Salvatore (Sam) Benetatos
“Autism from a Dad’s Perspective”
I see my son every morning before I leave for work. He is the first one to greet me on a daily basis. Today was no different. I walked down the stairs with him trailing right behind. My wife has already been up at this point for 30 minutes. Breakfast is ready, and it’s the same as it was the morning before; scrambled eggs (cooled to room temperature), one half dollar sized pancake freshly made by mom, with melted butter and syrup covering the entire diameter of said pancake, and fresh cut, sweet, fire engine red strawberries and blueberries with a deep blue/violet type color. For a brief moment, I envy the wonderful breakfast spread that has been laid out for my son, but then I remember he has had this breakfast for the last 3 mornings in a row. Luke is a creature of habit, and sometimes deviating from that routine can cause great anxiety. As I am making my exit through the front door, I told him goodbye and after a little prompting, I received a goodbye in return. I walked to the end of the driveway and waved to my son as I slowly sunk into the seat of my car (I did this more for myself than for him). He did not wave back.
I am the father of a child on the autism spectrum. My wife and I have two children; our oldest son Luke is 6 years old, and our baby girl Quinn is 2 years old. Luke was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum when he was 22 months old. The date stands out in my head like a bright, humming neon sign against a dark background, January 29th 2014. The word “autism” hit me in the gut like a cannonball fired from a powerful cannon at close range. It felt like a nightmare. It was almost like I was watching all of this happen from outside of my own body, like watching an episode of a sad TV drama, pulling at emotions I normally keep locked deep inside. I did my best to hold back tears and be strong. I eventually failed at that soon after leaving the doctor’s office. My wife gave me a lesson on what true dignity and grace is in that moment. She had taught as an early childhood special education teacher for several years prior to our son’s diagnosis. She has always had a delicate touch. Her reaction to the situation then and always has been one of patience, understanding, caring and love. I’ve never met a more self-less person. The same cannot be said for me. To say that I am quick tempered, impatient, and high-strung doesn’t begin to cover it. However, after four years and counting and through good times, hardship, happiness, and tears; our family, and most importantly my son, is thriving.
Autism has impacted my life much more than I could have imagined. It has changed me and shaped the person I am today. I’ve typically maintained a level of silence or vagueness regarding my thoughts and feelings on my son’s autism, never revealing too much information about or my emotions towards it. I think there are a lot...