The joys and challenges of being a father with autism
By Phil Martin | June 19, 2020
This guest post is by Phil Martin. Phil was diagnosed with Asperger’s, school phobia, and ADHD as a teenager. Today he currently works as an Emergency Dispatcher and photographer and serves as a fire department public affairs coordinator. For more information on Phil, click here.
In this special Father's Day feature, Phil discusses the joys and challenges that come with being a father with autism. Initially, when he found out he was going to be a dad, Phil struggled with the idea that his autism would hinder his ability to live up to the lofty expectations he had for himself. But when his son Bryce was born, Phil's paternal instincts kicked in and his fears quickly turned into an overwhelming feeling of pride and excitement for the journey ahead. Learn more about Phil’s journey through fatherhood in this emotional interview with Autism Speaks.
When you found out that you were going to be a dad, what thoughts ran through your mind?
Initially, fear. I was so worried about if autism was gonna prevent me from being a super dad. I was worried about if I was gonna be able to connect with him on a father/son level without me ever getting overwhelmed.
What did you do to prep for your life as a dad before your child was born?
I took the time to google blogs by dads on the spectrum, which there hardly are any. So, I just googled about life on the spectrum from the views of others. I read studies and watched videos to try to better understand autism and then I took an approach to really look at the way autism affects me. This helped me gain control and I felt the more I knew about autism from different aspects, the easier it would be for me to control my mind and thought process when it came to being a dad.
How has life changed since the birth of your child?
Life hasn’t changed much. My son and I are very much on the same channel in life. He loves trains just as much as I do, we literally eat the same foods, we love the same TV shows, my favorite music is some of his favorite music. He made life easy. This life we’re in is his show and it just so happens to be my all-time favorite show.
What advice can you give to other autistic people who are preparing for the arrival of a little one?
Don’t panic. Lol. But develop a plan with your significant other. This is gonna be a big change for the both of you and tensions will be high and one on the spectrum might needs as much tender loving care as the other. You have to find a way to be there for each other throughout the pregnancy as well as making time for yourself so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
What are a few life lessons will hope you take from your parents or guardians and pass down to your child?
My mother put so much love in my life that I’m still overflowing with love from her. Although the life lesson of loving unconditionally is simple, it’s HIGHLY important and we see that right now in the world. I want my son to not be afraid to love, not to be afraid of being hurt, and understand the power that a hug can have to a friend who is in a dark place.
Have you thought about the future and speaking to your child about autism and some of the ways it has impacted your life?
I plan to be 100 percent transparent with my son as he grows, not only limited to autism but about the road of life and the mistakes and experiences that I’ve gone through in hopes that it might address a situation that he might one day encounter.
What is your Father’s Day message to all other dads out there?
Don’t lose sight of the end goal. Your only job as a dad is provide the building blocks and teach the lessons of life that lead your child down a path to be a great human being. Water them with love and guidance. Allow them to make their own decisions and be their own person but remember that you also have to ensure that you’ve effectively given them the tools to understand the difference between right and wrong and most importantly love.