A groundbreaking University of Wisconsin-Madison study reveals some hard truths about the toll autism takes on fathers.
According to the researchers:
* More than 30 percent of fathers of grown children with autism experience symptoms of depression so severe that they warrant clinical attention.
* Fathers of adolescents and young adults with autism experience high levels of depression and are pessimistic about what the future holds for their son or daughter, much more so than dads whose kids have other disabilities such as Down syndrome.
* Like mothers of autism spectrum children, fathers experience higher stress and that stress remains constant even as their children age.
This is the first time researchers have specifically studied how dads cope as their autism spectrum children get older. While the mitigating factors such as the child’s behavior, how many children in the family have a disability, the father’s age and the mother’s well-being did factor into responses, fathers of children with autism still suffered more than those with other disabilities.
Extrapolating from my previous posting about the financial toll autism takes on moms, it’s not difficult to surmise some of the reasons for this phenomenon. Fathers of children with autism work more hours than other fathers to take up the slack for their hard-pressed wives, so the pressure on them to provide for their families is enormous and during this hard economy, potentially crushing.
And as the study on moms established, services for autism are fragmented and unequally covered by insurance, accounting for the findings relative to other disabilities.
Adolescence is a time of stress for all parents, but for parents of children with autism, abstract fear of the future now becomes palpable.
It’s a well known fact that resources for young adults with autism are scant, so adulthood rarely signals the end of a father’s financial burdens. Pessimism is understandable given the unrelenting pressure and the contemplation of what will become of a child after the parent is gone. Even in my posting about grown autism children clustering to live independently, it was the parents, (i.e. largely the dads) who put up the money to establish and maintain their child’s housing.
And this is just the financial angle. While there are support groups for autism dads, finding the time for them can be problematic and men are more socialized to just soldier on. The resultant emotional isolation can easily foster depression and if they look to their wives and see someone suffering from the burden of the daily care of the child, the father cannot help but be affected as well.
This study is just the tip of the iceberg about autism dads and as one of the researchers put it, “This is the first step to drawing attention to dads, we need to get away from just looking at moms.”
Dads, we’d love to hear from you…..