My journey as an autism single father

Many single fathers are fully committed to raising their children. -
Many single fathers are fully committed to raising their children. -


Kevin Brazant, lecturer and consultant on male/fatherhood issues, says, “It is a widespread assumption that when a relationship breaks down, it’s a man’s instinct to run off and abandon his duties. But that’s not the case.”

In TT we often hear cases of the deadbeat dads – the fathers who neglect their responsibilities as parents.

However, at the same time, we have fathers who are fully responsible for their children and who do an excellent job. Here’s the story of one such father, Marcus and his experiences of raising a child on the autism spectrum.

“I was always one of those ‘sweet man.’ From since I was in secondary school there were always girls around. I was a footballer. I got by on my looks.

"When I finished university and started working, for years my life was one big party – every weekend was a lime and for Carnival I would hit all the fetes. That was my life until my son was born.

"When Jared came into our lives, we were both in our 30s and married for eight years.

"By the time he was 18 months old we started seeing signs of developmental delays. As a baby, he never rolled on his side or tried to sit up or babble. Our paediatrician assured us that he would start to develop soon, that every child develops at a different pace.

"By age three we were worried and we took him to a couple other doctors. He was eventually diagnosed one month before his fourth birthday.

"My wife became depressed. At first, she blamed herself, then she blamed me – in her words, 'If you didn’t take so long to get him diagnosed, he would have been better by now.'

"By the time Jared was five years old, she said she couldn’t ‘handle a child like him.’ She would become very frustrated and angry when he had meltdowns. She told me that she was not going to waste her life taking care of a child who would never get better, and she left.

There are fathers who are fully responsible for their children and who do an excellent job. -

"It's been five years since I have been a single parent. Jared is now almost 11 years old.

"It has been a very difficult road, with many challenges. I would be honest; I didn’t always handle them well. In the two years after she left, I left my job and lived off my savings. Those two years were spent running down schools; finding therapists; figuring out his diet –basically, two years of trying to get help for my son. I couldn’t have done that if I was working a full-time job and I didn’t have anyone else to do it for me.

"In those two years my divorce was finalised and I got full custody of my son – that was easy, because his mother made it clear to the court that she did not want him.

"At one point I started making furniture for sale – my customers were people in the area or from church, who bought to support me. Every so often, the pastor from the church nearby would bring us hampers. Sometimes neighbours would buy things for Jared, books and toys. Those kind gestures gave me the strength to keep moving forward.

"When I finally got Jared settled into a school, one where they went out of their way to help him, I went back out to work.

"The challenges are still there. It’s been difficult to hold down a job. I was fired from one job because they felt that I was taking too much days off – Jared had an ear infection and I had to stay home to take care of him.

"At another job, my contract was not renewed because I 'was not 100 per cent focused on my job and at risk of making errors in judgement.’

"At one job interview, I was told that I had a bad track record in previous jobs and they therefore could not hire me.

"I am finally working with a manager who is a little more understanding.

"I have learnt that being a single father to an autistic child is not exactly a babe magnet. I went out with a woman recently but when I told her about my son, she got angry. She wanted to know why I was wasting her time, and if she knew I had a 'son like that' she would never have even bothered.

"That’s the end of that life for me – for now.

"My son is my biggest joy, my source of inspiration, my life. I look at him and all I see is this amazing little boy. When he smiles, he lights up my world.

"As much as I want everyone to see him as light, sadly most people see only darkness.

"I have sacrificed a lot to get him to where he is today and it is worth it fully! I will not give him up for anything in this world.

"Sometimes I wonder if other special needs parents see their children like how I see my son. God blessed me with him and God made me a single father for a reason – maybe because he knows that I would do good by my son. I plan to do good by my son, always.”

Dr Radica Mahase is the founder/director of Support Autism T&T


"My journey as an autism single father"

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