Home > Topic of the Week > We’re Talking About Fathers

We’re Talking About Fathers

Autism Speaks wants to honor the fathers of children with autism.  Please tell us how your life has been challenged and enriched by your child.  What have you learned that might help and inspire other dads?  What is your favorite memory with your child this year?

We will include your responses in this month’s Community Connections. Sign up here to receive the Family Services Community Connections eNewsletter!

You can show your Father some love by sending him a ‘Father’s Day eCard!’

  1. June 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    The steps to earning that “#1 Dad” coffee mug that you get each year:

    1. Be there. Every day, sporting events, plays, assemblies, times they need you.
    2. Don’t make your wife be a warrior mom alone. Help her, support her, show her you can be a warrior too.
    3. Deal with and conquer what ever guilt or denial you may have. The sooner you can truly accept the situation and take power over it, the better.
    4. Transfer that macho pride you have for yourself into unconditional pride you have in your children. Hug them, kiss them, wear goofy birthday hats… no matter who’s looking.
    5. Never give up. No one is born a perfect parent and no one is ever ready to hear their child has special needs. Just don’t give up, you’ll make it.

  2. Mark
    June 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I am a stay at home dad and I have been home with our son since he was born. IT is a hard road on certain days as you know some days are easier than others. What is nice now he get to go to pre school when he turned 3 in March.

  3. June 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    I don’t think I can say there is one moment so far this year that is my favorite, I think it’s the feeling I get any time I see Noah’s smile, or he looks me in the eye. He is just carefree, its hard being an adult much less a parent. Its nice to see such complete joy.

    As for what I have learned, take full advantage of enjoying every new skill your child acquires. Life is a marathon not a sprint, in a world of “Been there, Done that” attitude it is OK to stop and smell the tulips.

    • Noreen
      June 6, 2011 at 9:25 pm

      So True!! Smell those roses Everyday my friend. It’s good that your nose KNOWS :)

  4. June 6, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    It’s made me a better man: http://1in110.com/?page_id=85

  5. Larry Ferrell
    June 6, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    My favorite memory this year is watching my loving and trusting child overcome his fears and allow his Daddy to teach him to swim. He bravely faced his fears of the deep end of the pool and now he swims like a fish. I’m so proud of him!!

    • Noreen
      June 6, 2011 at 9:26 pm

      :o) My kiddo is a fishy “wanna be” still trying and making me smile.

  6. phyllis lombardi
    June 6, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    I stared at a blank screen for about 10 minutes. Thinking of father’s day and how unbelievably lucky I am to have such an incredible father for my children. I realize what a very special man my husband is and how he never lets anything stand in the way of his truly unselfish parenting.

    My husband is as strong as a rock, never falters always steady and honest. He is the most hardworking dedicated father I have ever known. Never thinking about himself only his children and his wife. I never could imagine such strength yet such a gentle kind soul to be part of one person.

    For father’s I think something’s are more difficult then for Mom’s. It’s not easy for them to accept. My son Joey’s autism has been especially difficult on my husband. He wants to fix it, that’s what Dad’s do, they fix things and make it right. And with Joey it’s not that easy. My husband has a hard time watching his child struggle. His heart breaks, and morns at the loss of a typical child, but always with the appreciation of the beautiful boy we do have. I remember one day he looked at me and said, Phyllis we were robbed and so was Joey. And we were, of normalcy and typical dreams. And it’s hard for him. And when you look very close into my husband’s eyes you see that pain that he carries with him all the time. He has a heavy heart. And I hate that I can’t take that away from him.

    But in spite of all of the pain and tribulations, my husband is the funniest man I know. Full of smart, quick remarks that have us both laughing many times. And after 24 and 1/2 years of marriage I must admit, I can’t wait till he comes home from work at night. Every night I am thankful and happy as I hear the door open and him yell, I’m home.

    Nick is the proudest father and most giving. He never wants anything other than his children to have all they need and then some. He wants them to want for nothing as he puts it and has sacrificed often to do so.

    My children adore him and even though Joey only has about 10 words….every night after his shower he starts…da da da… i say yes soon. And he waits, sometimes falling asleep but I can tell always happy when thinking of his Dad.

    And my older typical son Nick, 16 and so independent, but also enjoys and is thrilled to share anytime he can we his Dad, who is his teacher and his inspiration.

