What is being the parent of a child with Autism like?

By Karl Farrell

There are many people out there who don’t know the fact that my son has Autism. He, in fact, has HFA which is Higher Function Autism. This means is that my son is very, very intelligent, but can struggle socially and has very little spacial awareness. This means he struggles with other children and has no real sense of danger.

I’m writing this so that other parents out there who feel their child might have something similar have someone to learn from and connect with. I remember how I found out like it was yesterday. I’m no longer in a relationship with my son’s mother, however it was her who noticed the signs. She sat me down during one of my visits and explained that something didn’t seem right and she was seeing a specialist. My heart sank and I’m not afraid to admit that I thought whatever it was could be my fault. In , I spent the next few months thinking that exact thing. I went over things in my mind thinking I could have contributed or if I’d done something different it might have made a difference.

I remember sitting in the first meeting with the doctors and having it explained to me. Looking over at Joe’s mum I was no sign of weakness – she really is an excellent mum for Joe. Over in my world, I’m lucky to have a beautiful fiancée called Katy, who adores Joe just if not as much as I do. She met him shortly after he was diagnosed, so she’s been with me in this journey. She will be the first to admit how hard things can be for me.

The first thought any parent will have when they find out their child has autism is “why?” “Why our child? What did we do that made this happen?” The fact is you didn’t do anything, and it is down to simple development of the human brain. I’ve often said that to me Autism is like an evolutionary trait. We live in a world that is driven by numbers, maths and the need to learn. These are the hallmarks of a child or adult with Autism. My son is amazing at what he knows. He can count way beyond his age, he knows shapes I’ve never heard of, and put an iPad in front of him and I might as well not exist. He’s amazing and I’m truly blessed – the whole family is.

There are times I am out with Joe and parents look me and him up and down because they don’t understand. Autism isn’t a physical thing. It doesn’t appear as something you can say “that person definitely has Autism”. What people see is a child who is frustrated at the noise, frustrated at people looking at him, frustrated at the overwhelming experience they are going through. I don’t claim to be an expert, but what I do know is that some days can be extremely hard for my son, but other days are the most rewarding days ever.

Joe has an obsession with trains and recently Katy, myself and him were in the new museum in Liverpool. There is a place with an old school train cabin that he sat in and didn’t want to leave. If there was only that cabin I don’t think he would have ever got out, but seeing his face of excitement, looking at me through the glass and shouting “Hi Daddy”. I’m not afraid to admit that my eyes swell with pride whenever I look at him.

The fact is, my son is absolutely amazing. He is the best thing to ever happen to me and dragged me out of an awful time in my life, when my head wasn’t clear. He is different, he acts differently to other children and he can’t always get what he wants truly over to me, but he is the best child you could ever ask for. He has an incredible support system with his mum and her family and me and mine. He has a girl in Katy who absolutely adores him and the bond they share is something special.

What can I truly tell you about having a child with Autism? It is extremely hard, but it is also the most rewarding experience I’ve ever know.

I am currently raising funds so that Joe’s puppy Marley can be trained into a dog that will understand his needs. To make a donation, please go to: http://www.gofundme.com/y8eeb4

Please also visit the National Autistic Society to see the amazing work they do every day for families like ours.

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