I have to confess that despite trying to look and sound mature, I was breaking up inside. The doctor told it as a matter of fact, but for us, it was a twisted fact that was something I should have read in a book or a newspaper article, not happening to us.
The doctor finished it by saying “the best thing to come out of this is that you know your son is autistic at a very young age. This will help you to train him from now on, will help the teachers who deal with him in pre-school and it will help you make him get over the issues”.
From then on, it was a different world for us – a world filled with books and training materials on how to deal with an autistic kid and at the same time look and feel and live like a normal family. Life became routine after a few years. We stopped thinking that he is autistic. He is just our son and we love him as we always loved him.
Things changed a bit when he hit his 14th year. Kids around him started having girlfriends but my son’s lack of social skills did not fetch him a partner, even a near temporary one.
I did find out that he was a healthy heterosexual male. I caught him in the self-act once. He exhibited extreme shyness, almost avoiding me for the next two days. It took some time and daily conversation for us, father and son to resume the great relationship we had. I did tell my wife that I was relieved beyond words to know that my son is a healthy heterosexual male. She is a liberal and somewhat did not take my relief in the right context. She said “are you homophobic? “ . I said “I am as much a liberal as you and I am all for people to have and practice their preferences, but as a father.. well, like any father, I would certainly prefer my son to be a heterosexual male. She said “why, what’s wrong if he turns out to be gay?”. I said “nothing wrong, just that for various practical reasons, I would rather him be a heterosexual male, plus I am a heterosexual guy and I have to confess I feel that it is somewhat more normal to have an attraction for the opposite sex”. The conversation ended with her not quite agreeing with my viewpoint, but that’s one of the aspects of marriage.
I tried inviting neighbors, especially those who had teenage daughters to our home for barbeque or for wine tasting. It was a pretext to let my son speak to girls of his age. But he avoided them. He just kept to himself or was hanging out with my wife and I. When they said ‘hello’ he looked at them straight without returning the greeting. But if a boy of his age greeted him, he did exhibit shyness but still uttered the hello, hi and did not totally avoid them, though he still did his own thing.
It was on his 18th birthday that I decided that I needed to take things into my hands. Regardless of my efforts, he still was not ready to have even the smallest conversation with a girl of his age. I was once a teenager and I knew the desires of a teenager, the need for physical contact. It did occur to me if I should take my son to a prostitute, the many that render their services through “massage centers”. But I knew my son would avoid her. He needed someone to get comfortable with to take the next step forward.
I was told by a friend that Craigslist works wonders. There are all sorts of people who frequent Craigslist with a variety of needs. I promptly took a little education on how to navigate Craigslist and I posted a message under “men wanting to meet women” section. I put a note saying ‘I would like to meet a female, between 18 yrs and 24 yrs of age who would just like to have coffee with me and listen to a proposal.’
I waited for a while before a couple of messages said “as long as it is at a Starbucks in a crowded mall, I am fine to meet you for coffee and listen to your proposal.’
I met the two women. After the coffee and little chit-chat, I told them I have a son who is 18 yrs old and who has a particular problem. I told them he is extremely shy, almost to the point of avoiding any little contact he can have with a girl or woman. I told them that my proposal is if the girl would not mind spending an hour at my home or her home with my son, talking to him, behaving like a typical girlfriend with him. I could not offer anything in return since an offer of money would mean I am being a pimp. But if I don’t offer anything in return, why would they even listen to my proposal? That is what happened. They got up, looking at me as if I was a pervert and leaving me alone with my yet half full cold coffee.
I changed the content of my Craigslist posting from 18 yrs to 24 yrs of age to any mature woman between 30 yrs and 40 yrs of age. I thought, maybe a mature woman would not mind to mentor my son into the whole male-female relationship thing.
It took a while, but I did become lucky. I saw a movie called ‘Sessions’. Helen Hunt plays the role of a real life professional sex surrogate – a profession where the woman will help men to have good sex. It is not prostitution since the sessions will be limited, to either six or ten depending on the need. I searched and found one such professional sex surrogate in my area. I contacted her and over coffee, I explained to her the whole situation. She said she would definitely help. She assured me that this would be the third time she would be using her profession to help an autistic person become sexually normal.
One day I drove my son to her place. I told him that she would be his friend that evening. She was fantastic with him, making him comfortable almost immediately. I told her that I will wait outside till the one hour session is over. I walked outside, went to my car, opened the door and I broke down – tears of 18 yrs of pain and now the joy of finding a solution, all mixing up in an uncontrollable fit of sobs and tears.
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