Voices of Autism: ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Sobbing’

Every day throughout April–Autism Awareness Month–we will be featuring a different reader-submitted story about living with autism. Today’s story was written by F. Lewis Stark (a pen name), father of Griffin, 13, and author of the blog www.bigdaddyautism.com:

GriffinStarkAs I type this, Griffin, peeks over my shoulder with an ear to ear grin plastered on his freckled face. As he contorts his neck to get a better look, he excitedly asks me if I’m writing about him. Actually I’m writing about the power of acceptance.

Griffin, my 13-year-old son, is autistic. I could sugar coat it by saying he is merely developmentally challenged or gifted. But the truth is, no matter what label we use, Griffin is significantly disabled by this perplexing disorder. Autism is a huge part of our lives.

Through his toothy smile, Griffin says, “Daddy. I dream last night!”

This gets my attention. It wasn’t until recently that we even knew if Griffin dreamed. We suspected it. However, he never told us he did. It was still a rarity for him to talk about it. So I press the subject by nonchalantly asking, “Oh yeah? What did you dream about last night?”

Without hesitation he blurts, “Last night I dreamed Barney was at the Weather Channel talking about severe weather alerts in the Northeast! Do you believe that?!?”

Yes I do. It may be odd that my son dreams about an imaginary, purple dinosaur broadcasting storm alerts. But this is my life. In spite of the fact that it is not always easy, life with Griffin is, humorously bizarre. We believe the only way to approach it is to kick back and enjoy the show.

Griffin loves elevators and the Weather Channel. He has embraced these simple pleasures with the same passion some kids reserve for their favorite sports teams.

Griffin’s infatuation with the weather started after Hurricane Wilma blew through Florida. His fear of thunderstorms has been incredible ever since. Desperate for anything to ease his anxiety, we thought if he could see weather reports and know what’s coming, his angst would be somewhat allayed. So we introduced him to The Weather Channel. It wasn’t long before Griffin became a weather junkie.

While being constantly tuned into the weather has done nothing for his trepidation of thunderstorms, it did give him something to talk to his family about. Obsessively.

During one recent squall, Griffin hunkered down in the closet and sobbed about how much he wanted to be a storm chaser. When his mom calmly explained that storm chasers don’t hide in the closet when it drizzles, he nearly vomited. Since crying so hard that it makes you puke isn’t what the Weather Channel is looking for in on-air personalities, our plan for Griffin becoming the next Al Roker is a long shot.

In a way, being told your child is disabled is a death. A death of what you had planned for your life. Griffin has taught us that getting too attached to having things go as you planned, is a recipe for disappointment. By accepting that we have little control over our futures, we spend more time living in, and enjoying, the present. Even when it rains.

To read previous stories in this series, click here. For instructions on how to submit your story, click here.

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  1. by Lynn

    On April 6, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Griffin is such a cutie-pie. I would hang with him, even during a thunderstorm.

  2. by Dawn

    On April 6, 2011 at 9:49 am

    its too bad you can’t hunker in a closet as a storm chaser. It would be infinitely safer!

  3. by Big Daddy in Parents Magazine? - Big Daddy Autism

    On April 6, 2011 at 10:37 am

    [...] I knew blogging about Lynn, boogers, farts, and poop would pay off someday.  I just knew I could raise this often overlooked genre into a serious art form.   Seriously, today marks a momentous day in the history of telling funny stories about Griffin.  Today, Big Daddy is recognized as a Goody Blog by Parents Magazine.  Don’t believe me?  Click here! [...]

  4. by Flannery

    On April 6, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Griffin is awesome, and so is his daddy!!! Love the stories and the humor, it’s the best way to deal with challenges of autism.

  5. by Grace

    On April 6, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Griffin is awesome. Jim Cantore better watch his back.

  6. by Nana

    On April 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Griffin, who happens to be my grandson, really is an awesome child and my son-in-law isn’t so bad either. Family members get to know Grif even if they do not live near by reading the wonderful articles on your blog.

    Griffin’s Nana

  7. by Alysia

    On April 6, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    You never cease to amaze me with your stories. So glad you shared this glimpse into your life.

    If anyone can figure out a way to be a storm chaser and hunker down, I bet your son can.

  8. by jillsmo

    On April 6, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I love that boy!! I’ve never seen his face before. SWOOOOOOOON <3

  9. by Barbara Manatee

    On April 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am a teacher for kids with ASD and have tried using the Weather Channel online to help kids understand weather changes each day (ie. sunny in the AM but rainy when they go home or the changes of weather/seasons here in MI…MI is NOT a good place for kids who expect the seasons to stay true to character! ha!)

    I am blogging all month long about Autism Awareness Month. I hope you’ll stop by!

  10. by Karen V.

    On April 6, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    i hate storms too! Even as a kid I would hide under our dining table to try and get away. Griffin is a smart boy. The closet sounds like a much better hide out than the table!

    Your perspective of humor as the “medicine” to deal with the very tough diagnosis our children face is gold. Worrying will only get you so far to find help for your child. Acceptance can release the stress and tension, keep us parents healthy to care for our kids and let us find peace enough to enjoy life as it happens. <3

  11. by Kelly

    On April 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Big Daddy – Griffin is so handsome! He must take after Mrs. BD.

    Love that you are getting the opportunity to tell Griff’s story and sing his praises on a national level. Bravo!

  12. by Danica

    On April 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    That is sweet. Love the way you describe him in your writing. I often wondered myself if my daughter dreamed. She also terrified of storms, and just sobs when the wind kicks up. No matter how I try to explain to her.
    Thank you for sharing that. Your son is adorable…

  13. by Jennie B

    On April 6, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Look at that face! Moe wrinkles his nose just the same way. I think Griffin’s weather reports would rock.

  14. by Jen

    On April 6, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    That kid is so frickin’ cute. And you totally inspire me, BD, to just be OK…

  15. by Jen

    On April 6, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Thought I commented but maybe not..

    1)Griffin is so frickin’ cute. I would talk about elevators and Wilfred, and storms anyway.

    2)BD, you really do inspire me to just be OK…

  16. by Cheryl D.

    On April 7, 2011 at 1:31 am

    What a sweet story about Griffin! Also, I don’t think Al Roker ever leaves the studio, so Griffin should be perfect for that job!

  17. by Reyna

    On April 7, 2011 at 1:55 am

    That was beautifully written!
    You can sense the love you have.
    Griffin is a lucky (and handsomely sweet) guy!
    And we are lucky to be taught lessons we ALL can use no matter what our situations are.
    Thank You!

  18. by Amanda Broadfoot

    On April 7, 2011 at 11:15 am

    That is one GORGEOUS kid with an infectious smile! I’ll bet he looks just like his Daddy … :-)

  19. by Jean@MommyToTwoBoys

    On April 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Big Daddy is the best Autie father I have ever met, besides my husband.

    And Barney announcing a severe weather system in my area actually sounds like a nightmare to me…

  20. by Dena

    On April 7, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Wow, F. Lewis! Well done.

  21. by Floortime Lite Mama

    On April 8, 2011 at 8:34 am

    I adored this post !

  22. by Pam @ One Autism Mom's Notes

    On April 19, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Big Daddy, I always enjoy your stories about Griffin, and this is one of your finest. Your final paragraph truly expresses what parenting a child with autism entails–letting go of plans and control so that we live in the present instead of the future. This English teacher gives you an A+! :)

  23. by Laverna Muthig

    On November 29, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Excelent info my friend!!, keep it comming!