Blended Families

Advise needed from other parents of autistic children.

I have started to type this at least 4 times in the last week. Every time I deleted it before I posted. I have turned to divorced friends who have autistic kids and I am still getting mixed answers. I still have mixed feelings on this.

My eldest, C,  is 6 and is a higher functioning autistic with SPD and severe abandonment issues. To the point of I had stopped working for a year when my daughter was born, Went back to work part time 3rd shift (he was asleep) but he woke before I got home at 6am. He had bit his fingertips raw and the inside of his mouth too. I quit after 4 1/2 weeks since no one could seem to get him to understand I was not abandoning him and he was having issues at school. His father walked out on us when he was 2. The only other man who has been in his life is DH.

Anyway, C decided to call DH daddy on his own. We tried Daddy and DH's name, we tried Dad, we tried Father. C would not budge and coaxing never helped. So we left it at that. His Father (Biological) is in and out. He has weekly visitation but does not come often. For example, this year he has seen him 5 times. 2 times because I was near him and let him know (lives 45 min away) and once because it was C's birthday, once because grandpa wanted to see C and once because he missed a Christmas visit. In the past he was known to be there for weekly visits for 3 or so weeks and then not show up for 2-3 months. At one point in the last 3 years, he went 7 months between visits.

In the last year and a half, C went from calling his Father daddy to Father. Ok. coaxing did not work to well, but ok. After on of those many visits and then missing for several months C decided to refer to his Father by his first name and insist he was not his daddy or father. :-/ With the help of the counselor and Social Story books we made, we were able to coax him back to father. Sometimes in person he will use Daddy.

During all of these times he would argue that DH is his daddy and not his father (my ex). He will not accept DH being called anything else. Sometimes to the point of where I have to call DH daddy for a bit because C will be so upset otherwise that it turns into a meltdown.

Now, we do know why he does this. He remembers his Father in a more active roll. Because of how his father chooses to do things, C has abandonment issues. We have seen a counselor for several years now. There is documentation on how his in and out behavior effects C. It does not effect his brother K very much.

Last month was C's birthday party and his father came. At the end, his father promised to see him "next week". Only he didn't. 4 weeks later we met up with him so grandpa could see the boys. C knew what was going on and became very agitated and began to insist that his Father was not his father. He is only K's father and the daddy that lives with us is his only father and daddy. He was going to see (Bio fathers name) and that is all he is. I did my best to coax and brought out the social stories but it only made him angrier and he ended up with a massive meltdown.

My ex and his father chose to have then visitation at a play place and C pretty much ignored them all unless he was offered lunch or some of a shake. Even then, he was not wanting to interact.

Luckily 2 days later we did have a counseling appt. I brought this up with the counselor. I went over all we had done. C over heard it and once again became very upset and began insisting that his Father was to only be called by his first name and he was not his father. Only Daddy (DH) was his father.

The counselor took him back and after 45 minutes came back. This is where I am having issues.... She wants us to allow C to refer to his father by his first name. When he says something to just agree and say yes, your father ____ (his first name). She wants no other coaxing and no social stories brought in. She says that this is how he copes with the hurt and disappointment. It
is basically him separating the person with the feelings he associates with the word Daddy or Father. It is helping him cope with the feelings and basically "keeping him sane". In the mean time, C has been quite a bit more on edge and easily upset and has had more meltdowns. The counselor said if my Ex had an issue with this, then he was welcome to call her on her personal number (he has it) and they could discuss what C is doing and why he is doing it.

Now, my ex and I get along. He is aware of how his actions effect C. He has the card and contact info for the counselor and the counselor has even called him in the past trying to reach him to discuss C. My ex and I actually talk on FB every day to every 2 days. He knows he can Skype the boys at any time and I can also do FaceTime on my phone (as can he) and he is welcome to use it. He never has. The only 2 times he Skyped were because I was the one who initiated it.

So this leaves me torn. I do trust this counselor. She has done wonders for C. We did also see another counselor for a bit when my Ex insisted (because he did not like what the current one said) and she never made a good connection with C and C started to regress. Also she refused to work with my son's teacher (yes, a release was signed). If you have a special needs child, you know how important it is for everyone to work together as a team. Sometimes what works at home does not work at school. 