    The most moral person I know, I often tease him and say.. if I hug you too tight it hurts because you’re so square. He’s my line in the sand when I go too far. And I admire his loyalty.

    So, to my favorite DAD the man who honestly deserves every Father’s Day award there is. My husband, my friend, I give you my heart and soul. And know I am the luckiest girl in the world to be able to share my greatest gift with you my children.

  7. June 6, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    a year ago I would work everynight and then come and spend the days with my kids and to see how far my son has come in the 6 years since he was born, so how has this enriched my life every minute off the 8 hours a week I now get to see him does this but most of all everytime his mum opens the door and he comes running out and tells me he missed me and loves me is all I need to hear to know I have everything i need.

    • Noreen
      June 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      :o) that about says it all :)

  8. June 6, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    I just wanna say “BRAVO” to the site for speaking about fathers who (probably due to our own insecurities and stereotypes)are often left in the background. We have a teenaged girl and two boys – both of whom are on the spectrum the elder with Asperger’s Syndrome and the youngest with “High Functioning Autism”. They have made me a more patient and stronger man who is less quick to judge in any situation. I’ve also learned that I likely have “High Functioning Autism” also and this has helped me to make some real brave changes and decisions in my life. My favourite memory of my boys this year?
    Me and my eldest going to Extreme Robot Wars together and getting the VIP treatment – he asked so many questions we got separated from our guides!
    My youngest writing his name independently for the first time completely out of the blue! We weren’t even aware he was forming letters on his own up to that point. I was so proud!
    Us dads need to be a lot more vocal in the Autism community and really get involved…We’re affected too.

    • Noreen
      June 6, 2011 at 9:32 pm

      Action – Speaks the Loudest. You said it!

  9. jonah thrush
    June 7, 2011 at 12:54 am

    my daughter has enriched my life by teaching me to be patient and to accept that life doesn’t always have to be on a minute by minute time schedule. that sometimes its okay to just pick flowers and rip off their petals and toss them in the air and miss our appointement with the boring doctor. my fsvortie memory of my daughter this year is the day i went to her school to have popcorn with her at recess and she showed me she could do the monkey bars by herself. it took so much effort, motor skills and consentration and she was very exicted to show me how grown up she is!

  10. Cody Muhs
    June 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    My son has enriched my life in countless ways. He has taught me patience. He has taught me to embrace and cherish every moment, and every accomplishment. He has taught me to be a more compassionate and selfless person in general. It is hard to take all of the great moments this year and pare it down to the greatest, but I have a few that stand out. I was able to stay home from work one day a couple weeks ago and witness a therapy session. I remember his first therapy sessions where he was lucky if he could tolerate sitting still and paying attention for even a few minutes. On this day, however, he was determined to do the tasks asked of him. Although he was uncomfortable, I could see the steadfast determination of a remarkable 3 year old fighting through his unease to accomplish a set of stacking puzzles after watching his therapist show him how. It was AWESOME to see!! The other day, he was playing with a toy. I was near him watching, and he tugged on my hand. This is usually a request to get something to eat or drink, but in this case, he wanted me to come down to the floor. When I did, he scooted against me and used my hand to play with his toys. Truely a remarkable experience. I look forward to the many of these experiences to come!!

  11. Bill Wills
    June 7, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    My biggest challenge has been to keep my son safe. He is on the low end of the specturm. Non-verbal with an obsessive compulsive behavior to beat all. I advocate not only for him but all people with intellectual disabilities. It is important to do all you can do for them and to bring awareness out to the community.
    At our walk this year (which I am the chairman for the family teams) I was up on stage announcing this years grand club members I had the pleasure of identifying to the crowd who my son is because he was sitting on the side of the stage. This was good and bad I say good because I am proud of him with how he has matured as he has grown up. He turned 24 on mothers day this year. As everyone who knows autism,a person on the specturm can change in a heart beat especially when they are around a crowd of people. He wanted to get to some ice cream,which he already had two and is lactose intolerant. Maybe that was good for people to see how someone on the specturm can be challenging at least I hope that is so.
    We tried our best to keep him away from the ice cream and to do so he was wearing out three grown men.
    What I have learned is to be patient and understanding. One of the biggest challenges is to communicate with our son you never know if he understands what you are saying.

