Irish autism self-advocate & author Jude Morrow discusses parenthood on the spectrum
(24 minutes) Jude is the author of the Amazon best-seller “Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?”. He discusses growing up non-verbal, how his interest in reading has helped him develop and succeed, and his experiences as a father on the autism spectrum.
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Irish Autism Self-Advocate Jude Morrow
HACKIE REITMAN, M.D. (HR): Hi I’m Dr. Hackie Reitman welcome to another episode of exploring different brains and today I’m very excited because we have coming with us all the way from Ireland Jude Morrow, who wrote the Amazon best-selling book “Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad” and it’s a tremendous Journey he’s had and I’m going to let him tell you all about it. Jude welcome to different brains.
JUDE MORROW (JM): Thank you hackie, good evening, how are you?
HR: it’s very good, so it’s evening in Ireland, and it’s daytime here in Fort Lauderdale Florida.
Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?
HR: Tell us what inspired you to write “Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?”
JM: Well, One day just sitting here at home, I was looking through old notebooks, Old diaries that I’ve had over the years, and it’s very unusual that I would keep Diaries because often whenever I write my thoughts down, this was even before I wrote anything seriously I would have destroyed them at the end, I would have burned them because they’re not normally for public consumption. but somehow some Diaries I’d kept and spoiler alert, I had gone through various therapies on my early adulthood and I’d kept the Diaries they’ve been spared from being destroyed. and I just thought, Wow you know all the the homework’s and the tasks I had to do them between therapy sessions; I’ve documented all of them and kept them. And I realized where I come from being a small child with severe communication difficulties was almost excluded from school to getting to where I am now which is a social worker and a proud dad of a six-year-old son. Whatever I looked through the notebooks again, I thought I will put all of these in chronological order and write a story so that perhaps Ethan would know later in his life who I I am, where I came from and who I came to be and whenever I was in the middle of writing the Book, I’ve read alot about autism, Literature and all of it seem to be centered on parenting advice for people with autistic children. now, I was one of those autistic children and now I’m six foot four and I have a beard.
JM: I just came to realize that, there just doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of information guidance or positive stories that are told from the perspective of adults who love with autism everyday like me. whenever I turned 18, I realized I was right out in the world of my own and I had some supports whenever I was in school. That stopped whenever I reached adulthood and at that point of my mind, I thought; “okay well having Autism was something I went through as a child, I no longer have it and I will ride off into the sunset and continue with the rest of my life and it was only whenever Ethan was on his way, that some of the traits that I thought I’d left behind in childhood decided to come back. I was so dependent on structure and routine that in my mind I collapsed completely, so I just came to realize that I surely can’t be the only person on this position. Surely, out of the many many diagnosed autistic children, many of them are no parents themselves or will become parents one day that may identify with some of the issues I had whenever I was at the start of the journey of becoming a dad myself, so that’s the main reason I wrote the book.
HR: Well, We’re was so glad you did because we need all the perspectives we can get, So people don’t feel like they are “The Lone Ranger”
JM: Of course.
Jude’s Diagnosis & Nonverbal Childhood
HR: Now you came from being non-verbal?
HR: And when were you first diagnosed?
JM: Well I was first diagnosed formerly, whenever I was 11, I did display some developmental delays whenever I was a small child, I was quite aggressive I had very limited speech and very limited tonal Ranges. so my speaking voice was shout or silence or scream or silence. there was no in between there was no recognizable tonal range throughout, whatever I did the research for the book, I actually asked my own doctor for some information you know about my early life and the word autism didn’t really make an appearance too much later on because whenever I was at the start of the process and the middle of the 1990s, autism wasn’t as widely discussed or accepted as perhaps it would be now that’s encouraging that whenever I meet groups speak to parents and there are a lot earlier diagnosis these days which is quite encouraging and going from very limited and repetitive speech to Having a full vocal range of something I’m very lucky for, On stage, I thought I worked so hard to gain the voice that I have, so I may as well use it.
Advice for Autism Parents
HR: What are some of the real real pearls that you would have to give to parents of nonverbal youngsters?