At the same time, my Ex is partly in C's life. He does love C even if he does not communicate it or take a more active roll in C's life. I have worked very hard to have a good relationship with my Ex. We do not talk ill of him at home. Actually, we do not talk about him much at all unless he is coming to visit. He is C's father.

I do admit that I am one of those who see Father and Daddy as 2 separate things. What is the saying? Anybody can be a father but it takes a special man to be a daddy? Still, I do not want that yanked from my Ex. At the same time, I have seen what damage he does to our son. Our son use to dislike all males. He had it in an IEP once that no male adults could be in the class because of his reactions. C use to become aggressive with DH every time his father let him down. C use to take it out on DH. Luckily DH is awesome and would take it for what it was, hug C and tell C that he was not going to leave him ever. It was ok to be mad. C has just stopped this in the last 6 months.

I normally tell my Ex everything that is going on. He knows of the meltdowns and the hurt, but not of what the counselor says. To be honest, I hope C will work it out internally before my ex is brought up again (end of next month for K's birthday). If not, I guess we will have a talk.







Re: Advise needed from other parents of autistic children.

  • Honestly, I'm not sure which is the better approach. Following the counselor's advice or continuing trying to teach him the appropriate label to call his BD. I would almost lean towards continuing to teach him what he should call him just like you would teach them anything else social skill wise KWIM? But in a delicate way as to not try to provoke a meltdown. We've never had this issue with DD who has AS. She has always called her BD Daddy. She just in the last 2.5 years or so decided to call DH Daddy as well. I think it never occurred to her as an option to refer to her BD by his name because I have always referred to him as "DD's dad" to other people (not by his name) or "your dad" to her. We would probably tell he she isn't allowed to do so if it came up and that would be enough for her because she's a rule follower.

    Hopefully Auntie comes along and replies because I think she may have more sound advice.

    DD(13),SD(12),SS(11),SS(9),DS(3)

  • Just a dirty lurker (a classroom teacher with preteen students in all sorts if family arrangements) ... I would say that it is your son's intelligence, literal thinking and a keen understanding of how to define "daddy" that is shaping his decision on who has earned that title.

    Do not see an issue with your Ex being refered to with his first name and DH being refered to as Daddy (because he is the one who is filling that role for your son every single day, hence why your son designated him as Daddy).

    Know pleanty of parents (in a non blended, non spectrum situation) where each spouse will refer to the other as Mom or Dad infront of the kids (rather than saying the parent's name ... my parents and ILs still do that even though we are no longer kids). See nothing wrong with refering to your DH as Daddy since he is the person who is being your son's Daddy.

    You didn't state whether your ex had an issue with his first name being used. But based on his lack of involvement and follow through, if I was his child, I would rescind the title of Daddy, Dad, Father from him as well. If he objects to it, he can start acting like a father and then he will eventually earn the title back.

    Last thought, if your son wasn't autistic, but everything else was the same (divorced with a wonderful StepDad being the active parent, birth father not following through, would you still feel torn about the titles your son uses for DH and Ex? From what you wrote, am guessing it is more that you are feeling like the change in title will seem as if you imposed your judgement of their roles in your sons life, which does not appear to be the case. FB or text your Ex a day before the next visitation that son has started to refer to him by his name and you just wanted to give him a heads up. Would personally leave it at that unless he asks for more detail.
    Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie First Birthday tickers
  • We all know how I feel on the Mother/Mommy/Father/Daddy titles.

    But in this situation, the title is a huge part of working with your Son to get him to be the best that he can be.  

    Any parent that puts the name over a medically diagnosed issue is not a parent.   

    Have your son call his stepfather daddy, you refer to him as daddy, and refer to his biofather as father and be done with the titles.  Focus on getting your son to be a fully functioning adult.  

    Because in the end, when you are gone it won't matter who had the titles, but it will matter if he can live without you all. 

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  • image Ilumine:

    We all know how I feel on the Mother/Mommy/Father/Daddy titles.

    But in this situation, the title is a huge part of working with your Son to get him to be the best that he can be.  

    Any parent that puts the name over a medically diagnosed issue is not a parent.   

    Have your son call his stepfather daddy, you refer to him as daddy, and refer to his biofather as father and be done with the titles.  Focus on getting your son to be a fully functioning adult.  