  12. Tim
    June 12, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    My life is not challenged by my son. At least no more than any of my other 3 children. So he likes to flap his hands and watch credits as they roll down a tv or movie screen. So what! It’s great when we go see a movie and when its over he runs down to the huge screen and dances as the credits roll by. Sometimes i join him. I laugh as I watch other kids want to join him and sometimes they do. Rarely do their parents understand. It’s only my opinion but life is too short to worry about what others think. My wife and I don’t look at Ryan as having a disability. Maybe that’s the problem some parents have. Perhaps he can’t speak or socialize like most “typical” kids do, but the unconditional love he has for us and pure joy in all the things he does is something I wish every child and person could have if just for a moment. When my wife or I am holding him and he reaches out to the other one of us to bring us all together for a group hug and kiss…….it just doesn’t get any better. Facts are we all have our own challenges whether they be physical, mental, emotional, etc…but my glass is always half full….not half empty. I hope yours is too!

  13. June 14, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I am the father of an autistic 6-yr old named Tadj. Next to GOD- she is the reason for the seasons. I am an entrepreneur that specializes in creative consultation, design, and printed apparel. She has been a big inspiration behind my creative pursuits. My favorite moments with her have to be the time she spends with me in the studio or the office. I refer to her as my NO.2 pencil!

  14. June 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I believe that my dad, like the other members of both my nuclear family of origin and my current nuclear family, had autistic features. He had flat affect. He expressed few emotions — anger, intellectual curiosity, and admiration for intellectual accomplishments were amongst the few. He did not have conversations, only told anecdotes, did not like to be touched. He held children awkwardly. He did not cuddle with my mother. He was often very rigid in his beliefs.

    He was an intimidating man, though he was never violent. He could instantly point out errors in things, but seldom praised anyone. He never helped my mom with us kids. He was 6’2.5″ and never weighed more than 165 lbs. He towered over everyone. It was frightening growing up with him, because he frequently lost his temper and yelled, because he was fragile — and easily upset

    On the bright side, though, his intellectual and academic accomplishments were prodigious. He worked hard. He was admired by professional colleagues. His morals were impeccable. He never
    – was drunk,
    – swore,
    – became violent,
    – owed anyone money,
    – forgot birthdays, anniversaries or holidays
    – spent a night in a hospital in his entire life
    – lied or cheated
    – overate
    Though he was not warm and fuzzy, he taught by example.

  15. Sal Flores
    June 14, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    I have 2 boys (8 & 5 yrs old) whom I love very much. My 8yr old is within the autism spectrum. Being a parent does not come with a “how-to” manual, although a lot of reading & research does help. Having a child with autism is special. My son shines every single day. Together we have learned a lot about the disorder. Together we have taught each other to be patient. Many times it is very challenging. My advice to other father’s with a child with autism is to be patient, loving at all times & show your child that you are walking this road with him/her together, hand in hand. It is hard to pinpoint a special moment with my son, everyday is rewarding. From his embraces to his drawings which have soo much meaning to them. I cannot end without mentioning my wife, together we take on the day to day.

  16. June 14, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    My twin daughter was diagnosed with Autism at age 3. She also was born with Hydrocephalus and had a shunt implanted at 11 months old. Her sister is typically developing. They are now 4.

    As her Dad, it is personally challenging and rewarding to watch her progress and learn. It is hard for me to juggle time with the twins – I want to help the one without the other feeling left out!

    My daughter has shown signs of improvement, albeit gradually. She is largely non-verbal, but mimics and says a few words/phrases. This morning, when I strapped her into her car seat for her trip with mom to daycare, I gave her my routine smooch on the forehead and “bye-bye,” and she responded with “bye bye Daddy.” It took my breath away. Regular Dads would take that for granted – in my case I will be smiling about it all day.

    Every day I spend with my daughter is a gift – she is my hero. My best piece of advice would be to love as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today, and take nothing for granted.

  17. Stacey
    June 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I am a single mom of twin boys with autism..and I’d like to honour my dad as an amazing grandfather to my children. He has taught my boys things I could never have imagined. They connect on so many levels, and respond to him in an amazing way. Even though both boys have been diagnosed, Jesse seems to struggle more with stimming and gazing more often then his brother, and since they were born, my father has taken a special interest in Jesse and the two of them have become inseparable. They can walk hand in hand for hours, not a word be said, but the trust and love is there. He has brought smiles to both my boys and filled their hearts with laughter. My father was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in the fall and unfortunately his time with my boys will eventually come to an end…But for today he holds an irreplaceable spot in their hearts and mine, so Happy Fathers Day dad, and all those grandfathers out their who know the meaning of family.

  18. pressingpuzzles
    June 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    When my wife and I had our last child, they ended up being twins! When our daughters were 2 years old, we had our suspicions about Sarah, but it wasn’t until she was 5 when she was officially diagnosed with Aspergers. When we heard it was genetic, I was tested as well. As it turns out, I have Aspergers too; so my twin girls had an autistic father. Then, our doctors wanted to test the other twin, Christen because she was shows signs of the same thing, but not as severe as her sister. Christen was finally diagnosed as well. I imagine the next is what’s it like? Well, we do our best to be aware of each others short givings, but it wasn’t for my beautiful wife, we might never know what we’re doing wrong! You can read more about me and my family on my blog! Happy Father’s Day!

  19. Jimmie Azevedo
    June 14, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    My life is great, with my lil’ bubba Austin. He has taught me to never underestimate him or my self. There are times when I think he can’t or wont do something, he proves me wrong all the time. What a great feeling that is to be proven wrong. I cant imagine life without him.

  20. June 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    “You are the bestest dad that a son could ever have.” These words came from our 12 year old son dx with AS at the age of 6. Several years ago i watched “Autism, The Musical” in which one dad said it best when he said, “I can’t die, i must live longer than my son, i have to live for him.” Whether it is helping my wife who was dx with MS over 15 years ago or helping our teenage daughter. I must…i must go on for them.

  21. June 14, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    When I first heard the term “Autism” in conjunction with my son, it was hard to comprehend. What could these people possibly be talking about? Autism is a social disorder and my son is extremely social. He loves to laugh and make people laugh along with him; he encourages others to clap when the situation calls for it; and most of all, he gives the most amazing hugs you can imagine. He could recite the alphabet before he was two years old and count to 20 soon after. He’s smart, he’s funny and he’s happy… that can’t be autism. As the evaluation team spoke, words that had made sense to me at one time were being used in a completely unfamiliar ways, while others were just brand new: “spectrum disorder”, “high functioning”, “splinter skill”, “sensory processing”… What? The only response I could come up with was, “But he’s nothing like ‘Rainman'”. The therapists used some examples from the evaluation to illustrate what they meant… “When I handed him new a toy, he concentrated on the toy and didn’t look at me or seem to know I was there”. Well, duh!!! If a large plasma television and tub of beers was rolled into the room, you’d likely get the same reaction from me. He’s just three years old, and I’m just a guy… that’s not autism.
    They provided some information, book recommendations and couple of websites visit. For a long time, I still couldn’t believe it. I perused some of the information, flipped through some of the books in a bookstore, briefly visited some of the websites. I thought, “What’s the point of wasting my time with this?” Once the therapists help him catch-up to his pears, they’ll realize he was just a little behind in a couple of areas. Sure, I knew he was not where he should be in some ways. Yes, he could recite the alphabet and count to 20… but… he wouldn’t otherwise talk all that much. And, his eye contact was inconsistent…As a parent, I had become tuned-in to when he was thirsty, or had a wet diaper, or wanted a particular toy; I really didn’t notice that he never asked for those things. Yeah, he’s fidgety and seems to like to jump or run at inopportune moments. But, he’s an active little boy. Sure, he doesn’t like change all that much and unexpected sounds or noises are bothersome to him. Aren’t many 3-year olds like that? Or… Could that be autism?
    So, I started paying more attention to the information. I actually purchased a couple of the books, and spent some time on the websites. At some point, my pent-up denial subsided a bit and I started to search out more information about the disorder. It’s a “spectrum” disorder… meaning there is a range of attributes that may or may not exist in any one person. He’s higher functioning than some others with the disorder…so he is able to – and happy to – give a great hug. His splinter skills with letters and numbers can be a base upon which to build other skills. With therapy, he can learn to process his senses more accurately and be more in synch with the world around him. I’ve come to realize that many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder share many characteristics with typical children. They are smart and funny and happy… It’s just that in some ways, they may not “process” the world around them in the same way as other children. My son isn’t Rainman, but he does have Autism Spectrum Disorder. So, I’ll count with him when he needs to count, and jump with him when he needs to jump, and ease him into new situations when he is tense. I know at the end of it all, there is still the most amazing hug you can imagine.