JM: Whenever I was assigned in books up at the start of the end of the book journey, I had been doing personalized inscriptions and one of my favorite inscription sets for a small non-verbal Child Called Kayla and I thought I really want to write them inscription that might give hope and what I wrote on the book was, you know for Kayla, sit back and listen and one day you will sing. and that may happen. you know, listening is a good thing as well, And of course I didn’t do much of that myself, I’m almost not a great father of my own advice sometimes. but you know with patience and love and kindness and determination, we can get there eventually and I know maybe not every child will have a success story like mine but knowing that life is precious and there is a lot more help and support out there and nobody nobody is alone on this journey because I read recently that maybe you have a better grasp on statistics from the other side of the Atlantic but 1 and 60 children I believe either have a confirmed diagnosis of autism or are suspected to have, so that’s a lot of people that affect a lot of families so given that you know there’s so much out there that can help and support parents and play to their strengths mine was reading, I read prolifically and wrote prolifically even as a child. I was nurtured on me. I wasn’t expected to be fit in with a crowd or become like other children my age trying to become like other children my age was actually a lot more toxic than being myself and expressing myself the way I should have, instead of what other people expect of me to.
HR: What was it like to be dating?
JM: It was confusing, it was difficult, I thought I was so unsecure and self-conscious because I knew I was different, I knew I wasn’t like most other man my age so I had to put on a bit of an act to pass myself off as one would believe to be normal and overtime my traits and quirks just came out and you know the real me kind of came out and it wasn’t the person that anybody was going out with, had met initially. So uh, that never ended well and given the fact in my speaking voice, I love to talk about myself I love to talk about myself, I love to talk, I love to share my story, and that’s probably why I’m not married.
Autism & Fatherhood
HR: How is your son doing?
JM: He’s doing great! He’s probably the most excited child in the history of excitement. He love being on school, We’re currently planning adventures for the summer holidays we’ve been away, we went to Spain for a week in May and he’s he’s very happy and he’s enjoying the book journey nearly as much as I am because I bring him with me to sign books and he loves signing the books and meeting new people and you know learning more about me because he doesn’t have autism is a great level of understanding for his age. I mean autism is not something that I’ve been cured from nor do I want to be cured from it. It’s me, it’s who I am and I’ll never apologize for it. but whenever Ethan is around, he knows whenever I would be struggling, I would stall sometimes, Have some sensory issues, Some chaotic and noisy situations can really affect me and Ethan can noticed that, so he feels that I’m trying too hard to survive in the situation sometimes they’ll ask me if I want to go home? Which is a nice show of empathy from him although, Sometimes after that, they can disappear whenever he’s at home and rearranges the order of the home that I like to keep in a particular way, So that works both ways. we’re we’re learning more to put each other as we both grow.
HR: What were the biggest challenges for you and having a positive routine as you transitioned into Parenthood?
JM: Whenever I had classroom assistance whenever I was on my teenage years of secondary school, knowing the order of my day having a diary for lessons and what would I would do when I got home and knowing exactly what was in front of me at every stage was the most important thing for me and whenever I went to University, I kept the same retaining the same style learning style the same social style as well go into certain places at certain people at certain times and so on, And whenever I find fatherhood was coming, I wanted to know everything, I wanted to know what was happening, what things will be like when he was born, and the words you have to be patient or you need to wait and see where phrases that my brain just could not compute, and I just pretty much drove myself crazy with the unknown, I haven’t learned to cope with they all known yet at that stage because I had focused my own thought processes on controlling my own routine, my own diary so much. But then whenever Ethan was coming along, that would all have to change so everything that I’ve ever learned and had ever known would have to change pretty much overnight whenever he was born and it was difficult whenever he did eventually come.
HR: What were some of the most useful tools for you to use with your autism as you transitioned into fatherhood?
JM: Well, I know that structure routine and boundaries are positive for children, I’m good on planning things and thinking ahead in that way, But over time I’m going through the therapies that I did, I just had to let go although slowly and on stages because I had an awful fear that Ethan perhaps could have been the same as me, That he could have been autistic as well, that’s a realistic fear that I did have at the time, But genetics would play a role and whenever I have a small, I couldn’t go to Parks or pretty much anywhere because If I had a meltdown or I had became aggressive, it was very difficult for my mom to take me anywhere and I knew that there was a small chance that Ethan could be like this. I think it made me slightly overbearing and his first few years I’ve played. I didn’t really give him the space to grow or spread his wings on the way I can think about it was that unconsciously and without my knowing I kind of I kept him caged when I think it’s just his feathers were just too bright and over time I had to give Ethan that space and watch him grow and flourish and seeing that was so rewarding that it was worth maybe thinking and changing How I felt about things and how I went about my daily routine.
HR: Tell us about Ethan’s mom.
JM: Ethan’s mom, While Myself and Ethan’s mom have been separated for quite some time almost just shortly after he was born we keep on regular contacts he’s very supportive and she’s supportive of me and him because I think she’s one of the first people that I actually told about my autism and I was able to be bold of understanding between the both of us even though we parent ethan separately in our separate houses, she understands but I am who I am and has quite accommodating and kind to that for that I’m quite grateful and lucky that she has been understanding, Very much so so far.
