Attachment to children by ASD parents not based on unconditional "love"

This is a really hard question to ask. Sorry for the length but I think the background may be important to my current predicament.

For reasons given below I have lost all feelings of attachment to my boys who are 9 (with ASD) and 6. 

Is this normal? Is it an ASD thing? i.e. do ASD fathers have a different bond to their children? Not based on "love" but duty and responsibility?

I have ASD and my son, 9, has ASD. I was diagnosed feb 2017 and my son in Sept 16 so quite recent.

Because of my son's recent problems I haven't really dealt with my ASD, other then reading several books and starting to see why I am the way I am. I started to see a counsellor but it ended up focusing on my son's issues as he had experience of ASD in education.

I have always got my son's ASD "problems" and maybe my ASD helps there and explains why. 

My wife just doesn't get ASD and there is a lot of difference on how we parent. I agree to her way on many things but not on some things that I feel are important i.e. how to deal with meltdowns, 1:1 support for ASD son at all times, trying to get my ASD son to try as many things as possible etc..

To cut a long story short I gave myself a major nervous breakdown over xmas 17 after spending 7 months challenging his school over repeated exclusions, getting school to completely change their approach as they didn't get ASD needs of my son, getting my son an EHCP with full 1:1 TA care, getting him through a major depression episode over the summer as he was on a very reduced timetable and missed his friends, school etc.

I knew I was heading for a breakdown from September onwards but I wanted to get certain things finished that my wife said she couldn't do and get my son's schooling sorted i.e. EHCP, DLA renewal. Changed meds helped me to end of year but they just masked the problem not solved it.

I just collapsed in bed at start of xmas holiday as I was exhausted and had finished i.e. submitted DLA renewal.

I wasn't "invited" to any xmas events but was just left to stew in bed until I got up late in the day.

I slept a lot as i was just exhausted and had a lot of personal signs that I had very high stress levels still. i.e. tingling in limbs. bad headaches etc. I have been like this before but last time was back in 2002, before I met my wife so she had never seen me like this.

I literally exploded one day at start of this year

I can't recall exactly what happened but it started with my wife calling me lazy and abusing me for not joining in the family xmas properly and spoiling it.

I believe I was very "shouty" with various unpleasant accusations about my wife after I exploded but I didn't hit or damage anything or anyone and calmed down after a few hours. My wife gave back as good as I gave her, I recall, including hitting me which she is prone to do to me and the boys.

My wife has taken the boys, been given emergency housing, and is not coping but insists I have no access or any contact what so ever.

She says I am awful, dangerous and should never be near her kids. They have always been her kids not our kids despite me being stay at home parent.

I have never harmed the kids in anyway apart from this one shouting incident over xmas.

The only other incident was when I stamped on one of the boys toys early last year when my son was being very difficult. I never did understand why I did that. That is it in 8 years of care!

My solicitor is saying I should fight for the boys. Take it to court etc.

I don't want to get back with my wife and I am not even sure I even want access or custody of the boys at the moment (6 weeks after my wife left).

I am struggling as I now feel no attachment to my sons what so ever and want to just walk away.

I suppose I never have felt attached to them. I looked after them as they were my sons and it seemed the right thing to do. When they had problems I fought for their rights but I would do that for other people as well.

Is this part of ASD? Do I not "love" my children as a normal person would?

I am just finding my current feelings hard. Nothing has ever challenged my relationship with my kids this way.

Social services are now focusing on me. Claiming I am unstable and that I have caused all the boys problems but it is my wife that keeps "running away" and who refuses to adopt approaches that are ASD friendly leading to confusion for the boys. I have had a breakdown and one bad "shouty day" does that make me an awful father?

Deep down I feel I should fight as I get my son's ASD.

When I am well we have a real bond and it seems to help him a lot.

Obviously I expect both boys will have struggled with how I became unwell over xmas but it is explainable as a sort of adult autistic meltdown I guess.

Not quite sure how to explain the mental breakdown part to my boys.

 

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  • You haven't had long to get used to, or get your 'head around' your own diagnosis and you haven't had much (if any) help in doing so. This isn't too surprising because adult ASD services are very limited and a counsellor who's main qualification is with children / education is probably not the best one to help you. 

    I don't think you "gave yourself" a breakdown. You are exhausted, mentally and physically, from attempting to deal with your own diagnosis pretty much on your own  +  trying to make sure that your son receives all of the help he needs  +  maintain your family relationships  +  xmas itself which is known to be a very stressful period. These circumstances led to your total and complete exhaustion so no wonder you ended up breaking down! You didn't choose to do this on purpose. 

    I think the fact that you knew you weren't coping but pushed yourself to continue for your son's sake, shows how much you care about him. I don't necessarily think you would have pushed yourself SO hard for just any old person, would you?

    You also say that you had a good relationship with your children up until all of this happened and you sound worried about how your breakdown has affected the boys - a parent who DIDN'T care deeply about their children wouldn't care enough to worry about these things at all.

    It sounds to me like you do care about your sons very much indeed but right now you are simply too exhausted to process anything or to work out how to move forward from this. You still need time to recover your health and that doesn't mean you are a terrible person or terrible parent. Parents DO need to think of themselves and even put themselves first occasionally BECAUSE their children are relying on them. You want the best for your children, that includes being the best parent you can be - to BE the best parent you can be you DO need to take care of your own needs too. FOR your children. That's not being selfish or uncaring. 

    I think you should listen to your lawyer and explain your ASD to him as he will be your advocate during court procedures and needs to know all of the circumstances. In the meantime it would be a good idea to seek a counsellor who has some experience of ASD adults to help you understand your own position separately from your son's. 

    To answer your original question, I think every parent (ASD or not) has a mixture of feelings wrapped up in their children.  Welcoming this short break from your children (or rather the full brunt of the responsibility) doesn't make you a bad father. Having this short period of time to re-charge yourself and get the help you need will actually make you a better father in many ways because you will be better equipped to give them what they need. 

    As for what to tell your sons about your meltdown, honesty is the best way to go. Explain to your children how you feel about your outburst and that you don't like how you acted or that it wasn't a good way to behave and maybe also that you don't want them to have to see you behaving like that again. I think it does children good to realise that parents aren't perfect and that we do sometimes get it wrong, but if they can see your example in recognising and apologising for bad behaviour, that's a good example for them to learn from. They need to know that it doesn't make you a 'bad' person - especially if your older son is finding it difficult to cope with his own meltdowns.