Autism, Divorce and Putting Children First

Recently, a study was conducted by Brian Freedman of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, dispelling the popular notion that the divorce rate among autism families was near 80%. The study found that despite high stress among families facing autism, 64 percent of children with an autism spectrum disorder had two married biological or adoptive parents, while 65 percent of children who do not have an autism spectrum disorder had two parents. 

The findings seemed to contradict previous theories about divorce and autism, offering little comfort to those within the autism community who have been impacted by divorce. For these families (including mine), their rate is 100%.

Divorce involving families of children with autism leaves millions of children in situations that will be detrimental and will certainly cause a child’s progress to be severely impacted.

So, what can be done? 

The key is to focus on the big picture. A child’s best interest must be put first and personal battles have to be let go. Years after arguments and disputes are over, a child’s growth will be obstructed because of the now-forgotten fight. Putting a child and a relationship at the helm will keep ships sailing back into smooth waters following the rough seas. 

A family’s goal after a divorce must be healing the child with autism. Anything and everything beyond that is secondary. Remember, these kids have impeccable memories and think in pictures. Mommy is mommy and daddy is daddy and the images and painful memories of a divorce will remain for many years to come.

I have personally chosen that I would rather be alone and respect my child’s relationship with his daddy then to ever try and substitute. A child does not directly cause the break up and should never have the door closed to both parents.

A marriage and family counselor of the courts once explained, "When you break up and see each other again, it’s like sitting on the curb in front of your house that has just burned down…you are so euphoric to be alive and in each other’s arms knowing that there’s still a chance." 

Many couples have tried reconciliation but cannot avoid breaking up again because a house needs to be rebuilt and if you don’t correct the things that caused it to burn down in the first place, it will burn down again. It is always wise to bring counseling in, but it is also important to remain cautious. Counseling for parents of children with autism has to be extremely specific. Ideas like having a child get used to two different homes or regularly changing his or her routines may seem like textbook fixes for the parents and the courts, but can be disastrous for children with ASD. The many years of guidelines set down for children in the court systems are based solely upon neurotypical children and not children with autism.

Our children’s best interests must become our own if they are going to have a fighting chance. When a father’s interests are purely those of his son or daughter, he too will want to come back and fight alongside with you.

The factors that contribute to a divorce in couples facing autism do not necessarily include the diagnosis itself. It can be related to many other things, including the lack of resources and support in the schools and community, the sense of worthlessness at helping a child, the severity of the ASD (which increases without resources) and knowing that there’s more that can be done, but not knowing what that is.

If at all possible, dads need to return home. Their children need them more than ever. A child’s progress and potential cannot be fully realized unless both parents are tag-teaming TOGETHER in the battle. Single mothers most likely have sacrificed everything they have and a father coming home will be like the cavalry showing up in the 23rd hour.

If a spouse never returns, they will be missing out on the many miracles that occur on a daily basis involving children with autism. 

Reconciliation may be a tall order, but children with autism need both their mommies and daddies and sometimes we must be willing to live for something greater than ourselves to ensure the best possible outcome.

31 Responses to Autism, Divorce and Putting Children First

  1. Gina Robin says:

    This is so not true. Just like typical children.. when a marriage is abusive and not successful it should end. My marriage of 10 years was a mentally abusive and corruptive marriage. I was very hard on children. My son will only benefit from my marriage breaking up. So, for you to say that my son will not do as well is very disturbing to me. Why would you imply that a bad marriage be kept together for the children. When, in fact, I can testify it hurts the children deeply.

    Please, do not stereotype marriages and disabilities. Each one is different. I find this article disturbing to us mothers who fight for our children to not be in bad situations.

    Thank you,
    Gina Robin

  2. Rebecca says:

    I agree with Gina. My children were in a worse place when we were together. How could I show my children – autistic or not – how a woman is meant to be treated; how to treat the person you are supposed to love; what a helathy relationship looks like, had I stayed. While the situation is still awful, I have to hope it will get better. But at least there is one less stressor in life and that is me disappearing into the nothingness that he had relagated me to in life and in our house. We ar ein our own home now, and I am a stronger, more confident woman who can take on anything that comes our way. I hope their pictures will also be of this, as well as the “bad” parts.

  3. Drew says:

    Why is it that it always seems to sound like it is the fathers fault? i am and will always be there for my son. I am facing a divorce right now just because my wife and I just have different views on how to go about our lives. Everything i do is for my son. my goal is to save and have the financial resources there for my son once my wife and I are gone. I do believe that a child, autistic or not, will always be best with both parents. Our society has accepted divorce which is scarry. Adults need to change thier ways and support the family at all costs. I would bet that a big majority of fathers feel this same exact way. We see family as the main priority and woman see “themselves” and “their” happiness as being the issue. I am in fear of divorce. I also bet that a majority of the woman wo want a divorce came from a divorced family. My son is my life and i will never turn my back on him. He has a lot of medical issues and we have been through a lot. I will do whatever it takes to keep him healing and happy.

  4. Keisha says:

    This is one person’s opinion and perception. It could be true for a number of families. I know Dads who are VERY active and one who is a single father of a child on the spectrum. It may be more important to remember how you would raise the child, period, regardless of spectrum issuses. Granted, ASD is more costly than raising a typical child, but a person’s life need not be swallowed up by another. Your ASD children would agree if they could, live your life for you, not solely for me.

