By Shane J. Hopkins 2/12/2017
Being a single Father is one of the most challenging roles for any man, being a single Dad to an Autistic Child is one of the most challenging situations you can dream of.
We single fathers who have no motherly instinct to begin with, and depending on the situation that brought us to be a single dad in the first place, often find ourselves trying to fill the mother’s role as if being the father isn’t hard enough on its own.
In my case, my wife Dana, the mother of my three children passed away unexpectedly at a very young age.
This sudden unforeseen event thrusted me into a life of full-time parental responsibility for three young children who were at the time 8 and 10 years old (Luke 8, Logan 8, Skylar 10) and for one child, my son Logan, who is within the Autistic Spectrum.
At the time, I was already pawning off most of my Fatherly responsibilities to my wife and justifying it by being the superhero bread winner.
I played into perfectly, the greatly respected role, of the hardworking Husband and Father who brought home the bacon by working a high profile job often keeping ridiculous hours.
When you make good money, you can get off the hook for a lot of traditional responsibilities that would otherwise help mould our children into fine young adults someday. I didn’t even realize that I was making my wife pay for me having a good job by leaving most if not all of the load on her regarding the parenting aspect of our lives. Don’t get me wrong I was a good father I did things a lot of dads don’t do I went to every doctor’s appointment every dance recital every martial arts testing session I was involved in my kids lives but not as much as I should have been
I now know that I was escaping a lot of my responsibilities both as a husband and as a father simply because I had an above average job that paid decent money. In today’s society this is a highly respected role to fulfill and respected more so than the role of a mother or the role of a homemaker, especially more than the role of someone who cares for 3 children one with special needs.
So, on one very tragic day, everything changed in a moment for me and for my children.
We got dealt some crappy cards one day and our lives would never be the same.
The first thing that I noticed or that happened to me was I panicked.
I immediately thought of ways to protect the children from what was happening.
Turns out almost 6 years later I clearly see now they are the ones that helped me through this ordeal, they were naturally resilient.
I would be the one who was more deeply damaged, long-term devastated.
I would find myself grasping at resources for the children, not seeing that I was the one in need of therapy and having a tough time accepting what has happened.
Turns out the children are just children they still have the same needs as they did when their mom was alive.
it is apparently clear now but the primary responsibility I had in this was to immediately become both mother and father to my children and in my son Logan’s case who was diagnosed to be with in the autistic Spectrum at 18 months old I would also have to become his full-time caregiver advocate protector teacher
I’ve been hard at it now for 6 years they were by far the hardest 6 years of my life after my wife passed away I shortly thereafter lost my job her death started a domino effect of Adverse Events in our lives that would bring us to literally being homeless on the streets within six months of her die
it took me a while to come to terms with the fact that what was happening to us as a family was not some curse or not some horrible thing being thrown upon me by God but was more a result of years and years poor decision-making bad planning and then overall sense being indestructible
I had done the right things according to society had a 401K plan I save 10% of my income put it away for emergencies I have good health insurance slaughterhouse Someecards button 5 months all my savings was gone
I couldn’t make the mortgage payment couldn’t pay the car payments and we lost everything when you get thrown out of a house to the Foreclosure or eviction guess what you can’t give another one especially when you don’t have a job especially when you have three kids especially when you have a child with special needs
we as a society or not supposed to discriminate but discrimination lives on like a thick murky fog Coates our society
I’m writing this article today to try if I can and help other single fathers who have children that are known to be within the autistic Spectrum to possibly share some of my learned secrets I have used to not just survive but to thrive as a single father
bring on three children there is not enough content out in the world today for single fathers of special needs children
this is my little effort than changing that and I hope this can help just one person it will be worth it
my son Logan is 13 years old he goes to Reynolds Middle School in Asheville North Carolina he has a twin brother Luke who is not within the autistic Spectrum
he has an older sister Skylar who was 14 years old we live with the children’s grandmother my mother Janice in a small rental home just outside of downtown Asheville in North Carolina
my son Logan had a abnormal childbirth he was a twin and born 45 minutes after his brother we had some complications with the cord being wrapped around Logan’s neck and our good doctor did her best to keep that cord from being too tight around his neck until he was born and right before they were about to give my wife a cesarean section
I think once my wife heard the doctor call for a cesarean section she pushed Logan out in about 2 seconds
Logan was born when he came into the world he was Ray or bluish-gray not like Luke Luke was red and blush and cried right away Logan didn’t make a sound or did he move it took the nurses five different emergency stagings to finally get him to breathe and cry
it was the scariest thing I’ve ever been through in my life strange how our brain works and how we are equipped with fight or flight tools to help us cope my wife does not remember this ordeal with Logan when he was born and she remembers his child birth is being perfect
whether or not Logan’s lack of oxygen when he was born had anything to do with his autism we will never know
I was told before the babies were born that there was a large chance that one of them would be down syndrome or autistic or have some type of neurological syndrome only they said that would be true for Luke notlogan Luke was born pretty much all ten fingers and toes pretty normal except for the fact that the tubes running to his kidneys or smaller and he suffered from something called hydronephrosis which is another I’m saying he have water on the kidneys you took his kidneys a long time to drain this is something he would later grow out of it is fairly normal what is worth mentioning so on that day when my wife passed away and shortly thereafter when the dust settled I guess it was about a month or so when I was called in to my boss’s office and told that I was being let go as you can imagine the shock and surprise of this happening right after my wife passed away incomprehensible I even said to my executive director how could you do this to me I’ve just lost my wife now I’m losing my job and have no way to take care of my family it was so strange because I was working for one of the largest not-for-profit Healthcare organizations in the world you have my insurance did not cover my spouse’s death I begged the executive director to tell me how he could possibly let me go during such an adverse time in my life but he offered no reason I walked out that day and walked in to another job the hardest job I would ever face and now know that losing my job that day was the best thing that ever happened to me as it was God forcing me Two-Face my situation you needed me more than anything I now know was the hardest full-time job anyone could ever have in fact it was probably a full-time job for two or three people let alone one person I’m vastly underestimated when it was that my wife was doing with the children and being their mother and their father as well as taking care of Logan and his autism I had absolutely no clue what an epic undertaking this was not only was I vastly under-qualified but I did not have the motherly Instinct that my wife I was so fortunate and have a she was a great mother had incredible instinct and I see how things were naturally easy for her not so easy for me in fact some of it downright impossible so I’ve learned a lot over the last 5 or 6 years and this is hopefully five or six things that will help single fathers of autistic children to change their lives for the better number simple someone Hummer surprising all of them will be fairly easy to implement into your life the number one thing and the number one secret into being successful taking care of an autistic child and not just surviving but thriving in their upbringing for both you and the child and together in a growing relationship is to seek help the proper help proper places we will create tulus here one of resources that should be sought after the other a list of resources that are a waste of time the number to thing that you can do to help you when driving is to start a website so you can document publicly and privately all of your efforts and the reason for this is tenfold not only will it connect you with others who need to know about what you’re doing but it will connect you with people who can help you the therapeutic effects of writing are huge and an outlet that you will need if not now very soon it helps you keep track of everything it is an organizing tool you can do this without a website and practical substitutions might be a spreadsheet planner but doing on the web will actually be the quickest method to Market another practical substitution would be just a giant whiteboard but I’m here to tell you that using a website has the main Foundation for the upbringing of your children especially your autistic child even if you never make a single page of it public will be the best thing you ever did it won’t cost you any money and you learned a bunch of things along the way some of the things that you do can be jewel purposed or multi-purpose and the fact that they can be used by other people serve another purpose in your life that will save you time and redoing them and even be monetized to some extent and help you cover the cost of bringing up an autistic child which by the way is an unbelievable amount of money if you are to do any of the things how your child even remotely needs you are going to need a ton of money large changes in your daily regimen such as losing power water even having the internet turned off can cause major problems in an autistic Child’s Day these changes to daily regimen changes to schedules can affect an autistic child for weeks it will be in your best interest to make as few changes to your schedule as possible until you get a hold or get your arms around the entire process once you have a handle on things you can start making changes to the schedule more and more and get them used to changes so they’re not so sensitive to them but in the beginning it will be important to keep your schedule the same every day right down to the finest details in fact let’s they make that secret number 3 schedule having a schedule and keeping to it will make or break you as a parent of an autistic child however you have to do this whether you’re good at it or bad at it find the method that works best for you and implement it immediately do not waver from it ever no matter what make it a top priority number for know that Child’s favorite things and use them as a reward system a visual reward system is usually best this is a system that incorporates laminated paper or laminated cardboard with images and words these can be kept in a bag laptop bag and even in your wallet if they’re made small enough and you use them for all sorts of things when we go to the playground for instance my son Logan does not like to wait in line he will walk up to a slide that has 20 kids waiting in line I walk right up to the ladder by passing all the kids push kids off the ladder climb up it and go down the slide without waiting his turn for the longest time I could not resolve this problem until I came up with the ticket system I made it ticket like a ticket to go on the slide or on a swing or a ticket to go on any ride at the playground and I laminated it plastic it’s about the size of a baseball card what I’m going to the playground I carry this ticket in my pocket and when I see Logan getting ready to go to a slide that has a big line I give him the ticket and I say Logan this is your ticket for the slide you can only use it if you wait in line patiently like the rest of the kids and the man will ask you for your ticket and you can go on it if you cut in front of other people or lose your ticket or forget to hand it to him you will not be allowed to use the slide again good ticket itself