Asperger’s Syndrome from a Father’s Perspective

We have had a couple of extremely busy weeks here at David’s Gift!

Today, I am extremely pleased to introduce you to Todd Cavanagh.  Todd purchased the book – David’s Gift  this time last year and wrote me the most heart felt email not long after.  We have been in contact a few times over the past year and I asked Todd if he would write a blog for our site.  I hope you enjoy reading Todd’s insightful post, which gives a very honest and different view about his Asperger’s journey.

Asperger’s From a Father’s Perspective

My name is Todd – I have a five year old son named Michael who was diagnosed with Asperger’s approximately two years ago. I am married to Bronwyn and we have another child Luke, who is four and who has been diagnosed as a normal bratty four year old. We live at Charleville, western Queensland where I work for a large Commonwealth department that delivers income support.

As you all would be aware of, having a child with Asperger’s Syndrome is a full on job, but I am fortunate in having a wonderful wife who is so patient with all her boys (including me). We are also blessed in having a wonderful support team at the school and allied health at the hospital. If there is one benefit of living way out west, it is the wonderful support that you get without the competition that you get in the big city.

Michael is in Prep, and has been able to commence his schooling at a pace that helps him to integrate. He is currently going to school five days per week until 12:30pm. We are looking at increasing that this term. Michael has all the likes of aspie boys – trains (Thomas and Chuggington), planes, computers and music. He loves the Bee Gees and is really calmed down when the songs Words or Massachusetts are played. He also loves playing Golf and playing on his trampoline. We bought a spring free trampoline and it has been a great investment – we let him jump on it before he goes to school – if he doesn’t get it before school you can tell the difference.

Michael has one other benefit – well people keep telling me that anyway-  I am still to understand it. I am a 39 year old officially UNdiagnosed Aspie. You could say that Michael got his temperament honestly. People keep telling me that I am a great help to Michael but I am yet to see it – It is hard to be a good example to someone if you (a) – don’t understand yourself – and (b) – keep getting frustrated and angry that you can’t connect with your son because you get angry with him. My mother tells me all the time that Michael is a dream compared to how I was. Keep in mind that when I was growing up, Asperger’s Syndrome was called a very naughty boy and maybe we should put him into special school. Which is completely different to what it is now.

School for me was not easy.  Being extremely short, having extremely thick glasses and being different meant that I was an automatic target for bullies.  I also had the problem that I followed the principle of it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but more it’s the size of the fight in the dog. I didn’t know how to back down.  This made me a problem at the schools I attended.  I had a huge chip on my shoulder and made sure everyone knew about it.  This meant that my achievements at school were not as high as they could have been.  It didn’t mean that I wasn’t listening, just that I didn’t like the assessments – life without tests or job interviews – that would be wonderful.  Don’t ever believe that having Asperger’s means that the person is dumb, it just takes longer for us to process things.  All the hard work that is done when the child is young is worth the effort, it just takes longer for the results to come.  For me it took until I was about 27, which also was the time that I started going out with my future wife.  Coincidence???

I first heard about Asperger’s Syndrome when Michael was diagnosed – so I had to deal with a son being diagnosed as well as finally having a name to put on what I had gone through as a child and adult.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel – and no, it is not an oncoming train – Asperger’s Syndrome is not a death sentence – you can become a fully functioning adult in society. I have found that you need a couple of important things –

(1) a mother that is stubborn enough to do whatever needs to be done regardless of what other people think. I would say father as well but I grew up without a father for a long time and to me mum was always number one – not anymore though.

(2) You need to develop a love of something that interests you – for me it was reading – I read anything I could get my hands on.

(3) Find friends that accept you for who you are.

(4) A job that gives you pleasure and where you can be you.

And most importantly, (5)Someone to share your life with. That is probably the hardest thing.

One of the things that helped me to accept who I am was when I read Sally’s book. As I have told Sally, it cut so close to home that it had me in tears – and people with Asperger’s don’t cry often. It brought back lots of bad memories and made me face them with the benefit of experience. I have never met David but I feel that I know him already as I have lived a lot of his life. It is a wonderful read every time I read it.

Michael Cavanagh

An important thing that we all need to remember is to take pleasure in the little things that happen in your Aspie child’s life.  We tend to concentrate on the big ticket items, eg: integration at school, toilet training, inappropriate social interactions and numerous other things that we forget to notice the little things that happen.  Little things like a smile in the morning, winning student of the week and putting toys away.  If we concentrate on the hard things we will go crazy.  So stop and take pleasure in the little things that happen.

A good quote that we can all live by is – Success isn’t measured by what you attain, it is measured by how far you have travelled. Aspie kids may never become a Rhodes Scholar or the Prime Minister but whatever they achieve is significant because they started further back than the majority of kids.

To all you carers of Aspie kids – and you Aspie kids as well – don’t doubt what you can do in your child’s life and don’t ever doubt what you can do in your life. It is yours to live – go and get it.



Next week we feature another article by one of our David’s Gift readers and I invite you to also share your own story with our readers.  Please email me if you would like to be one of our featured members.  Also,  if you are not already a facebook member, please pop by the David’s Gift Facebook page to join in the many discussions that take place there.

2 Responses to “Asperger’s Syndrome from a Father’s Perspective”

  1. Hi Todd, Loved it, thanks for sharing.

    5:35 pm on May 3rd, 2011
  2. Hey Todd, Well done, very courageous. Everyone can take a leaf out of your book, as we often all miss the positive little things in life.
    Deb (sis)

    Deb Laverty
    8:37 pm on May 5th, 2011

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