  22. Kathy Ritzman
    June 14, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    My son is raising his autistic son without help from his ex. (She doesn’t have a clue.) He has primary custody and is doing a remarkable job. I’m so proud of the father he is and the love and patience he gives my Grandson! He is a wonderful example of what a father should be!

  23. June 15, 2011 at 11:14 am

    I want to leave a comment about my husband. He is the most amazing man I have ever known. He is not my children’s biological father, their bio dad passed away when they were in preschool. We are in the process of adoption for them both right now, and our oldest son, who is 12, has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and I think that most likely my father has it as well, knowing what I know now. I always thought my son was “just like his grandpa” and wasnt around many other kids, so I figured his “quirks” were genetic (and I have several traits of Asperger’s myself, but no formal diagnosis), so it wasnt until he was in late elementary that we really saw the big differences between him and the other kids, so his diagnosis was much later than average…

    but anyway, my other child has severe ADHD and Tourettes, I have hydrocephalus, dyscalculia, ADHD, and am visually impaired and unable to drive, in addition to PTSD, which was diagnosed last year after several hospitalizations, and my husband has diabetes as well, which leaves him tired and feeling sick most of the time, and we also care for his elderly grandmother who is starting to have dementia and he has a two hour commute every day, so he literally is “Superman” to me.

    He struggles so much for “not feeling appreciated” and its very very hard on him to not get the love and affection and positive attention from our son and me to some extent, that he gets from our daughter and then not having been in their life from the beginning and no biological connection to them, he has even more trouble, but he never stops trying, every single minute of every single day. We have zero family support and do everything on our own, and for him to go through all of those things, and be the loyal, loving, caring, fantastic man that he is and be willing to stay in our family and deal with this on a daily basis, when he has the ability to walk away and never look back, means the absolute world to me.

    I never imagined in my wildest dreams that my children would have a father like him. He is the most moral, loyal, kind, compassionate, loving, funny, smart and amazing man I have ever known, and I couldnt have asked for a better father for my babies. So I just have to nominate him for “Father of the Year”! Thank you for sharing these stories :)

  24. tom gross
    June 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    MY BEAUTIFUL SON JAEDYN WAS DIAGNOSED AUTISTIC THIS YEAR AND I DID NOT KNOW WHAT I WAS GOING TO DO. IN MY FAMILY I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THE ONE TO FIX EVERYTHING SO MY FIRST REACTION WAS THAT I WAS GOING TO FIX THIS TOO. THINKING ABOUT IT THAT WAS MY SECOND REACTION, MY FIRST REACTION WAS WHY US? THEN I THOUGHT ABOUT IT ALOT AND REALIZED WHY US. WE COULD HANDLE THIS! WE COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN JAEDYN’S LIFE. AND EVEN THOUGH I COULD NOT FIX THIS I FINALLY REALIZED THAT THERE IS NOTHING BROKEN HERE. MY SON IS HAPPY! MY SON IS BEAUTIFUL! MY SON LIGHTS UP A ROOM. WE HAVE LITTLE VICTORIES EVERY DAY WHETHER ITS ALL DONE, BUZZ, WOODY, HIGH FIVES, 321 BLAST OFF OR ANY OTHER THINGS HE SAYS EACH DAY OR IT IS JUST A GREAT STARE IN THE EYES WITH A SMILE THEY ARE ALL VICTORIES. I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUTURE HAS IN STORE FOR MY SON BUT HE WILL BE THE BEST JAEDYN HE CAN BE. I KNOW THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A FATHERS BLOG BUT I CAN NOT SIGN OFF WITHOUT RECONIZING THE AMAZING JOB MY WIFE JENN IS DOING WITH OUR SON. SHE IS HIS LIVING ANGEL AND SACRIFICES SO MUCH FOR HIM. NEVER COMPLAINING JUST DOING WHAT HE NEEDS TO GET BETTER. I PRAY FOR ALL YOUR CHILDREN AS WELL AS MY OWN AND SUGGEST ENJOYING ALL THE LITTLE VICTORIES THEY ARE AMAZING KIDS.

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