By Dan Coulter
Your son or daughter has Asperger Syndrome. How are you, as a dad, dealing with it?
Here’s a test to help you analyze how your approach is working.
Your son is obviously bright, but doesn’t follow instructions you repeatedly give him.
A. You argue with him.
B. You remove privileges like video games.
C. You make sure he understands your instructions and why it’s important to follow them. You guide him through the tasks you’ve given him to perform and supervise him until he can do them the right way on his own. You reinforce his successes with praise.
Your wife asks you to be patient with your daughter and that you take a more active role in school meetings to get her the support she needs.
A. You explain that in the family division of labor, your primary role is to make money and be a provider.
B. You point out ways that she could do a better job of raising your daughter.
C. You sit down with your wife and listen to her. Then you come up with a plan where you both make compromises to share responsibility for meeting your daughter’s needs, including making it a priority to attend school meetings when you can.
Your son wants to go with you when you run errands, but he talks incessantly and has a habit of picking up everything in reach, even when that’s inappropriate.
A. You take your son with you, but find yourself constantly criticizing and correcting him.
B. You leave your son at home when you run errands.
C. Before you take your son on an errand, you explain in a positive manner where you’ll be going and how you expect him to act. You have him practice the behaviors you want, like pulling a paper clip out of his pocket to manipulate when he feels the urge to pick things up. On the errand, just before you enter a situation, you remind him of how he’s going to act. You praise him when he succeeds.
Okay, it’s easy to see the pattern here. Dads who can say they’ve been making “C” style choices are much more likely to see their children make progress – and much more likely to get along well with their wives.
Ever since I disclosed that I’d been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, I’ve had lots of moms tell me they suspect that their husbands also have Aspergers. This can be a challenge to a family, because some Asperger tendencies can make it difficult for dads to recognize that some of their ideas and behaviors are causing their families grief. Too many think things would be better if their family members would just follow dad’s direction.
If you’re a dad and you’ve felt that you’ve done all you can be expected to do and that it’s up to your family members to shape up -- perhaps it’s time to stop and consider whether you have an accurate picture of the situation.
After hearing many stories, I can say that you can be a really smart, capable guy and still not see how your actions affect your family in negative ways, or how changing your approach can make things dramatically better. I’ve seen great, role model dads with and without Asperger Syndrome – and not all started out that way.
If there’s unhappiness and discord in your family, I’d suggest you discuss the situation with someone objective, such as a counselor. You can meet the counselor by yourself or with your wife or with your whole family. At best, you’ll find a new perspective that will help raise everyone’s happiness levels. At worst, you’ll confirm that you were right all along and it’s the others who need to change.
You deal realistically with difficult situations every day. Doesn’t your family deserve that same approach? Being open to an honest self-assessment and to making changes for your family’s benefit is what the best of manhood is about.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Dan Coulter is the author of ten DVDs about Asperger Syndrome and autism, including, “Asperger Syndrome for Dads.” You can find more articles on his website at coultervideo.com.
© Dan Coulter 2012 All Rights Reserved Used by Permission