Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why dads of kids with special needs rock

In honor of Father's Day and fairness—because it's obviously not just we moms who rock—I asked guys around the blogosphere (and my blog-less husband) to explain their awesome-ness, in their own words. This is what they had to say.

"I am not only Max's father, I am his buddy. Nobody plays with him like I do or tosses him around like I do or makes him laugh like I do."—Dave

"I do what I can to try and get by. I do the best I can under the circumstances and HOPE that I 'rock.' Although most of the time I feel I’m still a very long way from being able to claim any kind of trophy, I’ll never stop trying to be a better father, that much I’m certain of."—Ken Lilly, Blogzilly

"The thing people don't think about in regards to special needs dads is that we do what we do for our kids, and we really would and will do anything for them, but we do so in the face of a societal narrative about fathers that largely ranges from dismissive to hostile. We see Homer Simpson on TV and we know that we don't have the option of being that kind of fatherly buffoon. We go online and see literally thousands of sites and blogs geared toward special needs mothers, and we read about their "unique" struggles, struggles that we work through as well. We're called silent partners, even when we have something to say. And we do it all happily, because the rewards of parenting a child unlike any other are ours as well. We don't require a parade or a sit-down with Oprah. We have our child's love, and that's all we need."—Robert Rummel-Hudson, Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords, author of Schuyler's Monster: A Father's Journey with His Wordless Daughter.

"I rock as a blogger because, being anonymous, I can say things that those with severely disabled kids feel, but can't say. As a father, I rock because I never had a 'normal' kid. I don't have the expectations and comparisons, first hand, that others do. When I am a voracious advocate for either of my children, I am doing no more than others would do for their normal kid. I advocate, I speak out, I demand simple competence and respect towards my children. And I rock as a single father, because I am a rock, I am an island."—Single Dad, Single Dad/Disabled Daughter

"Dads of kids with special needs rock because we accept our kids for who they are, not what we once wished they would be. We also rock because we all look exactly like George Clooney."—T. Lewis Stark, Big Daddy Autism, author of Big Daddy's Tales From the Lighter Side of Raising a Kid with Autism

"Mothers are nurturing, healing, comforting and when needed, can be a ferocious mother bear. Fathers are the rock. The source for strength and leadership. The father's role is to lead by example. To instill values, morals, determination and will without having to speak a word about them. When our children are diagnosed with a special need, that strength is greatly challenged. It's in these times that the father either falters or shows his greatest strength stands up to the challenge. When that happens, you know, without a doubt, that his child will turn out just fine. That father has taken the hardest, biggest and most important step to being the rock, source of strength and leader that the child will grow up to learn from. That's a comforting thought."—Stuart Duncan, Autism From A Father's Point of View

"Reasons why I rock as a dad:
1. I sacrifice my time by playing video games with Jackson.
2. I eagerly watch Star Wars and cartoons with my sons.
3. I don't change poopy diapers, I do the harder task: I take them to the trash can!
4. I am a sucker for the "PLEEEAAAAASSSSE Dad" expression.
5. Light saber fights and nerf gun wars are my favorite activities
6. I don't open doors of opportunity for my boys, I kick them open.
7. I will always try my hardest to provide my boys with the best quality life they can have.
8. Most importantly: I accept and LOVE my boys for who they are, not for what they can or can't do. They are my greatest accomplishments!"—Josh Bauman, Our Family of Four (in case you're wondering: he got 11 officemates to shave their heads, along with him, and his company donated $400 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation).


  1. What a great post! I love all the pictures with the reflections. Fathers don't get enough good press - thanks.

  2. Love the post. Great to see attention given to these amazing Dads that care for all of our children. I thank all of you! Happy Father's Day.

  3. Peggy’s husband, Jim, writes this blog:

    As the parent of a boy with autism, I had to learn new ways of connecting with him inside of his interests, and then deal with the more difficult task of letting go of my pre-conceived notions for all the activities we would engage in during his growing years. Dreams of playing catch in the backyard or of bike rides in the park gave way to playing the Wheel of Fortune board game for hours on end… the most important part of which was spinning the wheel. The key point I was always trying to remind myself is that we were connecting, even if it wasn’t in the way that I wanted. Still, I longed for those opportunities to do typical “father and son” stuff together.