    Because in the end, when you are gone it won't matter who had the titles, but it will matter if he can live without you all. 

    This.

    I don't know much about autism, so maybe I am naive, but if it is really upsetting your child that much to the point of meltdowns, then just let it go.  If your ex gets THAT uspet about it maybe he should step his game up and start acting like a father if that is what he wants to be referred to as.  I'm sorry your son is having such a rough time of this. 

                           
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  • I absolutely see where your son is coming from, and good for him. If your X won't step up and be a Daddy, why should he get the honor of the title? Good for him to call your X on his bologna.
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  • My son has autism.  He is 13 and also refers to his BioDad, who drifted away, as his first name and we deal with abandonment issues as well.  He introduces my H as his Dad, and goes back and forth call him him Dad or his first name.

     Maybe because my son is older he was able to communicate to me his feelings on the subject.  My son said, " BD is not loyal to me; why should I be loyal to him"

    He decided at a young age that Dad is a verb.  Father is a biological catagory like a species or sub genus.  (we deal with special interests a lot)

    Since my H is the action verb of Dad that's what he is.

     

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  • Backstory-

    I moderate a forum for support and advocacy around high functioning autism. I also have a nearly 20 year old son on spectrum. While I've not lived this scenario, it isn't as uncommon as you might suppose. I have seen parent choose both ways around this. Keeping in mind that I am not a medical professional, here are some random thoughts.

    1. What your son chooses to call the various men in his life isn't a hill upon which to die. You have bigger challenges.

    2. That said, the kind of rigid thinking that is driving this sort of drama is likely spilling over into other situation in his life and can/will limit his options around becoming an independent adult.  

    3. Sometimes kids with an Asperger-type presentation do not intuit the socially constructed hierarchy that put adults in certain roles in a position that commands respect. Think of the incompetent teacher or the a-hole boss. Relative to point 2, he needs to eventually master this if he's going to successfully navigate the rest of his life in the mainstream world.

    RE: point 3, this democratic mindset where we're all equal is sometimes a result of a child not "Getting" that they are a child. A kid who assumes adult status in his mind is often a very anxious kid. Explaining how the socially constructed hierarchy functions can reduce that anxiety load and result in a happier and calmer child. If he can't eventually get to a place where he can "go along to get along" you will have a 30 year old collecting  SSI.

    4. Not sure if this applies in your situation, but sometimes therapists who don't have an exclusively HFA practice ascribe some behaviors that are classic AS or HFA to things like Reactive Detachment Disorder or ODD when it's really just the over-the-top anxiety of ASD.  When those parents addressed the anxiety piece through something like CBT or RDI the supposed RAD was no longer an issue. It's interesting that the brother isn't impacted by his dad's flaky behavior.

    5. Kids with AS/HFA tend to be real black & white thinkers. Mixing this up with CBT can really help them manage feelings when real life is different than what they think it should be. If he's allowed to be stuck on the one kid/one daddy he'll never get to a place where he can be OK with a family tree that differs from what he has in his head.

    I like this book for this-

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0399530703/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0399530703&linkCode=as2&tag=om057-20

    6. You have to strike a balance between intervention  (getting him outside his comfort zone and more resilient) and accommodating (making obstacles go away) his deficits. It's can be a devilishly difficult choice to make. I am gobsmacked at an IEP that precludes male teachers; was there a plan in place with goals to reintroduce him to male teachers? Because making the problem go away rather than teaching a kid to be OK is setting the bar too low. For a high functioning kid, you always have to be aware of the discrimination of lowered expectations.

    7. Is his father the one who brought the ASD to the party? I find a lot of kids with ASD have a parent who has many similar traits even if the don't meet the diagnostic criteria. Often these parents feel as if they're being judged when dealing with behavioral health professionals. DH doesn't particularly like DS's psychologist.

    8. If you're on facebook with the ex, is there a way for your DS to communicate with his dad this way. I know many adults on spectrum who do a lot of their socializing on FB; it might be easier for him than real time visits by phone or skype.  

    9. You're welcome to visit

     http://aspergersyndrome.org/Home.aspx

     

    The site is free these days, just ignore the registration fee/credit card bit.

