One of the most harmful things a parent can do when they suspect their child has autism or any other developmental disability is to ignore the problem.
Studies and supporting evidence have consistently shown that early intervention is a critical factor in a child’s ability to mainstream themselves into schools and society later in life. Denial is something that can be detrimental and exist with both parents, but it’s more common with fathers because it’s the father who usually refuses to believe that his son or daughter is somehow not "normal." I know this, because I was one of them.
Usually, it’s a pre-school teacher, family member, or Sunday school volunteer who is the first to notify parents about something they have already known: their child’s behavior is concerning enough to warrant an evaluation by a physician or specialist.
When several church volunteers tried to tell me my son wasn’t acting in a "normal" way, I became offended and angry, thinking they were overreacting and being unreasonable. Many months went by from this initial warning to when we finally received an official autism diagnosis. These were precious months of valuable time that were squandered away because of denial. Thankfully, our son is mainstreamed and living a happy, productive life and doing far better than anyone had predicted at the time. However, some families are not as fortunate and ignoring the red flags in the early years and doing nothing can have detrimental consequences down the road.
Fathers have many dreams and aspirations for their children when they are born. Maybe it’s for them to be an outstanding athlete, a political leader, a star musician, or someone who will accomplish great things in life. While all of these are still very achievable, even after an autism diagnosis, it’s the recalibration of expectations that is usually the most difficult thing for a parent to deal with.
Denial is a form of pride and should not play a role in whether or not a child has access to early intervention therapy. As a parent, we always want the best for our children and many times, there are sacrifices that need to be made to ensure this happens. If this means humbling ourselves and admitting there is a problem early on, than a parent should not let anything get in the way of their child getting the best possible help as soon as possible.
Our children should be a top priority in our lives. This means putting them in front of friends, other family members — and even ourselves. There is no denying that.