Fatherhood and Autism


March 31, 2012 by DKC

As I write this post I can hear my daughter up in the bathroom scripting. [1] Years ago this would send me into a fit of discouragement, but now it is something that I have come to understand as behavior that reflects her mood and needs. Autism Spectrum Disorder was a diagnosis that my wife and myself were sort of prepared for. However,  I am not sure you can fully prepare to hear a doctor run down a list of your child’s presenting issues and how they match up with an ASD diagnosis tool. Pam and I knew there were some delays and differences in our daughter’s behavior, but thought that perhaps some at home solutions would give us a ‘normal’ child.  We have grown since then and realize that our daughter is unique and doesn’t learn, see or interact with the world in the same way as other children.  Many underestimate my daughter and simply believe that she doesn’t know or is oblivious to what is going on around her.  My wife and I have sat in on IEP meetings where practitioners have made the false assessment that she doesn’t have comprehension.  The experts are the fools because with the right questions and some patience any observer will recognize Karis’ brilliance.

I will admit that her presence requires that we remain constantly on alert as the creative aspect of her personality overflows in places like the bathroom and the kitchen. She fulfills her sensory needs[2] by occupying herself with making a mess at times.  These are some of the ‘normal’ everyday characteristics of life with ASD. What seems to be a mess in our eyes is actually her attempt to create order and could better be described as sorting; which is a way for some kids with autism to order their world, it has a calming affect.  Since our daughter’s diagnosis, we have attempted to provide Karis with every therapeutic advantage possible—it has been costly at times, but we believe that our role is to provide her with what she needs.  She has grown from a child who wouldn’t make eye contact or socialize to a child who now more consistently interacts with proper social etiquette.  We have quickly found ourselves as her chief therapist as well as her primary advocate. Our hope is that others would understand the world she lives in.

We are still trying to figure out our role as advocates for kids with ASD. I believe that we are called to educate those around us who will still say things like, “…Ain’t nothing wrong with that child” or “She’ll grow out of it, just wait”. These are well meaning and sincere people, and they love Karis and the family, but these comments provide a glimpse into the pervasive ignorance about this condition.  We don’t live in a world where the impact of the fall doesn’t exist—rather we know that God is redeeming in His time and in His way those things impacted by the fall.  We don’t walk around in willful ignorance of the troubles of this life as if they don’t exist or all the result of lack of belief. We recognize that His sovereign plan is constantly being revealed and we trust Him for today’s issues.

These are some things I know about those with disabilities.  They are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalms 139:14)  They are all image bearers of the Creator and are endowed the ability to believe, worship and serve God. (Genesis 1:27)  They can teach ‘normal’ people something about the heart of God and the focus of Christ when he ministered here on earth. My daughter is an avid worshipper—you might see her on Sundays singing worship songs about God’s goodness—clapping and raising her hand in agreement.  My daughter is not a problem to fix, although as parents we will do our best so that she develops and grows. She brings God glory and she helps this family and all those around her grow simply because she’s an instrument in the hand of the Lord for our sanctification and His glory. I would add to the list that her future is filled with possibilities. (Jeremiah 29:11)[3]

When my wife and I met her most recent teacher at her elementary school something her teacher said gave me great joy and also caused my heart to sink.  Her teacher mentioned college, yes College, as a goal for Karis. Up to that point I had not allowed myself to think about the upcoming events that many fathers anticipate—things like the prom, college, marriage and children. I stayed away from those events only concentrating on getting Karis to provide a socially acceptable response to a question like, “What would you like from the menu at McDonald’s?” The teacher went there and she recognized our reluctant stare. She respectfully corrected us during our point of weakness and assured us that Karis could indeed go to college and experience the life events that we crossed off long time ago. The sky is the limit and we wait to see what God is going to do through this gift from heaven. (Hebrews 11:6)

As a father of a child with a disability, I must be cognizant of so many things. Our oldest, Micah is 8 years old, and may sometimes feel that he’s left out because so much attention is given to therapy and trainings for Karis. He should not be neglected and God is giving me wisdom to be a better father to him and also helping me to keep my wife first.  I often times fail, but I want my household to know that failure doesn’t mean that we quit.  It means we pray and run to the Savior who knows, cares and provides grace[4] and mercy to help in the time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)  He has made a sovereign choice to place this child in our possession and my wife and I simply want to be good stewards.

April is National Autism Awareness Month…show some love

[3] “For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you  hope and a future.”

[4] Karis is derived from the Greek word for grace. Χάρις or charis

2 thoughts on “Fatherhood and Autism

  1. Glenn Wesley says:

    A good read. I do quite a bit of work for a couple who have an autistic child. His mom is a specialist on teaching autistic children and I believe she had a website. Let me know if you are interested or would like to meet her.

  2. Kyle says:

    Hey Glenn – thanks for taking time to read on the post. We are always interested in any resource and relationship that helps us help Karis. If you would like to send her information to my email address it is greatly appreciated. kylecanty@hotmail.com Again thanks for the resource. God bless brother.

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