  5. Darlene says:

    Life with 3 young children, 2 having autism, is very busy, carefully planned, and unpredictable on most days. I have previous autism intervention training (before children), and currently find parenting in general exhausting, emotional, and rewarding, regardless of the presence of autism. Parenting children with autism adds extra fear, worry, concern for the children’s future, and emotional stresses to say the least. It is very difficult for family members (siblings as well) not to feel the pressures and modifications of “life” when autism and all of its extremities occur momentarily throughout the day. Having a broken marriage makes an already challenging situation very difficult. Children with autism often have emotion regulation difficulties, and passing them back and forth between parents and two homes adds serious and unwarranted stress upon their lives, often undermining the intervention therapy itself. It is difficult for any children to survive divorce because of the internal emotional damage is causes, but children on the spectrum, often deal with limited abilities to express their feelings or understand other perspectives. I think and ultimately hope that parents with children (especially the ones with autism) seriously commit themselves to their families, because doing the right thing, even when it feels wrong, always ends in victory. Feelings can change at any time over any given issue. If husbands and wives commit themselves to their families and each other the right feelings will follow.

  6. SmithMother says:

    I will concur with the first two mothers as to the their reasoning for no longer being in the marriage they once were in. When someone (male or female) is verbally and emotionally abusive to the other parent (in front of the children), that WILL have a damaging effect on the child with autism. From personal experience, it creates behavioral problems as well as physiological development. I was a basket case, and so were my children. To leave was the best option ever and now my children are thriving because there is peace in the house. Although there are still some things that need to be ironed out, there seems to be a routine developing between everyone. I also moved because we did not have the necessary resources available in the place we lived. It was quite the opposite viewpoint of the father being away working. Instead, we moved away for better healthcare and available therapy resources.

    The idea to stay in an abusive marriage is very disconcerting and very insensitive to the humane treatment of women or men, in general. To leave a child in a festering toxic environment is even more inhumane and quite troubling to think about.

  7. Will says:

    I have a beautiful daughter who is on the autism spectrum and is 11. My wife and I have had a difficult marriage that can not seem to click and now we are living in a cold, static situation that occasionally boils over in front of our daughter. I do not want to be seen as abondoning my daughter by ending my marriage, and fear this is how my wife will respond even though she feels the same way I do about our marriage. I am willing to stay in the marriage to secure the best opportuinty for my daughter’s future, but I know this means emotionally I will become devastated. Is it the experience of most couples that ending their marriage really does materially harm their ASD children? I would like to think she will see my wife and I becoming happier when we move on but can’t accept the risk if she is devastated. I am looking for any help and perspective I can get.

  8. Alice Hori says:

    To Will,
    So, often, for a relationship to improve, one must go through fire. Your marriage can get better. I recommend “Alexander House”, an organization begun by a couple who survived hell in their marriage and came through – you can google their website. One step that you can take immediately is to try saying only positive things to your wife. Never mind if she doesn’t return the favor. Keep it up. And pray. I will pray for you also.

  9. Kevin says:

    I am a father in a struggling/dead marriage. We have two autistic children who are worlds different. I have committed to being alone for the rest of my babies lives; I will take care of them and love them unconditionally. I don’t see that from the other side, the wife. She is still trying to find the “perfect, understanding and sexy” mate, though her last several attempts have ended due to her revealing that she has two sweet, autistic babies. I can only watch as she misses the best parts of the babies lives chasing “dreams and hopes” while I am at home taking care of the babies. Seperation was a mess; tried it for a month and almost lost the kids to severe regression. Our marriage is hammered by the past; her numerous affairs and continued chases and my former porn addiction, though I have been clean for years. I cant offer advice on this topic but it seems that if you have a severe diagnosis or multiple diagnosis and an ending marriage, then unless abuse is the issue, you may need to just put your dreams up and let God have them back, and spend your life enriching and loving the ones whom He entrusted you with. Yes I hurt, like the prior women, but memories of the damage caused by the prior seperation overwhelm me instead. I believe sometimes a life must be sacrificed for the greater good, or two goods in my case. Semper Fi, always.

  10. Dylan says:

    I am just wondering if there is any literature out there with information on how to help with supporting autistic children deal with custody issues, and the constant changes in schedules, households and routines after a divorce. I keep reading about how the autistic child causes or doesn’t cause the divorce. I am not so worried about the parents. I am interested in the child. How do they survive all of this drama, the schedule changes, their favorite toys and clothes being absent. Aren’t there things that should be avoided or supported. I worry that all of this constant changing in schedules and all of the animoisity being generating is going to have a long lasting impact on him.

  11. Robin says:

    First, I want to commend the men posting here that feel so much for their children. I rarely come across such endearment from men regardless of being parents to typical or differently developing.

    In my situation, the husband has been checked out for years, poorly provides for the family, and bestows he headship role to me, which I never wanted. We have 3 kids, only one with ASD and health issues, and he ignores all of them, and especially neglects my son with AsD who needs him most. I have been trying for 14 years to make this work, and I am having the hardest time making magic happen with the money and paying rent, keeping on my son’s medical and therapeutic efforts for recovery, advocating for my son to keep his inclusion placement & one on one aide, services, private tutoring, make personalized learning materials for my son, and I also have two daughters that need attention too. my husband maintains a low paying job, and takes out the trash. That’s all he contributes.