     

     

     

     

     

  • image LittleFish1:
      You didn't state whether your ex had an issue with his first name being used.

      birth father not following through, would you still feel torn about the titles your son uses for DH and Ex? From what you wrote, am guessing it is more that you are feeling like the change in title will seem as if you imposed your judgement of their roles in your sons life, which does not appear to be the case.


    Yes, my Ex would and has had an issue with it. The very first time C refered to him by his name was to his face. Needless to say we were both in shock and later I recieved a nasty email from my ex and several of his family members about turning the boys against him. This was right about the time I also decided I was tired of putting all the effort into Ex seeing the boys. I use to literally bug him and drive to him.

    I cannot remember if I stated it, but there was a yer to year and a half span that C was more than happy that he had 2 Daddies and was very happy with it.

    The problem is, C has become worse and worse over time every time he decides Ex is not allowed any name other than his first name. The anger behind it is worse and he will currently not tolerate any social stories, PECS, or pictures of Ex. I still hope he will calm down. He may just need some time. This may all blow over and not be an issue by the next time Ex visits.

    The second boy K is still good with calling ex Father and Daddy. I am afraid he may start to follow his older brother. Although, he is easier to change his mind and we read the social stories at night (when C will tolerate it) and sometimes he and I do when C is playing in another room.
  • image sweetie0228:

    He decided at a young age that Dad is a verb.  Father is a biological catagory like a species or sub genus.  (we deal with special interests a lot)

    Oh my Lord, I love the bolded.  Consider this stolen...

    OP as PP said, you have bigger issues to deal with.  I don't have a lot of first hand knowledge about autism but I think your son is assigning "labels" that make sense to him and help him categorize people.  K's uncle (he's now 16 but I've known him since he was 11) has autism.  I've met him several times and have spent time with him, K, DH and my kids.  He knows who I am and knows that DH and I are married but he still calls me "Dh's girlfriend Jo".  Never just Jo.  Not "Dh's wife", or "K's stepmom".  That's how I was introduced to him several years ago and that's still how he says hello to me.  Again, I don't know much about children with autism, but I feel like labels and "categories" are very important to K's Uncle and kind of helps him sort through things.  If your DS has assigned labels to people, it might be best to just go with it because that's clearly what DS is comfortable with.

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  • image -auntie-:
     

    1.It's interesting that the brother isn't impacted by his dad's flaky behavior.

    2.If he's allowed to be stuck on the one kid/one daddy he'll never get to a place where he can be OK with a family tree that differs from what he has in his head.


    3.  You have to strike a balance between intervention  (getting him outside his comfort zone and more resilient) and accommodating (making obstacles go away) his deficits.

    4. It's can be a devilishly difficult choice to make. I am gobsmacked at an IEP that precludes male teachers; was there a plan in place with goals to reintroduce him to male teachers?
    .

    5. Is his father the one who brought the ASD to the party? I find a lot of kids with ASD have a parent who has many similar traits even if the don't meet the diagnostic criteria. Often these parents feel as if they're being judged when dealing with behavioral health professionals.

    6. If you're on facebook with the ex, is there a way for your DS to communicate with his dad this way. I know many adults on spectrum who do a lot of their socializing on FB; it might be easier for him than real time visits by phone or skype.  

    9. You're welcome to visit

     http://aspergersyndrome.org/Home.aspx

     

    The site is free these days, just ignore the registration fee/credit card bit.

     



    I renumbered your point and clipped it so it is easier to answer.

    1. K is not bothered very much by Ex being in and out. He likes to play with him, but he does not view his father the same as C does. From the last sit down with the counselor, K sees him as more of a fun person who he is told to call Daddy and so he does. Ex lets him play Angry Birds and that is how they connect. K did call DH by his first name on and off for the first 2 years. Which is fine. If either child decided to call DH by his first name no one would bat an eye.

    2. C does have a grasp that that there is not just one daddy and one child. He still does have that grasp on it. He also has a grasp that Ex is not his sisters Father or Daddy.

