« Parenting

Autism and the Single Parent

by Brad Ludwig

The ending of my marriage happened at the most inopportune time.

Alex was almost 3 when we got his diagnosis of Autism. His speech was delayed, he had stopped talking and mimicking the things we did months earlier. I remember the car ride that he stopped singing his part of a two word song we had created together. I'd sing the words 'baby boy' as a eight word song. He'd reply back with 'Da Da' as an eight word reply. That particular car ride, I sang it to him and he just looked out the window. I tried again and no response. At some point, he had partially slipped away. With no warning, he had lost something we might never be able to get back.
He also flapped his hands more and stood mostly on his tip toes. There was lack of eye contact. When he moved through the apartment it seemed like people were more obstacle than something to interact with. He would ignore you and crawl over you without acknowledging your presence. He didn't play with toys, he just shook them occasionally or ignored them altogether..

At the same time, the marriage had mostly unraveled and there was not much left that we could do to keep it afloat. We decided that it was over but we were going to focus on doing the best we could for our son.

I still give a lot of credit to my ex-wife. She did a number of things to get Alex services he needed. Getting him on the waiting list for in home therapy with Beyond Boundaries of Autism, cutting back to working part time to devote time to coordinating his schedule and doing 'floor time' (using play as a way to teach sharing, communication and personal interactions). All of these things needed to be done.

She did all this because I had sort of become a wreck. Also, it may have partially been her coping mechanism to the whole situation. I felt particularly useless. The intense feeling of failure was overwhelming and I had a hard time just keeping myself going. I couldn't keep a relationship going with my then wife; who could communicate, and now I was going to be spending time alone with my child, who could barely communicate? How was I going to make this work? Was I going to let my son down? I knew that I couldn't. I had sworn to him, when he was born, that I was going to not be the Dad who barely participated in his life. How was I going to connect with him? So many questions and so few places to find answers.

You may be saying, "Holy crap! This is kind of a downer post."

As I continue with these posts about the adventures of a single parent of an Autistic son, keep these things in mind:

  1. My ex-wife is now my best friend and 'support group'
  2. I pulled my life together and enjoy my time with Alex
  3. While my son's speech is still delayed, he has made improvements communicating
  4. I learned that I'm not alone

Perhaps you or someone you know has a child on the Autism spectrum. These posts are for you. You are not alone! There are people who understand and want to help you and your child. The journey won't be easy but I guarantee you, it will be interesting.