A Father's Hopes and Fears | Organization for Autism Research

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I am the very proud father of an extremely outgoing and curious little girl. Her sunny disposition is nearly constant and she sees everyone as a friend in the making. She is nurturing in a way not often seen in children. She absolutely loves music. She is kind and gentle to animals, and in return, they love her in a way that leaves me speechless. I am lucky to have a daughter with such endearing qualities, but even more so because Mia also has autism.

The signs of her autism were present almost from birth, with the eventual diagnosis coming at age 3. At 4, she began to communicate, and by 5, her personality was really shining through. As Mia continues to grow and progress, our hopes and fears for her are constantly evolving. Will she talk? Will she live independently? Will she be our first female president? Mia is 6 now, and I can honestly say we experience many of the same thoughts and concerns as any parent. However, like Mia herself, these are intensified for us.

As a kindergartener, Mia is entering a world where other children are slowly becoming aware of her differences. I fear, probably more than most parents, that she will become a victim of bullying. I want to encourage her independence and outgoing nature, while simultaneously wanting to spend every moment protecting her from a world that often times does not understand her.

My wife and I spend a great deal of time discussing Mia’s ability to navigate in a world that presents a constant sensory overload. Like most parents, we strategize over how best to prepare her to be an autonomous and valuable member of society. For us, though, this involves countless hours of therapy, IEP meetings, and continuous social coaching. We hope for the best – college, jobs, and apartments. However, as her protectors, we also prepare for the worst – Medicaid waivers, wait lists for job training, and live-in support.

I have heard that it can be a relief to receive an autism diagnosis, and for us, that was true. It was difficult to hear that Mia was just needy, required socialization or, worst of all, that we were merely nervous first-time parents. Once we accepted that this was, in fact, happening to our family, we were eager to start treatment and hopeful that things would eventually start to improve. The diagnosis was a launching pad for our family; it termed our new identity, redefined our goals, and forever changed the course of our journey.

I know that life won’t be easy for Mia, despite my desire to make it that way; I also know that would not serve her well. But I hope that her struggles never dim the person that she is now. I am utterly amazed by her each and every day; she is, without question, the bravest person I have ever met. I hope that she finds support in friends who love her despite her quirks, or even better, because of them. And, like any parent, I endeavor to support her in whatever ways I can to ensure  that her life is, if nothing else, happy.


When not supporting the government through a D.C.-based contracting firm, spending time with his family, training for his next running event, or working towards his master’s degree in information technology management, Christian Bates can be found sleeping. He lives in Leesburg, Va. with his wife Stephanie, daughter Mia, 6, and son Johnathan, 3. He currently serves on OAR’s Board of Directors.


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