Today I am sharing another Autism dad’s perspective. I’m happy to introduce you to David Petersen. I met David through his wife, Lauren. Lauren became one of my followers and is currently my Beachbody coach (more about that in a future post). I was so happy David agreed to share his story with us today. Thank you so much David!
1. Before your child’s diagnosis, what was your experience with Autism?
Before the diagnosis, I lived in a bubble when it comes to knowledge of Autism. I didn’t even know anyone that had a son or daughter on the Autism Spectrum. In fact, I didn’t even know that there was a spectrum.
2. Before your child was diagnosed, what symptoms or characteristics did you notice that initiated the evaluation? Was this a mutual concern with your spouse/partner?
My initial signal that he might have a ‘delay’ was his lack of speech compared to his peer/age group. I also noticed he began to focus on one particular toy, trains. The concern was not mutual with my wife, at first. I dismissed the obvious ‘delays’ and thought he would grow out of this ‘phase’.
3. After the initial diagnosis, can you share how you felt about it?
After the diagnosis, I turned inward. My first thought was that I would never be able to experience the ‘father-son bond’. I again, dismissed the idea that my son would not be ‘normal’. Hearing the diagnosis was like getting a punch to the gut.
4. What kind of therapy services does your child receive and your thoughts on the process and progress?
My son received ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) for three years, OT (Occupational Therapy), and Speech Therapy. He succeed in ABA to the point where the center discharged him after completing his goals. He still receives OT and Speech therapies where he is meeting the projected targets and goals.
5. What has changed since your child’s diagnosis? (Ex: relationship with child’s mom, friends, family)
The relationship with my wife has changed due to the diagnosis, only because I turned inward instead of focusing on being a partner through this life-changing event. Friendships became strained due to the amount of time that was required to assist my son’s progress in his therapies.
The relationships with both sides of the family have become sparse, at best. Their refusal has distanced them from us due to their lack of effort and understanding of his needs. They have been selfish, to say the least, in their understanding of what is required for his success.
6. What would you like people to know about your child and special needs children in general?
My son looks the same as your child, which gives the impression that he’s not really dealing with a disability. Children with special needs deserve to be heard, even if they cannot speak. They need love and respect, the same as a neuro-typical child would receive.
My son has taught me that small victories are the biggest rewards and what it means to love someone for who they truly are – inside and out.
Final thoughts or anything you’d like to share?
Thank you for writing this piece on the Father/Husband side of the diagnosis and the viewpoint of a father. A piece of advice to all the husbands/fathers out there: Accept what is happening and find a way to push the ego aside and do what is best for the child. That has been my major hurdle to get through – the ego.
Thank you again David! If you would like to reach out to David, I’ve listed his social media contact below: