Prominent radio DJ Mikey Havoc has opened up on the “super challenging and scary” journey of coming to terms with the fact he would never have a conversation with his son.
Havoc, a former musician and one of New Zealand’s most prolific broadcasters of the ‘90s and ‘00s, spoke candidly about the experience of raising his 7-year-old son and “best friend” Kyuss, who has nonverbal autism.
Speaking on Newstalk ZB’s Real Life with John Cowan on Sunday night, the former 95bFM stalwart and TV host said giving up on his preconceptions of fatherhood and learning what it meant to be a good dad to Kyuss had been “difficult … but fascinating”.
“He’s so cool – I love him in the most profound way,” Havoc told Cowan.
“I was a late-starter father at 46, and all the things I thought were going to happen as Dad, all the things I thought I’d be dealing with, it’s almost all the opposite.
“We went on this parenting autism course, and the very first thing they said was don’t babble at your kids. And I was just like, ‘Oh, that’s what I wanted to do, that was my plan – that’s why I knew I was going to be good at’. But it’s been very different.”
Nonverbal autism is a subset of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) whereby the person never learns how to say more than a handful of words. It’s estimated that anywhere between 25-50 per cent of children with ASD are nonverbal.
Havoc, who has made a career out of talking publicly, says he initially tried to “fix” Kyuss’ condition following his diagnosis, but has come to terms with the realities of raising a child with autism over the years.
“The hardest thing about it for me, in a completely selfish way, was thinking ‘I’m never going to be able to have a conversation with my son’ – that was really difficult. That took a long time for me to process it and get to a place where I was okay with it, which is really selfish.
“Some kids in that situation, they can’t look you in the eye, they have trouble expressing affection. That’s hard to deal with at the time, but now he’ll sit with me for an hour. We’ve got a thing. I don’t know what it is, but we’ve got a thing.”
Havoc is well-known for his decades-long career as a broadcaster and entertainer – particularly his stints alongside Newsboy on national TV, and as a musician, a DJ, a club owner, and a radio announcer on bFM and Hauraki.
“I’m very grateful for all the things I’ve been able to do, and basically what I’m doing now is trying to find something a tenth as satisfying as any of that sort of stuff.”
His success is all the more impressive given most of his childhood was spent without a father. His dad, legendary yachtsman Clive Roberts, was involved in a fatal crash with a drunk driver on his way home from a sports award ceremony when Havoc was just 5.
He says the few memories he has of his father feel more intense now as he settles into being a Dad himself.
“I have memories of what it felt like when my dad was in the room. If I hear his voice in an old interview or something, I don’t recognise his voice at all. But I feel and remember him.
“I definitely feel him a lot more now… He comes into my thoughts all the time.”
Real Life is a weekly interview show where John Cowan speaks with prominent guests about their life, upbringing, and the way they see the world. Tune in Sundays from 7:30pm on Newstalk ZB or listen to the latest full interview here.