I‘m always humbled by people’s interest in my blog – especially when being asked questions that are frequently asked among the autism community. I compiled a list of answers to the most frequently asked questions.
How do you balance life with autism? This can only be accomplished once you forget the life that you imagined having and live the life in which you have. Family life with autism can be unconventional; however, it is important that autism is not all-consuming. For a balanced life, you must be disciplined on breaking your focus away periodically to take a moment for yourself, other children or your spouse.
How did you first know that your son had autism? Initially, we thought Jackson was deaf due to his lack of response and social interaction. It was shortly thereafter when Jackson was evaluated and deemed to be autistic he was around 24 months old.
How has autism affected your marriage? I wish I could say that it has had absolutely no impact, but that would be disingenuous. The national divorce rate, in general, is at its highest levels. The divorce rate for parents of autistic children is unfortunately significantly higher. This is not surprising though since the primary reasons for divorce is stress caused by finances, communication, and differing opinions on the future. These same reasons exist in autistic families but amplified tremendously. It has affected our marriages enormously. It’s not easy and we have some really bad days, but we have a lot more good days than bad and I am thankful every day that I have my wife as my partner and best friend through this journey.
How has autism affected your other son? This is a difficult question to answer simply because I am sure that Zachary (my other son) has some feelings that he may not have completely shared. However, Zachary adores his younger brother. He is incredibly loving and protective of him – often telling us all of the things we could do better. After attending college out of state Zac actually moved back to our area primarily to be closer to his brother. What was most important to us during Zac’s youth was not to have his brother be a burden on him (at least to the best of our abilities). We made sure that one of us was always in attendance at and participating in all of his sporting/school/Boy Scouts/etc. events. We never wanted him to think that he missed out on anything due to the focus being on his brother. I believe this is one of the reasons for their closeness.
How do you manage the money for all the therapies? Sometimes I really don’t know. I have for the most part been blessed with relatively good employment and income, but as any parent knows therapies cost a lot of money. There have been times throughout the years (when income was low) that we chose to sell certain items or forego years of vacations to afford some of Jackson’s therapies, but he is our son and our most important investment.
How do you manage the holidays? Initially, we managed them very poorly. We were on the road traveling hundreds of miles and bouncing among several different family members’ homes. After many years of this and noticing the emotional toll it was taking on Jackson (and his brother) we made the decision to open our home up to any and all family and friends but we were going to have Jackson in the security of his own home during the holidays.
What are the things that bring you peace? I hate to admit it but an uneventful boring day can bring me peace. We often have to find peace in moments of the day because there will always be non-peaceful moments that also occur. My wife will get lost in a book reading at night while I may find some peace in watching a recorded hockey game.
Is your son on the diet? Jackson is not currently on a restricted diet. We did have him on the diet for a period of time but we (in conjunction with his doctor) did not see any beneficial impact while he was on the diet and therefore discontinued the diet. That said, we do know of other families in which the diet has been very beneficial. I believe diet is no different than any other factors of this spectrum – each child is unique and what works for one may not always work for another. Jackson does continue to take digestive enzymes each day though.