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.