HR: How do you work the custody Arrangements?
JM: Well, Ethan would be here but plenty be here a couple of nights a week and my parents would collect him from school they’ve taken early retirement because of there health issues and so on, So they are happy to babysit him during the day while we both work and yeah I can see him anytime if he wants to come over he can, because he loves getting caught up and all the excitement with the book and speaking to new people, So she very much enjoys the journey that we’re both on as well.
HR: That’s great, how old is Ethan now?
JM: He’s six, He is six on the 23rd of July,
Learning More About Jude Morrow
HR: Great, that’s a great grade age. Um, how can our audience here at different brains get in touch with you and learn more about you?
JM: Well, I love speaking to new people I have an email address which is JudeMorrowbooks@gmail.com. I am on Twitter @judemorrow10 I have my own author page on Facebook which is just jude morrow author I have my own website www.judemorrow.com which I release, I try to at least released to weekly blog about different things that matter to me, about autism and things that I feel. just my thoughts, Just opening up discussion was on the autism community in general and on Instagram I’m at jude morrow as well. So I love getting messages, I love discussing my book with people. here it is, And that’s really been a great journey and I am more than happy to speak to anyone and everyone about my story and I love hearing other people’s stories just as much and my so-called digital door is open to everyone.
Misconceptions About Autism
HR: That’s great, That’s great. “Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?” Um, Jude, what is the biggest misconception about autism from your point of view would you say?
JM: My biggest misconception about autism is that it’s a disease or a disorder or it’s nearly like a condition. I believe that autism is a difference that has to be celebrated, I love the idea of neurodiversity I like that people can have different preferences in terms of Whether it be food sensory issues, sexuality anything and I think on the diversity of the global society, I think neurodiversity as a great thing. If you look back all through the history of the human race, all through the history of the human race, all the the leading people in their fields: for example, With movies it’s Stanley Kubrick with art that’s Michelangelo, DaVinci, Mozart, Einstein. all have with a certain degree of certainty, a diagnosis of autism. But whether it be known posthumous diagnosis of autism and I think that autism is a gift instead of a curse and I think the sooner people realize that know autism is a gift, I think acceptance and understanding will grow a lot more because with autism, I believe in a general sense and I know this is hypothetical, I’m not one for psudeoscience, But I’m one for thinking a certain way and I believe that people are born with a automatic safety net for their brain, whether that’s control for audio, for visual, for taste, for touch, for social interaction. there’s that safety net that’s automatically built into the brain, and with autism, we don’t have that. So, we see the world in true color and we hear it and the crisp sound that it is, and I think, because of the logical way that my brain works, I think I can see the world for what it is. and as far as having autism is concerned, I believe that we’re the enlightened ones.
HR: Autism, seeing the world without filters.
JM: Yeah and sometimes it’s maybe more beautiful sometimes it’s maybe a lot more ugly. I don’t know, but I can’t swap my brain with someone else’s. But even if I were given the choice I don’t think I would.
The Importance of Seeking Help
HR: Is there anything else you would like to share with our Different Brains audience we might not have covered here?
JM: There’s something that’s been troubling me quite recently, and it goes back to the other autistic way of taking things literally. I would take things literally, and a lot of social interactions… And I’ve noticed like a global campaign. I think it’s the standard more towards mental health although with autism we was going to be overlaps somewhere, psychiatric guidelines… And I don’t know if the slogan “it’s okay not to be okay” is as prevalent in America or Canada. There’s a big emphasis here for mental health saying “it’s okay not to be okay” and that turn of phrase as an autistic person troubles me somewhat because whenever I realized I was different I knew that I was feeling bad. I certainly wasn’t happy. Distinguishing emotions is very difficult at the best of times. But whenever I was having that awful black suckling feeling in the pit of my stomach and reading slogans like “it’s okay not to be okay” I took that literally and thought “well, that’s great! I’m not okay – that’s a good thing.” And the more I thought about it the more I thought “is it really okay not to be okay? If you’re not okay should you not seek professional help?” Because in all my research and Googling and reading I’ve never find slogans such as “it’s okay to have a broken leg” or “it’s okay to have yellow fever” You know I’ve never found things like that. So I think my ultimate – I kind of wish I had this as a pearl of wisdom when you asked but I’ll keep it here at the end – Is that it’s much better to seek help. Seek professional help. There’s help and guidance out there for improving your mood and well-being.
HR: Jude Morrow author of Amazon’s bestseller “Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad” coming to us at Different Brains all the way from Ireland, and we really appreciate you taking the time Jude to be with us.
JM: Thank you very much for having me. Anytime at all.