same method that autism used to take my child. Win enough small battles and the balance of power will shift. That’s just common sense.
5 ACTION + RESULTS = REALISTIC HOPE. If you are educated in the weapons of war (traditional therapies, bio-medical, diet, etc.) then you can properly evaluate their success or failure rates. This grounds you in reality, allows you to start filling in the blank slate of expectations and promotes realistic hope. Banish denial–it is the enemy!
6 Two year plan. Go “balls to the walls” for two years. Then reevaluate.
7 Do what you know. If you have a talent, or you can use the skills you have used in your profession to help your child–do it. It will give you great personal satisfaction.
8 Keep yourself powered up. That means take a break when you need one. Exercise, a book, a movie, a sporting event–whatever works for you.
9 Do SOMETHING predictably routine with your child that they will associate with Daddy. Ninety-five+ percent of the time I handle bedtime song, story and take my kid to his weekend therapy session. He expects it of me.
10 Finally, be conscious of the fact that you are not the only one suffering in this relationship. How you work that out with the Mrs. is up to you.
Michael Giammatteo is the proud parent of Vico, 11 (autism spectrum disorder) and Culzean, 8 (typical). Michael and his wife, Moira, have been involved with TACA since its inception. He has acted as a Mentor Dad at the three most recent Autism One conferences. Michael is the creator of the award-winning TeamVico series of music CDs for speech-delayed children. TeamVico has performed at fundraisers for Cure Autism Now, Autism Research Institute and every TACA Family Picnic. The first TeamVico CD has been incorporated into school curriculums and is being used by speech pathologists nationwide.