    3. I do understand this. C was a preemie and we were always aware there could be issues. As he got older there were some regressions and at 2 he was diagnosed with ASD. We do take him in yearly to be evaluated. Kids can change. Diet can change a diagnosis if they are acting out due to diet and so on. We are always pushing the comfort zone with C. a year ago there was no way I could handle C at a park without another adult. A year and a half ago he would not tolerate being outside on a day that had wind. He would not tolerate any loud noises (dirt track is common up here) and so on. We do push it his comfort levels and we have worked out an "emergency bag" with some sensory items to help him cope. Sometimes it is needed and sometimes not. None the less, he is able to do more than he has in the past and we will continue to expose him to new places, situations, and foods. Also we do work with him on his daily schedule and we are able to deviate from schedule to a point. Life does not always revolve around a set schedule. Sometimes things happen. So we work with him on that. We went to a rigid schedule to what is not a lose one. End of school or end of sports is always a challenge, but he is learning to cope with it better and better every season.

    4. That was put in at a very difficult time for C. Yes, plans were made to work him into allowing males into his life not only at school but at home. It was put in place to keep C functioning at school instead of melting down or just shutting down for the remainder of the day. We overcame that in about 9ish months? Most of us in his life (including Ex) believe that the introduction of Dh into his life made a HUGE difference in meeting the goal. Why would one person have such a sudden and awesome impact? I do not know. All I know is that C took to DH almost instantly and even shared his yellow bus with him on the first visit. C NEVER shared his bus with anyone. Even Mama.  That was not something expected. It scared me a bit and stumped his counselor and others at the time. But it helped! Oddly enough, this was a point in time where Ex did have a little more of an active roll.

    5. No. C actually shares an obsessing trait with me. He shares nothing with Ex. I sometimes fixate when I become stressed out. I am a lot better now. And I use to have anxiety attacks when I could not be early to an appt. Having kids kinda took care of the last one. I do also have a problem with lack of focus at times. I am sure that sounds odd with obsessing at times, but that is how it is. I cannot say I agree with the ADHD label I was given, but some of their suggestions and exercises have helped me learn to refocus and obsess less. If it works, it works. I am always open to suggestions and learning new things. C does not have any lack of focus issues.

    Ex does seem to like this counselor for C. Our counselor use to be a special education teacher for 15 years before she went back to school for this. I managed to get Ex to go to 2 appts. with her to discuss C and his needs. Ex still maintains he has no issue with her and he thinks she is good for C. But things just seem to go in one ear with Ex and out the other.

    6. He does have  a way, yes. My laptop never had a webcam, so I bought one. I have a Skype acct and so does Ex. Ex knows he is more than welcome to Skype. I have tried to set up times with Ex to Skype and he would either miss them or cancel. I have the be the one to initiate it. In the last 10 months I have given up initiating it. I have only ever gotten Ex twice on Skype.

    With my new phone I also have FaceTime or whatever is is called. Ex has had a phone capable of it for a year. Once again, Ex has decided to not use it. When I first got my phone in April I would try to get Ex to use it while I was talking to him on FB but he was always "to busy"... Yet he would continue to talk to me.

    I have always worked very hard at keeping lines of communication open for the boys and my Ex.

    Here is something that is even funnier. We bought C a Nabi for his birthday. Ex is REALLY good with computers, programs, and coding. HE (ex) asked if he could put Skype on the Nabi. I was tickled pink thinking he would talk to the boys more. I said yes. Ex has yet to use it and the boys have tried several times.

    K likes to "type" to Ex in a FB chat. Ex never responds though. Even if he and I were just talking. Even though he knows K is "talking" to him. We have also done this with txting. Same response. K does "txt" and "FB" his Oma (ex's mother) and she does respond. C seems to have no interest in either.

    Ex has no interest in using the phone because he does have a slight hearing problem. Yet I know he uses the phone since he calls me if he has a question and I have not immediately responded to a txt and I know he talks to clients on the phone.

    Thank you for the link. I will look at it later tonight when most of the kids are sleeping. We are active in our local Autism support group. Our group also helps those with children that do not have autism but have sensory issues or other things that relate into it.


  • I love that book BTW! I own the Kindle version of it!
  • DS is quoted on page 62 of that book.

    It sounds like you have a good understanding and plan in place for your son. In this situation, I might just let your DS and his dad shake out whatever arrangement works for them.

    It's a shame his dad can't be better at being a dad. But he probably has issues of his own. 

     

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