Autism and “The Blended Family”. An unpleasant truth.

Disclaimer: This is not an easy subject for me to talk about. I have daily emotional struggles with this. I hope this helps someone else.

As you may know we are a blended family.  I have raised Gavin since he was 15 months. I’m the only father he has ever really known. I never really looked at Gavin any different then my own kids.  The unpleasant truth for me is that it is different. I love Gavin, I always have and I always will. However, there is something different on a very basic human level.  I was there from the beginning with Elliott Richard and Emmett John. I heard their heart beat for the first time and I cried. When I saw them for the first time during the ultrasounds I cried again.

I have felt a deep sense of guilt because my wife was adopted and has very strong feelings on the issue (and understandably so). Some day maybe I’ll get into some of the things my wife has been through. Or if you can’t wait till then you can always read for yourself at her blog.

I have found that as time goes on that difference becomes bigger and bigger. I first realized this when Elliott Richard was about 6 months old and Gavin literally kicked him across the floor for touching his foot. It’s that paternal instinct to protect my own, regardless of where the threat comes from. I have found myself having to protect Elliott Richard, Emmett John and Lizze from Gavin on countless occasions. I really can’t explain how it feels to realize this.

I have admitted this to all his doctors and they all insist that this is normal because there is no biological connection. If I really break it down even more is it because the Gavin I used to know died a long time ago. I know that sounds really bad but Gavin has the regressive form of autism. He wasn’t always like this. I can’t remember the exact day that it happened but I swear he went to bed fine and then woke up different. What is left of Gavin is a shell of who he was. Between the bipolar, autism and the almost dozen other diagnoses he just isn’t there anymore. So maybe I feel like I’m living with an aggressive and often violent stranger.

Everyday I watch Elliott Richard try to connect with his “big brother” and get rebuffed. It’s so painful to watch Elliott Richard walk away crying because Gavin just tunes him out. Really, it’s not Gavin’s fault either but that doesn’t lessen the impact it has. Elliott Richard certainly doesn’t understand that. So I guess the truth is that our blended family really struggles with this issue. We all love Gavin very much but at the same time we all struggle everyday to live with him.

admitting this isn’t an easy thing to do. My hope is that my truth will help others to talk about and share their feelings and personal experience with this issue.

5 comments

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    • Nikky on April 17, 2010 at 5:41 am
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    Rob- I have told you many a time how much I admire you for stepping up and being a REAL man. Even given the struggles you face.

    My opinion is: yes that "biological tie" maybe missing, but in everything you write and everything you say and DO, Gavin is YOUR child. We as readers and outsiders (even those with Autisic children or otherwise diagnoised children with violent outbursts) don't fully understand the level of destruction Gavin leaves because we aren't there in the presence of it all happening. We try but we aren't there to see or experiance it. Given that I've heard the beginnings of an outburst more then once on the phone, I can tell you that your reaction is no different then any other parents would be. You protect those who need protecting. And sometimes that appears to be the smaller ones first. Biological or not your first reaction as a human is to protect anyone he may hurt when he strikes out, and in reality by protecting his brothers you are protecting him. You always have and you don't seem to be running away 😉 so I think it will continue. The guilt you feel I think is normal – a word that doesn't often apply to your house. <3 you

    1. You know Lizze said she was moving you guys up here so she can take care of you when Chris is gone. If I didn't have this aversion to hurricanes I would just move us down there 🙂 Thanks for everything you said it means a lot.

    • Cheryl on April 17, 2010 at 3:23 am
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    I can understand your feelings completely. For almost 4.5 years I was separated from Max's father. We had alot of problems and stresses and we broke up after 10 years together. We co-parented and remained on decent terms. We both got involved with other people and in that time, I tried and thought I could have a blended family with someone else. While the person seemed to initially take a real interest in Max and my other son Sean.. Towards the end, he bounced out the relationship because he didn't want the responsibility of caring for someone else kids, much less someone else's autistic kid.

    It takes a real decent man to take road which you have traveled with regard to Gavin. Initially when I met Max's father, I had a "normal" son, Sean, he was 15 months old and Eric has raised him since then.. He is now 16. We had Max, when Sean was 7. Max is Eric's only child, so I am sure even though he raised Sean, it hurts him deeply that his biological son, has never spoken one word to him and suffers from autism. At least I had the opportunity to have a normal childhood with Sean.

    I guess what I am trying to say, it that everything your feeling is normal. I think even if Gavin were your biological son and you saw him hit or act out towards his siblings you would still get defensive. It's not so much biological connection. It's just hard to watch one child mistreat another. I am human and I get mad at Max all the time for things that he does, or destroys around the house. He breaks everything and it's hard for me to keep anything nice around the house for long…I keep trying to remind myself as I am sure you do, that it's not their fault per say.. They have all these sensory issues and it just leads them to do things..

    Please don't feel bad about how your feeling.. it is normal..Your wife is so fortunate to have found a husband who embraced her child. Trust me when I tell you many a men would have gone running for the hills.. But you have stuck it out. After being separated for almost 5 years I reunited with Max's father, because I love him, but more importantly because I know it takes real character to raise children like ours and he was the only man I knew that could handle the rigors of raising Max and raising Sean.

    Good luck 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm really glad that it worked out for you guys. 🙂

  1. that sounds so hard we don't have the regression you seem to we have the temper issues and out bursts Caitlyn threw Natalie's book at her. That I think was more based on her being tired and not listening. We have outbursts like that all the time. It gets very frustrating and there are times you want to shake her and ask her what is her problem. We spend most of our time trying to get the twins to include Alexis in things but Caitlyn won't. She's afraid Alexis will destroy her things or harm her which isn't gonna happen. Alexis is four and spends time with adults, dogs or by herself. She tries to play with her little brother, but he's still behind her on the playing and walking bit. Still wabbly on his feet.

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