Better Autism Parenting: One Dad’s Secret

April is Autism Awareness Month, and I’m turning over the blog to amazing parent bloggers who have kids with autism. Today’s post is from F. Lewis Clark, who writes Big Daddy Autism. He’s been called “The Dave Barry of Parenting.” As he notes, “I’ve also been called morbidly obese, ego-maniacal and kind of gross.”

Always real, ever funny, his stories portray how an ordinary dad makes the most of life with a teenage son, Griffin, who has autism. He is also the author of Big Daddy’s Tales From The Lighter Side Of Raising A Kid With Autism. The following is an excerpt from his latest e-book, Son of Big Daddy (a collaboration with blogger Lynn Hudoba) and is available on Kindle.

Griffin, my fourteen 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.

One morning, about a year or two  ago, Griffin said to me,

“Daddy!  I dream last night!”

That got my attention. Up until then I didn’t even knew if Griffin dreamed. Of course I suspected it. However, he never told us he did. It was still a rarity for him to talk about something as abstract as a dream. So I pressed the subject by nonchalantly asking;

“Oh yeah? What did you dream about last night?”

Without hesitation he blurted;

“Last night I dreamed Barney was at the Weather Channel talking about severe weather alerts in the Northeast! Do you believe that?!?”

Yes I did and I still do. It may be odd that my teenage 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, Wilford Brimley, 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 storm chaser. When his mom, Mrs. Big Daddy, calmly explained that storm chasers don’t hide in the closet when it drizzles, he nearly vomited. Since crying so hard you puke is not what the Weather Channel is looking for in its on-air personalities, our plan for Griffin becoming the next Al Roker seems to be fading.

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.

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  1. by Joyce Gilbert

    On April 18, 2012 at 9:08 am

    This article echos my perspective of family life with autism. The “Secret”, live in the moment and prepare for change, has transformed the tone in our home completely. Thank you for describing it so beautifully. It is relieving to know others are dealing with these cards the same way we are. By the way, my little boy, 9, has surprisingly begun to share his dreams with us as well, to our great joy.