What are some considerations for people who date the parent of a son or daughter with autism? A reader recently wrote, “I am dating someone whose 14-year-old son is autistic. I really like this guy, so I need some advice about making things go smoothly should I have a chance to meet his son. My friend has said that his son, who stays with his dad every other weekend, is quite jealous of others when they are taking up his dad’s attention, especially if he hasn’t seen him for a while. I don’t want to be in the way, but, if it comes to it, I would like to be able to enjoy his son’s company.” Today’s discussion is the first installment in a two-part series about this topic.
How nice it is to hear this teen is able to spend significant time with his dad on a regular basis. This isn’t always the case. How fortunate for the dad and the son.
It is also refreshing to hear that the person who submitted this question is willing to do what is necessary to help the young man with autism adjust to having a new person in his dad’s life. In the long run, all three people – dad, son, and friend – will most likely benefit from this extra effort. Here are a few ideas that may help.
JEALOUSY. The dad mentioned to his friend that his son is quite jealous of others when they steal his dad’s attention. This is common, of course, with many kids with divorced parents. And autism just magnifies the issue. So, don’t take it personally if jealously rears its ugly head.
ROUTINES. Most individuals with autism are very focused on routines. If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t just show up. When the teen comes home on Friday night for the weekend, Dad can talk through the expected schedule for Saturday and Sunday. Write down the schedule, using pictures or symbols if necessary. The amount of detail and the style depends on individual needs, but make it similar to visual and/or written schedules used at school. So, for example, Saturday morning’s schedule could read:
8:00 Timothy and Dad wake up
8:30 Breakfast with Dad
9:30 Jillian comes to our house
9:45 Dad, Timothy and Jillian ride in Dad’s car to the park for a walk
11:00 Dad, Timothy, and Jillian eat a picnic in the park
1:00 Good bye, Jill. Dad and Timothy give the dog a bath.
SHORT VISITS. It might be a good idea to avoid overstaying your welcome. Remember that this teen only has a few days to spend time at home with his dad. Initially, don’t just hang around. Don’t stay too long. Come back later in the day for another specific activity. Then leave.
CAR RIDES. If the young man normally sits in the front seat with his dad, don’t impose on his space. Just sit in the back seat and enjoy the ride!
Tune in tomorrow to part two of this discussion about dating a person who has a son or daughter with autism. And don’t forget to send us your thoughts and experiences. Just click on the comments button or send an e-mail to talk@FAQautism.com
NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. Send email to talk@FAQautism.com And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com