    I am so drained and void of any help from my husband that it feels like I am a single parent anyway. I have wasted youth trying to work on this dead thing, and I wonder how much longer should I endure.

  12. MsG says:

    I’d like to know how to deal with an autistic child and divorce. I don’t really care who’s fault it is for the divorce, I care about how to help my son overcome what his father and I have made such a mess of. How do I help my son heal? Where do we start? Help please!!!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I have read all of the comments above and really feel that each situation is different. My parents were not divorced and I have a child not on the spectrum and it’s hard. My concern is around my fiance’s two boys, both with ASD (one is severe). It’s been almost 3 years since their mom left to move home with her parents and she is still focused on what is best for her and not the kids. I understand what it’s like to feel like you are doing it all by yourself. MY fiance is a good father, pays child support, and always puts his kids first. The younger one (5) is severe (non-verbal apraxia, SDI) and is “off” a lot as she describes him. She will not take him to the Dr to get any kind of help because it costs too much. She will travel 300 miles every other weekend to go see her boyfriend though.

    I am not trying to complaain, but for the moms that are mothers of children with ASD, what advice can you give me to help them put the children first and get them the care they need. She is still so bitter and angry towards my fiance that she won’t listen to any suggestions that my fiance or I give because “we don’t know anything”. Her parents have dolled out $50k on the divorce, but she won’t pay $25 for a co-pay for the Dr. Thanks….

  14. Pamela Bettis says:

    My mom threw my dad out when me and my brother were kids. Dad took good care of tommy who has austism. When he left she quit caring for my brother. My brother is now in a home for mental retarded because he stopped using the bathroom, refused to eat on his own. Dont throw your kids away. Daddy taght us good and loved us but mom hated daddy. I miss him and tommy.

  15. DDA says:

    My parents divorced when I was 12. My Dad was the center of my world, but my parents got divorced because my Mom ran into an old boyfriend from high school and decided that would make her happier than staying with my Dad.

    I say all of this, because I think parents rarely look at divorce from the perspective of the children. Sure, you take their feelings into consideration, but I think that it helps to hear the perspective of someone who went through it as a child.

    I’m not going to say that divorce is never the answer, because in some cases, it is. However, please try to exhaust every avenue for working things out first. Your children will benefit immensely if you succeed.

    Second, if things don’t work out, always put the children first. This didn’t happen in my family. My Dad was the center of my universe and my Mom decided she wanted nothing to do with him anymore, so she threatened him into giving up custody of me. She then spoke horribly of him for years and told me that I would be “slapping her in the face” if I ever saw him again. It was 17 years before I saw my Dad again. Me and my Mom aren’t on good terms right now because she still can’t put my feelings before hers. So please, always think of the children.

    Yes, my son’s PDD-NOS diagnosis put a big strain on our marriage. For a long time, DH just didn’t see it. I’m still not sure that he fully does. We don’t talk as much as we once did, but divorce is honestly the furthest thing on our minds. When we married, we committed to not giving outselves an “out”. We are still committed to that and we love each other.

    So please, try your hardest to make it work and get your husband involved in that process. It’ll never work if you don’t. Best of luck to you. I hope it all works out.

  16. Stan Alcorn Johnson says:

    Divorce can cause a lot of harm. In the struggle that is divorce, many
    parents are only able to see the harm that is caused to themselves.
    Unfortunately, a divorce may harm children more than even the parents.
    Children are also often the ones that are given the least amount of
    attention. Children can be severely traumatized by divorce, especially if
    the divorce is a nasty one, and/or if there is a prolonged or an intense
    custody battle.

    One of the biggest areas of harm that divorce causes to children is in the
    area of self-esteem. Children who go through a divorce often face issues
    with self esteem. They may believe that they themselves caused the divorce,
    or that they did something wrong that made mommy and/or daddy want to not be
    with them.

    Divorce can also harm childrens sense of security. Fears that both parents
    will abandon the child are common, as are fears about what will happen to
    them next. In addition, the absence of one of their parents can make the
    child feel extremely lonely.

    A divorce harms a familys structure and interferes with its operating
    procedures. In some cases, a divorce will mean that a child literally loses
    a parent, only to see them once or twice in a year, or even less. This can
    also cause a child to lose contact with the family of the non-custodial
    parent, as the child may be less and less likely to see those grandparents,
    uncles, aunts, or cousins. Basic logistics, such as holidays, birthday
    parties, and school activities are also affected by a divorce. These
    separations can harm a childs social skills, as well as their sense of

    Some of the ways that a child who has been affected by a divorce might
    express the harm caused by divorce can include:
    – large amounts of anger, directed both toward others and themselves
    – frequent breaking of rules
    – drug and/or alcohol abuse
    – destructive behavior
    – frequent guilt
    – problems with defiance
    – increasing isolation or withdrawal from friends and family
    – thoughts of suicide or violence
    – increased or early sexual activity
    – a failure to acknowledge responsibility

    Some children are harmed more by divorce than others. However, all children
    will be harmed by a divorce. The things that parents do and dont do will
    greatly impact exactly how much a child is harmed by the divorce. In
    addition, the childs gender, age, psychological health, and maturity will
    also all affect how a divorce impacts a child.

