Role of the Father in the Development of Autistic Child
Role of the father is very much important like the mother in the development of their autistic children as both of them have unique skills and strengths. We cannot expect their proper development if both of them are not involved actively. In most of the cases, it has been found that only mothers are involved in nurturing the autistic children. In the third world countries, the fathers think that they have the responsibility of only earning money for the family and looking after outside activities. But the mothers are solely responsible for the development of the children, cooking foods and looking after the household matters.
Involvement of father is essential for the development of the special needs children. An involved father is to be sensitive, warm, friendly, supportive, intimate, nurturing, affectionate, encouraging, comforting and accepting to their developmentally disabled children.
“Any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad.”
Development of the children with autism is much difficult task than the normal children. So, the participation of both the parents is essential to reduce the load of each other. But in reality, it has been found that the father leaves the mother and get separated on the issue of looking after and development of an autistic child.
We can get the lesson from the animal kingdom where we find that the mother penguin lays the eggs and father penguin takes the responsibility of keeping the eggs warm and allow the mother penguin a time off for a couple of months. By this way, they grow their penguin family.
In this article, I would like to discuss, the role of the father in the development of the autistic children in the different stages of his/her life. I am writing this for this article from the experience of my own life as I could not perform my role properly for the development of my child Ferdous Mahi (honest confession).
Role of the Father during Childhood of Autistic Child
Nurturing an autistic child is a giant task in the life of the parents. It is very difficult for the mother alone to look after the child and bring considerable development in the life of an autistic child. The love and affection of the father and the mother equally affect child’s behavior, self-esteem, emotional stability and mental health. The father’s nurture benefits the children and helps them to develop cognitive, social and emotional skills as they grow up.
When a child is diagnosed with autism, it has been found that the mother generally become very much upset due to their inherent nature. The father has a great responsibility of giving her moral support in this juncture of life and remain beside for the sake of their autistic child. The father would share the responsibilities of nurturing the child, looking after health & hygiene, taking the child to the doctor, finding out good school, hiring therapists etc. The daily routine of the autistic children should be followed by both father and mother jointly to ensure its proper and timely compliance. A study has shown that the children of the more involved father learn the different skills in lesser time.
“The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
The father would meet the doctors, school teachers, and therapists in a regular interval to monitor the development of the child with autism. It will reduce the load for the mother. He along with his partner needs to inspire, motivate the child and incorporate functions taught in the therapy with their daily life.
He should love, hug, kiss his autistic baby more than the normal baby so that the child understands that s/he is not ignored from any corner. We must remember that the child learns everything from their surroundings especially from the parents. Father should never show his arrogance, anger, or frustration in front of the autistic child. S/he will be frightened and will never come up with his/her talents and his/her development will be hindered.
Children learn problem-solving, language and social & emotional skills by the interaction with the parents. Father can play a pivotal role in this aspect.
From my personal experience, I would like to say that I did not perform these tasks at the early age of my angel, Mahi. After coming back from work, when I observed his different irrelevant works, sometimes I could not control my emotion and misbehaved with him which has harmed him a lot. I have always neglected and avoided him. That was a failure on my part as a father.
Role of the Father during Puberty
During puberty, the children (both normal & autistic boys & girls) become frightened due to some physical and physiological changes in them. At that time, the moral support is essential for the children. At this time the father can play an important role to overcome this crucial period.
In the afternoon, the father would take the child outside for cycling, swim, run or play which may help them in development. The child can be taken for the outing and eating outsides by the father. When a father makes a rapport with his autistic child, his/her communication level is improved.
Since it is a transition period for a child, the father can be the best guide for them to manage the puberty of the boys. The mother cannot handle the peculiarities of the puberty of the autistic boy. So the father has a great role to play here especially regarding sexual matters. Sometimes, it is found that they become violent at the stage of their life due to sexual excitement which can only be controlled by the help of the father.
Father can also be a good friend for an autistic girl during this period. Generally, the daughters become very much attached to the father. So, if the autistic girls are nurtured by the dads, their development gets momentum.
During the adolescence time of my autism angel, I have given him different types of support. I taught him how to take shave the beard, underarm and pubic hairs which is a little bit tricky for the mother. Moreover, after being grown up I am involved in assisting him in maintaining his personal hygiene.
Role of the Father during Young Age
As the autistic boys and girls become grown up they become physically strong. Its become very difficult for the mother to stop him/her from any wrongdoing. So the responsibility of the father increases as they grow up. Father is considered as a symbol of protection and safety. There is none other than parents to protect a girl with autism during her young age. As she has no knowledge about the sexual activities she might be a prey to the bad people. In our society, sometimes it is found that the girls are sexually harassed by the close relatives. In that case, the father can be the only man to protect her. Regular praise and admiration from a father can help his daughter to grow up as an independent and confident woman.
Role of the Father in Settlement of Children
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability, so it is most likely s/he will be dependent on somebody throughout their life. As such, the father of the child with autism has a major responsibility for doing something for the child’s settlement in life, so that s/he can pass a peaceful life till death.
Since there is no arrangement of providing shelter to the autistic children in absence of the parents, the father has to make some arrangement like accommodating them in the homes in their absence. Fathers can arrange some vocational training for the child which can pave the way for their development.
Role of the Father as Team Player
Development of the autistic children is always a teamwork. The father should work closely with the mother, teacher, caregiver, therapists for their development. Involvement of all the members of the family headed by the father is an important aspect of child’s development.The autistic child should not be the cause of divorce between the parents as it happens frequently in the developed countries. The statistics show that the divorce rate of the parents of autistic children in the USA is about 85%, which is very alarming. The separation between the parents of the autistic child is like throwing him/her in the deep sea.
In the developed countries, there is a change in the culture about the role of the father. Now a day some of the fathers are becoming a stay-at-home dad for looking after their special needs children. The mothers work in the office as they get a higher salary and the fathers look after the children and perform the role of caregivers, protector, and most importantly, a model for social and emotional behavior. Their numbers are increasing day by day. In the USA, as per census of 2003, the number of stay-at-home dads was 98,000, in 2007 the number increased by 60% to 1,59,000 and in 2012 the number reached to 1,89,000.
Role of the father is important like the mother in the development of the autistic children. But the father has a bigger role to play. So the father has to come forward, involve himself and take more initiative to assist the mother in the development of the autistic children. They need father’s support in every step of their life from childhood until their death. Father can take an active part in their development, engagement, and settlement. If a father supports an autistic child neck to neck with the mother and perform the ideal role of the father, there is every possibility that s/he can achieve self-dependency quickly and pass a peaceful life.
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