autism and father by Niko Sadlowski (The Apparently)

AUTISM AND FATHER BY NIKO SADLOWSKI (THE APPARENTLY)

Hi there. Nice to meet you, nice to have a chance for a guest post. How are you? You don’t know me probably but thanks to Gail, maybe you will be happy to learn our story. Maybe you will even visit my blog too. Who knows? I would like to ask you a few questions. I hope you don’t mind? What comes to your mind when you hear word autism? What is your first thought when you hear words “autism and father”?
I wonder.

I had no experience or knowledge of autism before. I’ve heard the word somewhere, but other than Rain Man movie, some typical stereotypes on geniuses with autism or more known as people with Asperger Syndrome.

Rain-man. Noun. (plural rain men) (pejorative) An autistic, or mentally and/or socially impaired person. (pejorative) A non-autistic or impaired person whose mannerisms are similar to such people. – https://www.yourdictionary.com/rain-man


Father which I imagined myself as.

I always imagined myself as a full hands-on father. Since my wife’s pregnancy, I was involved with doctor’s appointments, scans, control visits, planning etc. I organised anything which came our way of parenting and labour. I guess I wanted to be opposite to my own father. It worked.
I wasn’t a fountain of knowledge, I became the first-time dad and I learned about parenting day by day. Our son was growing fast, soon after we welcomed our daughter into our world and with her, we realised that our son is developing differently. Who would expect that soon after our son will get a diagnosis of autism and developmental delay? Our world crashed and we were heartbroken, this was a life-changing moment for me, which resulted in me writing The A Word.

Diagnosis and approach.

I felt lost in the beginning. Not about the life-changing diagnosis but because everywhere we went to get some support, all conversations were directed to my wife, mother of our children, not to me. I felt angry, I fought to be included in these conversations, not to be treated as a piece of furniture or a driver.

AUTISM AND FATHER BY NIKO SADLOWSKI (THE APPARENTLY)


I was annoyed with it, I still am but the perception of fatherhood is changing. Quite often mums are so invested in their child with additional needs that they are building a wall between themselves, child/children and their father. Working as a Father and Child Wellbeing worker I had many conversations with dads telling me that healthcare professionals as social workers, health visitors, midwife are not really asking them about anything, as they would have no feelings or opinion about their own children.


We all know that having a child with additional needs brings new challenges to the environment. Depression, stress, money and care worries, it’s shifting family dynamics and might lead to breaking up of the family unit. Probably we all know someone who got divorced as life changed dramatically and people became more distant. We are learning how to deal with this, but without talking about it, without support, access to psychological or counselling help we might not survive in the world of our child full of challenges.

Discovering myself – discovering life.

Is fatherhood as much different than motherhood? Are fathers lost at the start of this amazing race called parenting?

I’ve built my confidence as a father and as a childcare practitioner. I worked in mainstream nurseries, special school and I fought for father’s recognition within parenting and autism parenting world. Some of us need a bit of encouragement, some of us need to be on the right side of the WALL. With a mother and a child. Instead of telling us – let me do it and taking over when we not doing things right – mums and professionals could say – “you got this”.

Fatherhood is awesome, autism might be a challenge but are we not always afraid of things we don’t know or are not familiar to us?
My son is a hero of mine. He inspires me, he changed my life, he and all of my children are my rock. They are all mine and I see them also as equally different, I approach them differently, but with the same bucket of love and care. 😉

Remember my questions from the beginning of this post? About autism and fatherhood?

“Never ask for someone’s thoughts on autism unless you are prepared to hear a story that doesn’t resemble your own.”
by Stuart Duncan

Embracing it.

We’re all different, as autism of our children. I had to learn not to compare my child to other children, forgetting that autism is just one of the challenges of our Maks. Developmental delay, being sensitive to light and temperatures, non-verbal and being sometimes fixated on things. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t change anything. Fatherhood thought me about what’s important in life, my life, our life.

As a family, we all went through different stages of grief. All of it, from denial which wasn’t a huge issue as we knew that something is not right. Anger – and I’m telling you, boy. I wanted to destroy the world around me, I was so angry and blamed fate, cursing at it badly for weeks. Bargaining and later depression which affected the mother of my children pretty badly to the point of acceptance.

AUTISM AND FATHER BY NIKO SADLOWSKI (THE APPARENTLY)

Maybe for you, it is different, maybe some of the parents are stuck between anger and denial? We all might go through it differently and it’s ok to feel this way. My depression came after seven years since his diagnosis, but eventually, it happened to me, not in the same order, not when I could expect it, but it did happen.

Autism is a journey for us, we are not planning to cure our son of it as it’s a disability, not a disease. There is no cure for it, but we could start from curing our approach to autism families, especially in terms of approach to fatherhood.

In Mumforce we trust.

Firstly, Gail. thank you once again for inviting me to write a guest blog post at Mumforce. For anyone wishing to follow me or to visit my blog please visit The Apparently.com HERE and follow me on social media channels. Take care of yourself and be kind to yourself.
Secondly, tell me once again – what comes to your mind when you hear those two words together – autism and father after reading this blog post? Anything changed?

With love. Niko.

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