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Autism Dads—Taking the Road Less Traveled

Dad WoodsBy Cathy Jameson

Today is another ‘holiday’ for many here in the United States.  Across the country thousands of Fathers are being put on a pedestal to be honored and remembered. 

Dads of younger children will be met with happy faces, sweet giggles squealing a “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!” greeting.  Warm hugs and lots of smiles will be given.  So will handmade arts and crafts, ugly ties and gift cards to sports’ events and hardware stores. 

I know that the many of the Dads in our own community won’t hear their child say, “Happy Father’s Day”.  They won’t receive personal gifts from their children.  Their children, like my son, are incapable of understanding the meaning of today’s festivities.  Our children might be able to participate in some Father’s Day activities, but it might be only because they are directed or told to do so.  It’s not that our children are being rude or are dismissing the role that their devoted father, it’s that they have no understanding of the concept.  The regressive nature of the autism many of our children have prevent them from that.  They cannot talk.  They cannot wish Dad well.  And they don’t know how to partake in days set aside to honor their Dad.

Our children won’t ask Dad to meet them in the front yard to toss the football.  They won’t sit next to Dad at a hometown baseball game.  They won’t ask to join Dad in the garage to tinker under the hood of the car.  They won’t suggest to ride bikes to the pool either.  It’ll be a different type if Father’s Day for a lot of the Dads in our community.  Diapers will be changed on our pre-teen children.  Dietary restrictions will rule the celebration.  So might another sleepless night and unpredictable self-injurious injuries. 

Dads in our community, the ones who stay devoted despite disappointment, despite major struggles, despite being rerouted to a different path they now travel are the ones we wish to honor today.  They are the ones who remain true to their role as father, as protector, as guide and as teacher.  It may be a different sort of teaching, a different way to guide and involve protecting their child in ways they never imagined, but the role autism Dads play are important and just as valuable. 

The fathers we recognize today are the ones who are committed to level a bumpy, unstable and unfamiliar road that cropped up when their child’s autism diagnosis changed their life’s plan.   So, today, to the Autism Dads we know, today we honor you.  We respect you.  We thank you.  We know it isn’t easy.  We know how hard parenting can be.  But we admire your strength and resolve in remaining true to your child.  We wish to extend to you comfort, peace and most importantly our gratitude.  Stay strong.  Believe in yourself, and know that we recognize the importance of your role, and we applaud your every effort.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.   –Robert Frost

Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.



Jeannette Bishop

Thanks, Cathy for putting some of my feelings into beautiful words. All the moms here at AoA give me something to aim at to emulate, but I think it's the dads, their examples, that by and large keep me energized to try. I wish all you autism dads and granddads a wonderful Father's Day!


Thanks for this beautiful and positive article commending the Dads who stick with it, those who endure hardships and work and find ways to cope with experiences which are different than expected. Fathers (and mothers) who can do this are around to experience the exquisite joys and satisfactions of family life as well.

Pain, fatigue, hardship, stress, fun, love, pleasure, companionship - these are the yins and yangs of our existence. Great to talk about all aspects. Talking about the challenges does not negate the joys.


As the parent of a 9 year old non-verbal, significantly impacted autistic child, I find articles like this deeply upsetting. Enough about what these children can't do and how we parents are saints to put up with them. How about some focus on the joys these children bring to our lives? Yes, it's harder to teach basic skills, but the thrill when they make even modest gains are much, much deeper. On Father's Day, of all days, let's honor the dads and the children they love, understanding that our kids show us their love in their own way. If it's not as described on the Hallmark cards of our fantasies, that's not our kids fault. I honor my husband not for simply staying on a different path as an obligation to be endured, but because he has chosen to enjoy the beauty of that different path.

 Bob Moffitt

To the .. "Dads in our community, the ones who stay devoted despite disappointment, despite major struggles, despite being rerouted to a different path they now travel are the ones we wish to honor today. They are the ones who remain true to their role as father, as protector, as guide and as teacher."

The Face In The Glass by Dale Wimbrow .. applies as well ...

When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day,
Just go to a mirror and look at yourself
And see what that face has to say

For it isn’t your father or mother or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass,
The person whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.

Some people might think you’re a straight-shootin’ chum
And call you a great gal or guy,
But the face in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look it straight in the eye.

That’s the one you must please, never mind all the rest,
That’s the one with you clear to the end,
And you know you have passed your most dangerous test
If the face in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the face in the glass.

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