doesn’t really do anything to make Logan think that he should wait in line or to teach me about waiting in line but is it is the use of this visual tool visual stimulus to stop the stimming process and break his regimented thought pattern of going to the playground going to the slide and going down the slide no matter who’s there cutting in front of everybody that’s the normal thought process it changes it to all wait a minute I need a ticket to go on the slide here’s my ticket and if I wait and line patiently and give it to the man I can go on the slide again this type of standardizing a processes is how office to Children work they like patterns and schedules and things to be linked together well they can express this to you it works trust me they make it ticket you give it to him and you tell him what the ticket is for when you’re telling him what the ticket is for you incorporate all the things that you need him to do properly wait in line be patient don’t take things for Mother’s asked to speak up say please thank you whatever it is you make their part of the ticket soon off of things become associated with that ticket some autistic children have photographic memories when it comes to this type of thing Logan for sure does I just tell him this one’s about the ticket and he will use the ticket perfectly from then on out sometimes he forgets sometimes I forget but in general this will help you climb over mountains we can a single parents of autistic children get stuck on some of the most simple little things that prevent us from making progress for instance slogan never like to go to school and I would spend hours every day in front of the elementary school in the car trying to coax him out of the car to get to go to school the teachers the principal assistant principals counselors even the lunch ladies would be out at my car in the morning trying to convince Logan that he should come into school it was a huge funny game bin and although he was crying tears and screaming I don’t want to go to school I hate school the whole thing was a big pattern scheduled game that he’d like to do everyday it wasn’t until I made a visual tool visual reward system is usually best this is a system that incorporate laminated paper or laminated cardboard with images and words these can be kept in a bag laptop bag it even in your wallet if they’re made small enough and you use them for all sorts of things when we go to the playground for instance my son Logan does not like to wait in line he will walk up to a slide and has 20 kids waiting in line for a walk right up to the ladder bypassing all the kids push kids off the ladder climb up it and go down the slide without waiting is turn for the longest time I could not resolve this problem until I came up with the tickets system I made a ticket like a ticket to go on this life or on a swing or a ticket to go on any right at the playground eliminated it and plastic it’s about the size of a baseball card when I’m going to the playground I carry this ticket in my pocket and when I see Logan getting ready to go to a slide that has a big line I give him the ticket and I say Logan this is your ticket for the slide you can only use it if you wait in line patiently like the rest of the kids then the man will ask you for your ticket and you can go on it if you cut in front of other people or lose your ticket or forget to hand it to him you will not be allowed to use the site again the ticket itself doesn’t really do anything to make Logan think that he should wait in line her to teach him about waiting in line but is it is the use of this visual tool visual stimulus to stop the stemming process and break his regiment but pattern of going to the playground going to the slide and going down the slide no matter whose they’re cutting in front of everybody that’s the normal thought process it changes it to call Wayne a minute I need it ticket to go on the slide here’s my ticket and if I wait in line patiently and give it to the man I can go on the slide again this type of standard Eisinger processes is how autistic children work they like patterns and schedules and things to be linked together while I can’t express this to you it works trust me you make it ticket you give it to him and you tell him what the tickets for when you’re telling them what the ticket is for you incorporate all the things that you need him to do properly wait in line be patient don’t take things from others ask speak up say please thank you whatever it is you make that a part of the tickets soon all those things become associated with that ticket some autistic children a photographic memory is when it comes to this type of thing Logan for sure does I just tell him this once about the ticket and he will use the ticket perfectly from then on how sometimes he forgets sometimes I forget but in general this will help you climb over mountains we can a single parent of autistic children get stuck on some of the most simple little things that prevent us from making progress for instance Logan never liked to go to school and I would spend hours every day in front of the elementary school in the car trying to coax him out of the car to get to go to school the teachers the principal assistant principals counselors even the lunch ladies would be out at my car in the morning trying to come in slogan that he should come into school it was a huge funny game damn and although you was crying tears and scream and I don’t want to go to school I hate school the whole thing was a big pattern scheduled game that he’d like to do everyday it wasn’t until I made a visual tool broke his thought process and put some new rules in the game that he changed we made a full size sheet of paper laminated sheet that had a bunch of noodles and pictures on it then I drop and it was a step by step process of how to get up in the morning and have a go to school properly and incorporated some rewards into that which were some of his favorite things like french fries I gave Logan the sheet of laminated paper and went over it with him step by step on how he could do this each morning get to school on time and then be rewarded with his favorite thing McDonalds french fries Logan was so excited about it he now keeps that laminated she has their first sheet and his no f*** and anytime I forgot that I own french fries he breaks up the papers his dad don’t forget I went to school I got there on time and I didn’t cry or give you a hard time so you only french fries let’s go please get French fries please