  17. megan says:

    I have been together with my husband for 16 years,well we finally were married in 05!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 yeah so we finally were pregnant after trying 8 years beautiful and very handsome william came…. he seemed just fine then he hit 2 and was not your average a typical child. took me 2 very long yrs to get him diagnosed and finally we were told at 4yrs he had autism. We also have a son mason who is 2 and noticed signs just really different ones. took him to a phd……… immediately and was diagnosed with autism…………………………………… Dad and I are doing all we can and we love our sons and I will make sure they get the help and support they both so desire and need. With that always comes love and remember to never ever give up on the ones you love!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Taka says:

    I fought the last half of my marriage against divorce. I come from an Asian culture where 1. divorce is rare and 2. divorce is embarrassing to the family (which itself is the worst thing to do in our culture – to embarrass or disrespect the family). One the last few conversations I had with my wife was “I’m not religious, but I somehow feel like it is my life-responsibility to do everything I can to stick together and work through our problems to help you.” Unfortunately, as one commenter stated, even with a bipolar spouse, the effort has to be a two-way street. She recognized/admitted to be bipolar. She recognized her problems (we would talk about them in length) and she would write them down on paper (she was much better at spilling her emotions on her own notebooks and friends than with me, her spouse) – but I just could not get her to figure out how to control her manic behavior.

    Near the end of our decision to get divorced, I had suggested marriage counseling, and even requested that I go to her psychologist session a few times to try to understand bipolar disorder better.

    Unfortunately, a few things contributed to the eventual (quick) collapse: 1. Her telling me that she could never win my trust back (the last 6-8 months of our marriage, I had literally lost 100% of my trust towards her – her manic behavior just would not stop and kept on repeating over the years) – I expected a “Yes, I’m going to do everything I can” to my question of “Do you think you will ever win my trust back?” – isn’t that what spouses are supposed to do? 2. Her diagnosis from a psychologist that she was bipolar happened in the last year of our marriage – I definitely wished I had learned this sooner – but I was already extremely emotionally exhausted to a point where I had to request anxiety medicine from my doctor a year ago. 3. Her request to start seeing a psychologist only a few years before our divorce – as she told me she used to see one when she was younger (somehow I did not know this before getting married) – to which I had no problems, since as a spouse, my job was to support anything that would help her with her problems. And 4. her coming from a divorced family – statistics show that having divorced parents make the divorce option very easy because “(she) turned out normal” (same comment as your ex-wife). For me, divorce was never in my mind – but every time I would catch her “issues” (hidden financial spendings/accounts, unpaid bills, collections letters, and unhealthy eating habits that my children see) throughout the years, she would quickly jump to divorce as the option (similar to your ex-wife) so that “I wouldn’t have to deal with it.” That would throw me back, baffled, thinking that’s a bit extreme and a silly way to escape the actual problem that really needs to be figured out.

    After our decision to get divorced, I was quite angry – for all that I put in to our marriage. I was also extremely confused as to why she would want a divorce – it seemed extremely disadvantageous to her as I felt like I was, for the large part, adding stability to her (a friend called it “a straitjacket – which everyone needs in life – with varying levels of looseness”). But for a few nights, I sat down and did a lot of research on bipolar disorders. People with it, and people who have dealt with it (being married to one, or knowing others) – and my surprise was that irresponsible financial spending, as opposed to drugs or alcohol, was also a bipolar manic symptom, although less common. I have learned a lot about bipolar since then, and my emotions have moved onto acceptance, away from anger. Her behavior makes a lot of sense, if you believe bipolar disorder as a disease (I do, but many others do not).

    It’s quite sad – we’ve only been divorced and separated for a little over 2 months and I already see that she’s back to her old ways, but without a straitjacket on – it’s not being controlled at all (I go over to her place quite often since she has the kids). I already see bills, collections letters – and even the mess, but this time, junk foods and cans of soda absolutely everywhere scattered throughout the house. It’s quite scary, actually – and that is the primary worry I have that continually runs through my head – that my kids are learning bad habits from her (financial irresponsibility and unhealthy eating habits).

    Some things I learned right before getting divorced – She secretly blamed her last job loss to me (the “emotionally abusive” husband), agrees with friends/family that I unfairly spend money on myself (absolutely baffling thought if you knew me – I’m incredibly frugal and put a lot of effort into retirement, both for her and myself, and college education savings for our kids), told a stranger she was saving money for a divorce attorney by couponing (which I was always supportive of because she was/is amazing at it), and even had a PO Box to have postal mail secretly forwarded – most likely to hide the credit cards and collections letters.

    The saddest part is – take the manic/depressive behavior out – and we were incredibly compatible. Unfortunately, my emotional stress/anxiety and health had to be given some priority – even for the sake of our own children. I just hope she can figure the bipolar issues out – whether with her friends, family, or even with another mate/spouse who can support her – since I was obviously unable to be of any help.

    And like you, it’s not like I am running around celebrating/bragging that I am divorced. Honestly, I’m quite embarrassed – even though my stress/anxiety levels are significantly better than living with her.

  19. Abraham says:

    My phone rang last week. I looked at the caller ID and see it is my ex wife’s number calling. It’s 8:45 pm. It’s also my birthday. I say to myself, I say,….. self? <<<Don't you love that one? Anyway I think to myself. "Should I answer it?" So many times when my ex calls it's a hassle. I could never do anything right during the marriage. Why should divorce be any different? Then again I thought to myself. Maybe it's my young son calling to wish me a happy birthday. As the divorce process was carried out my mind would often race. So many problems with no clear solutions. Even now after more than a year of being divorced my mind races on occasion. One phone call and my mind is active with all these thoughts and the phone has not even rung 3 times yet.

    I pick up the phone, half expecting to hear the little boy's voice that I love to hear. "Hello"? It's my ex. Her response is basically unintelligible. I repeat, "hello?" Now she begins to speak. Her speech is interrupted by sobs. I still can't tell what the phone call is about but once again my mind is racing. Did something happen to one of the kids? Did something happen to someone in her family? "Are you crying?" I ask. "Jarett just came gave me a drawing he did in school" she starts. "It's a Valentines present for me". I continue to listen. "He drew a picture of us". At this point I ask "You mean of you and me?" Yes, she says. "He drew a picture of a house and in front of the house are you and me and the two kids". She is outright sobbing now. "He also drew himself crying in the picture, and he is asking me why we broke up?". I didn't know what she wanted me to say. Again my mind is racing. Is this a phone call to try to reconcile the break up. I fought divorce as hard as I could for almost a year. I knew these kind of experiences would occur. I did not want to destroy our family even though I had learned that my wife of 12 years had been cheating on me. It was me who recommended counseling. It was me who worked to try to change. It was me who could not eat or sleep for months and lost 30 pounds so quickly.

    "It's killing me", she's sobbing uncontrollably now. "Do you want me to send the picture to your house?" I thought, sure I'd like to see it. Then she adds "If you're going to just throw it away then I will keep it". There's the kicker for me. She acts as if I am cold and detached. I have saved the school work in boxes in the boys rooms since she moved out. Why does she have to throw lines like that in there? "No, you go ahead and keep it?" Remember, this is my birthday. I was expecting maybe a call from a young boy saying Happy Birthday Daddy in the sweet little voice of a child. Instead I am now thinking is she trying to tell me that she wants to get back together as a family?

    As I fought divorce I was treated like shit. My wife would go out with her girlfriends. I didn't bother to find out who she was meeting in the bars she would go to. I wanted to. I was filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery. She admitted to the affair after denying it for months. Even after she finally came clean I looked at what we had accomplished. Bill and Hillary made it through his pecadillos. Why can't I give it a shot? My ex answered the question for me though. "We can not stay together, you'll never get over this". Knowing that she had cheated on me hurt. Now hearing her tell me that his meant the end of our marriage and the destruction of our family without my having a say hurt probably as much as her infidelity.

    It was months before I eventually filed for divorce. I stood in the bedroom one morning and told her that I thought she was seeing someone. I could tell from the way she would kiss me good bye in the morning. It wasn't a kiss anymore. She would actually turn her cheek to me. "Why don't you kiss me anymore?" She told me it was because she had morning breath. I kissed her morning breath for 15 years. I'd leave for work wondering why she couldn't kiss me back anymore in the morning.

    After learning of the affair I started reading about the effects of divorce on children. I learned that my youngest son was in the age group that would be most affected by the breakup of a family. Studies have shown that boys between the ages of four and six tend to take the divorce harder than all other age groups. This is why he drew the picture of the family and his tears. I also learned as I went to counseling that eventually the kids would learn the truth about why the marriage ended. I wanted to scream at the boys "your mother cheated on me", but I knew that was not what I would do. Instead I continued to act like we were still a family only now we were a bit smaller. I'd cook them nice dinners and make sure their rooms were clean and we'd go fishing and do things together. Still I watched as my older boy's friends distanced themselves from him. "Your mother is a whore", my son had come home crying one day asking why the boys up the street had said that to him. I don't know how they found out about her affair. I still don't talk about it to people in the neighborhood. As time went by my older boy's grades dropped dramatically. I read that this was a distinct possibility. The events of the last year were traumatic for all of us. I asked my wife, "Do you ever think about the consequences of divorce on the boys?" "They'll be fine." She would say it coldly. "Kids adapt, my parents divorced and I am okay" she would add. I wanted her to read some of the things I was reading. "I don't have time to read" she would reply. Instead she was going out with friends to bars and meeting men. I know she was meeting men because she would not get home till 3 am and sometimes later. Nothing good ever happens after 2 am.

    I listened to her cry on the phone. "I am sorry that you are upset" I told her. "I didn't want to get divorced" I couldn't help myself in saying it. "It's killing me" she said again. "Why don't you keep the picture?" I repsonded. "He comes home with pictures like that for me on occasion too" I added. I put them in the box in his room. The one that contains all the other little things a young boy makes in school.

    I had fought divorce with everything I had. I even had to ask my wife to get counseling or maybe even address the issue that her Mother was diagnosed with Bipolar and that is was hereditary. My wife had shown signs of depression for almost 10 years. She was on depression medication when she had her affair. She went to counseling and told her counselor that I was the source of all her depression. I know I am not perfect but in reality I came almost every day with a smile on my face and a dog and a toddler greeting me at the door. I would seek my wife out in an effort to give her an "I'm home hug". She would never greet me at the door. Instead I would find her on the computer, or laying in bed. The house a mess. The laundry all over the boys rooms. No supper. She'd have already started drinking.

    I think of those things now. I know my son would love to see his Mom and I back together again. I was treated like shit for over a year. I can finally say I am happier now. I was devastated at the thought of divorce. Now I look back and think to myself, I never focused on my own happiness. I went to work each and every day and then came home to be the best husband and Dad I could be. I know there was stress in our marriage and in our family life. I always thought as the boys got older some of the stress would ease.

    Now I live with my two boys in the marital home. I fought like hell to keep it after my ex moved out. I look forward to my new life and enjoy my independence on the days the boys are with their Mom. I hope someday my ex stops blaming me for all the depression in her life. Her blame continues towards me. I could never go back to the lack of appreciation and the fact that she threw everything away for her own self indulgence. Some of her self indulgent behavior is mention in some of the other hubs I have written here.

    I write these hubs for myself and for others who are going through the process of divorce. Writing for me is therapeutic and I hope others see that although divorce is devastating it does get better. It may take years. It may take counseling, but eventually time heals the wounds and life does get better. For a while I would actually wake up and see the sunshine and think "it's almost monononous, another day, another fight." This feeling has passed. There are still fights but I am winning them now.

  20. Betsy Yard says:

    It bothers me when I read statistics on marriage and autism. While it is not an easy life, neither is caring for critically ill family member, aging parents or financial instability. Autism should not be an excuse to give up on a marriage but like the difficult issues we have to deal with, a reason to be supportive to your spouse. All to frequently I see one parent carrying the burden and the other ignoring not only the child but the needs of their spouse. You are either in or out. I also have spent one to many nights laying next to someone and feel completely alone. In my situation, but not in all marriages, it was one sided with me bearing the burden of therapists, school districts, medical doctors, respite workers etc. etc. I knew what I was in for when my son was diagnosed as I was working in the field already. For a marriage to survive any difficulty you must be supportive of one another no matter what the circumstances. The straw that broke the camels back was last year when I watched my son die in front of my eyes. I spent 4 long days in a hospital feeling very alone. Autism isn’t easy, but it is survivable with a supportive spouse. If you find that one person, stay no matter what. The pain later will be easier to deal with if you know they will be there with you to the end.

  21. santiago says:

    I had a crappy marriage, my exwife came across an old friend on facebook and started having a cyber-affair while we were still married. When we got divorced, our kid was 2 and around a year later he was diagnosed with autism. (by then she was living with her new boyfriend, who turned up to be a decent guy). They ended up breaking up, and before him having left the house they lived in, she called to tell me that she thought things over and decided that we should get back together. I was like WTF ??? We were able to turn the page and get along really well for the sake of our kid, but we do not love each other anymore and i don´t see how things would work out this time. She lives with Sebastian, he´s now 4, and i provide for him, take him to therapies, he stays with me every other weekend, but i am well aware that it is very tough for my exwife to live with him without me being around all the time to help with Sebastian since as he grows old, things get more difficult, and sometimes i consider the idea of coming back together. I would do it for my kid but i would be totally miserable living with her again, i know she would too and i am not sure if it is a good idea. Having an autistic child is an unhappiness sentence? Any thoughts ?

  22. Schiffer Echols says:

    When I looked up at the post by Stan and what divorce does to kids it is easy for me to give a response Santiago. Do you want your child to end up in a group home or to be able to live on their own and have a family, marriage and children to grow with? Leaving your child’s life guarantees they will fail in life and end up in a group home, staying in it says that your child will succeed (with the help of you both) and end up in a good and loving life. Your life or his life which one is more important.

  23. Michelle says:

    My husband and I have an amazing son who is autistic , he is 11. I did have an affair 3 years ago when in my eyes I was not in love with my husband anymore. I ended the affair out of guilt and I didn’t want a divorce. I did confess to my husband, he chose to forgive me and work on our marriage. The thing is we didn’t know what real “work” meant. We jumped back into our busy lives, running our buisnesses, Thearpy for our son, every day life. Well, here we are 3 years later and I began having thoughts of someone else again, my husband and I have been fighting, sleeping in seperate rooms and barely spending more than an hour a week together. For me, I knew I had love in my heart for my husband and I reached for help. Together we jumped into intense therapy, cut off all toxic friends, temptations, and have been in marriage bootcamp for 60 days now! This has been work and it has been worth it. If either of us held back, or kept walls up we wouldn’t be working on us still till this day . Every couple is different. All I know is if one of you have hope , if one of you have any kind of love even if its not being “in love” there is hope for your marriage. Like someone mentioned above, eventually we go through a real fire in our marriage, we get burned, we hurt , some walk away without their partner because for them it was for the best , some fight through it and come out together but it is work!!! Im grateful my husband forgave me for my affair and I’m glad I slapped myself across the face to wake up and not run down fantasy escape land again. If there is a shred of hope …..DO the Work and pray!!!!

  24. Bev says:

    Betsy Yard, your story is so devastatingly sad, there are no words but I’m so so very sorry for your heartbreaking loss.

    My relationship ended recently officially although I think it’s been over for years. My son was born 9 weeks prematurely and his dad was never really there to support me emotionally or physically with new born let alone a prem one. I felt totally alone and I decided to just deal with it and get on with it. For 4 years now I’ve done everything, look after my son, keep a house, attend numerous specialist and paediatrician appointments alone and hold down a full time job. My son is yet to be diagnosed, they don’t want to do it “too early”. I did shut his father out of my life because he was never there – this resulted in him actually moving out at the start of this year. I did attempt to see if we could fix it but he was too busy with work to discuss it and after two or three weeks I made the final decision to end it – how can I fight for something on my own?

