In my work with APATT, I am constantly in touch with Autism Parents. I usually contact them to find out how best APATT can help their particular situation or they contact us and seek advice about a wide range of challenges with their children and/or families. It feels good to talk to other Autism Parents because we are all going through similar challenges and this journey can become quite lonely at times.
Most of the time, parents just need to have someone they can talk to and share their hearts and relieve stress even if temporary. Talking about our challenges with someone else can be very therapeutic.
One recurring issue that I have noticed for a while now (It is more prevalent than people think) is when two parents do not agree with the Autism diagnosis given to their child. In my communication with other parents, the father is usually the parent who does not agree with the diagnosis.
I have spoken to quite a few mothers who have expressed the fact that their husbands are not supportive. Even though their children have been diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum (Some of them non-verbal), the fathers refuse to accept the diagnosis and do not agree with getting their child the treatment/therapy that they need. Nevertheless, these mothers take their children to therapy but they do it without their spouses knowing which means they have to lie in order to get their child to attend therapy sessions.
Now, this isn’t about bashing fathers because it has nothing to do with gender. As a matter of fact, I know of mothers who refuse to let their relatives know their child has Autism because they are afraid they will see their child or them differently and because there is a stigma attached to having a child who is not neuro-typical. Some consciously and some unconsciously are embarrassed about their children’s condition.
Now, there are a number of reasons why a parent refuses to accept the diagnosis or keeps the diagnosis secret:
We live in a country where having children with special needs is still considered taboo particularly within the older population. If a parent has a child with a disability, the parent believes it reflects badly on them therefore, they refuse to admit their son/daughter has Autism or any other condition for that matter. They are convinced the child will eventually “catch up” and that doctors are either wrong or exaggerating.
WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK
Out of fear some parents do not want to ‘tarnish’ their social status by admitting they have a child on the Autism Spectrum. They are concerned they will be looked down upon; judged, they will lose respect/status and will become the recipient of gossip and/or harsh comments.
In the case of some fathers, they refuse to believe they have conceived a child with special needs because in their minds this means that something is wrong with their ability to procreate, making them feel “less of a man” and finding a reason not to accept the child’s diagnosis.
The major issue with these three points is that as a parent continues spending (Wasting?) time making up reasons why their child does not have Autism, the child in question is being completely forgotten and neglected. As the parent continues worrying about what people will say or how they feel about themselves the child does not seem to be the priority anymore and his/her needs are not being met, therefore crucial intervention is lost through needless delay.
Most of the time, when I talk to parents they ask my advice as to what can they do to convince their spouses that their children do need therapy. It is a tough call because if a parent does not listen to their own wife/husband or even a medical doctor, will he/she listen to anyone else?
Autism is a family affair. It affects everyone in a household. No mother and no father should have to take their child to therapy secretly because their partners refuse to get the child treatment. It is awful to think that so many have to do this. We are talking about a child’s life here and the kind of treatment that could help them live an independent life one day or simply help them cope with their everyday challenges.
I know usually there is more than meet the eye and some of these parents have personal stories, but if the only reason for this denial is self-pride then parents need to take a deep breath, sit down quietly and allow some introspection to take place. Honestly, there is no room for selfishness while taking care of any child, let alone a child with special needs.
Everyone goes through the acceptance process differently. Some accept it quickly but some take longer which is completely understandable. The problem escalates when time passes (Years) and the parent still refuses to admit something is not right. Even while witnessing their growing son/daughter not speaking a single word year after year and they still refuse to get the child needed therapy.
Let’s face it, at some point in this whole emotional roller-coaster we have to put on the big boy/girl’s boots and do what needs to be done for the benefit of our child. There is no room for “me” and what people will think of “me” and what my relatives will say about “me” and there is no way on earth that *I* (Of all people) can have a child with Autism.
There is a little one who depends on you 100%, a human being that needs to get the kind of help right now in order to have a chance in life. I really don’t feel pity for any adult who refuses to give treatment (If they are able) to their own child because of pride. Sounds harsh? Perhaps, but in the process of studying what others will say, our own children end up suffering.
Having a child with special needs can bring two parents together or quite the opposite but regardless of whether they are together or not, they share and will always share the fact that they are parents of a child who happens to have Autism. He/she will always need as much love, support and help from BOTH parents in order to make it.
If it has not reached yet, it will reach a point in this Autism journey where you will say: Who cares what others think. This is about my child. I will do whatever it takes to help him/her.And when you reach to that point, automatically and with zero regrets, you let go of anything and anybody who is not going to be helpful/useful in the support system that you have created for your child. And guess what? You will be perfectly okay doing it.
Your son/daughter needs you. True love is about seeing past our own pride and selfishness and doing everything in our power to assist our children to become the best they can be.
Remember, if you expect others to accept your child, you need to accept him/her first.You already lived your life and continue living it to the best of your ability.
Please, I kindly ask you…do not deny your child the same opportunity.