A tribute to a father of a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014


IN celebration of Father’s Day last week, three fathers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder were featured on national television. Each one had his own story of trials and how they moved on and faced the challenges of raising a child with special needs. One father had to leave his job abroad to take care of his daughter and later on decided to become a SPED teacher. I watched another father recount how he begged the Lord to give his only child a close-to-normal life and true enough, his daughter was able to graduate in college and landed a job as encoder of a good company. And last but not the least, I was touched by the closeness of a father to his teen-age son who instinctively kissed and said “I love you” to each other with such spontaneity.

I am then reminded of the very important role of fathers in families with special children. Indeed, “father involvement” has a great positive effect in the development of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Even in special schools, I notice that special students whose fathers are involved in their child’s activities show better chances of learning more skills and having better lives.

It is not common for me to hear of some wives complaining that they are left to take charge of their child with special needs. For some fathers, they have difficulty accepting the disabilities of their son or daughter. Some fathers get discouraged and try to escape from responsibilities, for indeed, rearing a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder requires stable finances, extraordinary patience and emotional maturity. And yes, I have heard of wives being blamed by their husbands for giving birth to such a child which hurt their sense of manhood.

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Hence, it is always fitting to give tributes and accolades to fathers who are able to cope and overcome the struggles of living with persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We should always honor fathers who are not ashamed to walk side by side with their special child in public places. We should salute fathers who lead their family through periods of meltdowns and tantrum. We should be thankful for fathers who are always beside or behind every mother’s effort in giving what is best for the child.

I am grateful and proud to say that my children are blessed with a good father. My son with Autism Spectrum Disorder is so fortunate because my husband plays his role very well as a father, a teacher, a model/ leader, a buddy, and a wacky companion. I am also lucky because I have a stable partner whom I can share simple joys over the accomplishments of our children, particularly of what Jan has achieved despite his limitations. And during difficult and challenging times, he keeps our family going. The entire family always has a father to run to at any time and under any circumstance.

My husband and father of my children may not have been featured on national television, but he is our own family hero and this tribute is dedicated to him. To all the fathers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder spectrum disorder, you have been given a special mission on earth. Celebrate each day as an opportunity for you to show your unconditional love and care to your child.

“It is a wise father that knows his own child.” -William Shakespeare

Jane Ann S. Gonzales is a mother of a youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is an advocate/core member of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Society Philippines and Directress of the Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) Davao, a centre for teenagers and adults with special needs. For comments or questions, please email janeanngonzales@yahoo.com).

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 18, 2014.

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