    I read all the posts above about how the kids are affected but my son doesn’t appear to have even noticed his dad isn’t here as he was always working, getting home from work around 8ish and at the weekends he’d go to the football or play golf if he wasn’t doing any of that he would rarely be out of bed much before lunch time – I was prepared to stay together until our son was older but I was becoming more and more miserable – I never intended to be a single mum and certainly never imagined having a child with special needs.

    Since leaving my ex hasn’t been consistent, texts to arrange visits, never asks how our son is and these texts are days apart I mean almost from one week to the next. It feels like he’s interested when there’s nothing better for him to be doing or perhaps he’s being pushed. He visits our son here in our home – I’m keen to keep routine and a consistent comfortable environment for my son but also my ex never did anything in the time we lived together he has changed our sons nappy on occasions but mainly he will hint to myself or my sister that it needs changing, he arrives to see our son, hugs him and spends about 20 mins attempting to interact (I use attempting loosely but I don’t think he knows how) and then spends the rest of the visiting time on his iPhone. I’m not sure if he’s capable and I feel bad saying that.

    I’m scared, totally petrified (I can’t explain why but I feel totally sick, cant eat, cant sleep properly as I’m so scared) at the thought of him going off with our son let alone take him overnight, he’s never dressed him, bathed him and my son sleeps with me and has done for so long now I feel it will be a big change to his routine to change it – I know it’s something I will need to go through but it feels too soon. I also feel resentful, why should I now teach and tell my ex how to look after him, he was never interested before and now I should make life easy for him, even though he decided not to be part of the family a long time ago – not right I know but how I feel.

    It feels like his dad is only interested when it suits him, he has no clue that our son has special needs or that it may be autism – not sure if he’s oblivious because he’s too interested in himself or if he just chooses to ignore it!

    I do want them to have a relationship but my ex keeps saying that he needs to be on his own with him but I don’t understand why he can’t build this while he’s visiting our son here – I have been keeping myself busy on his visits so I’m not taking my sons attention but after doing this for weeks now I don’t want to miss out on my time with him either!

    Am I being too over protective? Maybe I would relax if my son could actually speak or if his dad knew how to communicate with him or give me confidence that he will look after my son the way I would like.

    I do feel for the dads on here that are the opposite to my ex, I wish my sons dad was a bit more like this, maybe I wouldn’t be a single mum. I’d love to have another relationship but my son comes first and so I’m not sure I can see this happening in reality.

  25. james says:

    I wonder why their are so many people blaming the father, I am a divorced father of a 6 year old autistic son. I have been fighting for four years to be part of Alek’s life and been shut out by my ex wife, I have tried everything agreed to all she wanted even to the point of ending long visits so he could attend year round I.B.I. therapy, now my ex claims that i have not been part of his life and should not be able to see him at all until i take a full autism course. So now i am heading to court for the 11th time to fight for my right’s to be part of his life. I take exception that you think the father should come back, I would return gladly, which is out of the question.
    I do understand that the children come first and both parents should be a part of his life, but when the lady is more interested in making your relationship with the child impossible unless you bow down to everything they want. And like most of the posts from men here, my ex is the same.
    I left when she asked and she moved another guy in a week later this was after 16 years of marriage(i signed the house and bank account over)and still pay support now i have to quit working to take an autism class just to see him.
    So in closing does anyone on here know of any Autism classes near Hamilton Ontario? any help would be appreciated.
    Thank’s for any help you can give me.
    and sorry about my post I needed to vent to some people who might understand my point of view.

  26. Maria says:

    I wish my husband would have at least half of the good traits of husbands/ fathers who wrote on this blog/website. I sometimes wonder if my husband is also in ths spectrum of autism. He is a good provider, a perfectionist & controlling. I am unemployed bec before we had children, we agreed he will work & i’d take care of the kids. We were fine until the kids were born. Eventually, the kids were diagnosed with ASD. He is 8 yrs older than me. He is very articulate & smart. But when he wants something like watching a TV show he likes, he has to have to watch it…or all hell would break lose! I give in bec he is the bread winner. He always reminds me that I “live a good life”…my entire existence was bec of him that’s why he’s entitled to his down time. We get into a heated argument bec he wouldn’t be helping me which would in turn affect my 5 yr old high functioning with autism. He’d slam doors, throw things & scream which is a no no in our house. But for him the adult it is ok to curse, scream or choke me in front of my kids which happened a few times. Oh & it was my fault that he choked me…or for his bad behavior. God forbid my son throws something he is immediately put in time out…why doesn’t the same principle apply to him??? The only reason i stay is bec i am incapable of providing for my ASD kids, I don’t drive & our town has an excellent program for autism. My closest relatives live in NY & my sis-in-law is in another town. My immediate family lives overseas. Sometimes I think he has carefully orchestrated my life to the point that if I did live, I will be the loser. Before me he was with a live-in GF & had a daughter with her. Their relationship was rocky…either one of them would be in jail or had the police called on each other for battery. Their relationship finally ended after 10 yrs. i’m thinking, next yr will be our 10th yr wed anniversary…feeling superstitious my feeling is our marriage will end up in divorce. With the things going on here that’s what I want bec of his violent temper. The last few yrs i’ve become outspoken bec i refused to be taken advantaged. I try to keep the problems to myself bec usually the following he’d say I’m sorry & he expects problems to be swept under the rug. He does participate with programs to help our kids with ASD but leaves the OT, speech therapy for me to use on the kids. He will help out only if there’s nothing interesting on tv. My hands are tied. If i report him to police it might make the situation worse than better. I always think about my kids future. Sometimes I feel I shd just take my life to teach him a lesson that his personal interests over his kids but i do not trust my kids on him alone..,don’t trust his violent temper. If only i have a million illion $$ that would probably help set up my kids future. What to do? I really want out. I’m tired of being treated like this.

  27. bob says:

    its the life a man is always looked upon by the wife to keep her in the grandeur of all but when children come along especial with a problem it always cause friction women have different feelings than men they think

    always the child has to be put to the front and helped by both party’s but this really happens because this world is made up of money and greed now so will will have to endure it and the child suffers i respect his views on pictures in a child’s mind and when they see something that is broken it twists there mind

    i always explained this to my ex wife at the age of 2 you put him to bed with his toy the pet rabbit and when he gets to 18 he has forgot the rabbit and wants to blow its head of with a gun

    it is the life and the conversations will continue for ever until we understand it all and get this greed, anger, out of couples minds

  28. Amanda says:

    I found this “article” on helping children of autism through divorce to be ridiculous! I also found it ridiculous that this is supposed to be a site (since 2005) that offers support to the autism community…this did NOT offer support or advice on how to help a child through a divorce…your answer: DADS SHOULD RETURN HOME??!! That is not the answer! Why don’t you actually write an article that helps parents understand the behaviors they may encounter through the divorce process with an autistic child??!! The answer to helping a child through divorce is NOT telling a parent to simply return home…there are reasons why the parents have gotten to the point of divorce. You should be ashamed of yourself for even calling this advice!

  29. Andy says:

    I have read the above article & all the comments in the hope of finding a solution to my problem but I couldn’t. I am a father of a wonderfull 5 yr old autistic son. He is still nonverbal and there is some work but We are doing great as family. Its just that sometimes I feel that I am giving it all and my wife is not. Althoug she cares and works but she also spends lot of time for “herself” over social media, movies, TV etc. For that reason I hate internet, TV etc. I use all my free time to engage my son or read books about autism or search internet for practical help. When I do so I get really upset when I see my wife spending her time unproductively on internet & stuff. I tried to tell her so many times that if we invest more time now we might get good free time in future because there will be less work for son if he makes good progress. She does not deny this nor does she resist but she continues with surprising calmness and ease with her enjoyment in life. Sometimes I feel she is addicted to it but she is not. I try to tell myself that I am perfectionist and expecting same from her is not good but sometimes I cannot hide my emotions. It goes for 1-2 days in silence and I forget and continues life. This has not affected my son much apart from he losing some possible time from her but I would say she is doing good normally. It just bothers me that I am so dedicated and how come, she does not feel to do same. I wish I could stop internet or acess to movies, TV etc but maybe its right to let her live her own life. Any ideas to help me understand myself are most welcome.

  30. Rock says:

    I just got a judgement from family court after a 3 and a half year battle, that stayes that it’s not in the best interest for my children to have visitation with me. No where does it state that I was ever abusive or even short tempered with my kids and it is repeated again and again that I was my son’s voice to the outside world…Because I’m not the bio dad, and because my ex lied and hates me more than she loves our kids…I’m sitting with this judgement in hand…trying to figure out how on earth to appeal…I was a stay at home dad, and I deeply resent the stereotype of autim moms and disinterested dads children are my life and my life feels nearly over today…

  31. Liza says:

    I was just served with papers last month by my ex husband. We have been co parenting for 7 yrs.

    When it comes down to it, get a good lawyer because you can be the one who gets your child the diagnosis, takes him to the thousands of hours of OT, speech, summer school, and every other therapy imaginable. When he decides he doesn’t want to pay child support or finds out you make more money, or even moves on with a new love interest, that will become the focus.

    The lies he has told about me and my character as a person are despicable. I find myself living in a nightmare only rivaled by the days of my son’s diagnosis and nonverbal years. Now I am fighting like hell to clear my name against a man who once told me how ” these boys could never live without me.”ironically he only wants the 11 yr old with autism to only see me 4 days a month

    I feel betrayed beyond words. I am praying everyday that the judge sees through the bull spewed by this man , the one I divorced to be able to wear clothes I wanted to wear without being chastised and asked” how old do you think you are?”and not be threatened with my life For talking to male friends while have a study group pursuing my Masters degree at a University.

    I pray for peace in life and a day I don’t think someone in hacking my computer and phone like he did while we were married, you see while divorce is terrible for children, the emotional distress women suffer in some relationships far outweigh the risk of ” working it out ” at all costs.

    I have to ask and wonder, where was all of this interest and hard work in those early years daddy? Remember us, when you were working overtime, left us to go ride your dirt bikes and left us all alone? That’s when we needed you the most….you can try but you will never take my child, is it worth the “1000.00 a month” as you cuss me out in front of our sons?

    A mother’s love knows no limits. I will go down fighting. I have been silent for too long.

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Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
  • * Autism now affects 1 out of 88 children
  • * Autism affects 1 in 54 boys
  • * 1.7 million Americans have some form of autism
  • * 4 out of 5 autistic children are boys

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