    I am very thankful for all those who have made connections with Daniel over the past ten years or so, and have played a very big role in helping him to develop his skills and abilities, even as he deals with the limitations his autistic mind has placed upon him. While this incredible group of people is made up of both genders, I am especially appreciative that so many of them are men. Whether teachers, case managers, classroom aides, camp counselors, youth ministers or coaches, we have been blessed to have caring men enter into Daniel’s life for a time and connect with him in ways that allowed him to experience new things. Some have found ways to turn studying for a biology test into a game show, while others have challenged him to try new activities which he rejected in the past. Whatever the situation, Daniel has been positively influenced by the men who have taken the time and interest to connect in his world. In this month when we celebrate fatherhood, I am very grateful to the men who have joined with me in a fatherly role for this very special and wonderful boy (who is very quickly becoming a young man himself).

    And that brings me back to baseball. Although now a rising junior in high school who checks in at 6’2” and 230 lbs, Daniel continues to be strongly influenced by that 3rd Grade teacher who taught him (among many other things) to love the Chicago Cubs. That connection also led to an interest in playing baseball, but we had to find a way that he could do so in an environment where his limited gross motor skills could be accommodated and his age difference would not be an issue. We found that opportunity in Challenger baseball, an alternative format offered by many Little League organizations for kids with special needs. Despite his predisposition to be a couch potato, Daniel was excited to get out and play baseball, and wanted so much to be a pitcher out on the mound. The good news is that through the dedicated efforts of our Challenger team coach (and, really all of the coaches) in our local Little League, Daniel has been the “star” pitcher for our Challengers team over the past two years. So, as we approach another Father’s Day, I am so very thankful for the gift of being able to sit in the bleachers and watch my son out in the middle of the baseball diamond, up on the pitcher’s mound in all his glory, gleefully throwing his pitches into the strike zone. Any Dad’s dream.

    Copied from

  4. As a mom with a special needs child I often don't think about what her father goes through. He is our silent rock that holds us together. Thanks for the post gave me a great opportunity to reflect on how amazing my daughter's father truly is! Even if he would never admit it.

  5. Thanks for the nod. I'd say it's been a pretty good week. Can't ask for a better finish.

  6. My sons all have special needs and it turns out I have Aspergers Syndrome but their dad was not one of those good dads: he physically abused us instead. He tried to get the kids to do things they couldn't (including even a normal child couldn't such as expecting 2 year olds to remember safety advice) and blamed his behaviour towards me on my then undiagnosed AS. I wish he'd been one of those good dads.

  7. Sorry you and your children had to endure that, I really am. To me, there is little worse than the betrayal of the kind of a parent abusing a child, or even of a spouse abusing another spouse.

    I assume he is gone? If so, then that's a good thing, and the best thing, and the only thing that you can do now is keep moving forward and doing as good as you can for both you and your kids.

    Take care.

  8. Love this post Ellen - my husband is an incredible person and father and I am so grateful for him. He connects with our T-man and our JD in ways that I can't and I am grateful for that. Papa Po rocks!!

  9. I will confirm that Dave is just an amazing father to both Max and Sabrina.

    He is also a great husband and all around nice guy.

    Happy Father's Day Dave!!!

  10. Great post! Love that dad perspective.

  11. What a great post. Dad's don't get enough attention so often for all the work they do. I wouldn't be able to do so much if it wasn't for Hub.

  12. I love this post Ellen. I borrowed from it liberally today on my own blog. My husband wasn't quite as forthcoming as the dads you quoted, but that's okay! I filled in the blanks!

  13. hmm
    great comments but I don't think I rock or that I'm awesome. I just do the job.
    I'm obsessed with making sure he gets the best and that any medico works for him and not with him.
    I constantly look for improvements in the quality of his life.
    I'm amazed and inspired every day by his tenacity and the love that oozes from every pore of his body (his latest review from school used the word "inspiring" in the first sentence).
    I work 30 hours so make sure my wife gets out of the house for a break when I get in. I can cook, medicate, do physio, advocate, hold my own with physios and hold his seizure racked body as we race to hospital at 2 in the morning.
    But do I rock? Am I awesome.
    I'm Dad.

  14. What a great bunch of loving Dads! Thanks for "sharing" them!

  15. It's so nice to reflect the fatherhood..

  16. Took me a while to stumble on to this, but I'd like to comment anyway.. I've been told that I 'rock' as a single father of an autistic child. I don't get it, but I don't like arguing with people about it. Dude is Dude, and can be no other... How could I be anything but a Dude-dad? Now excuse me, but I have to go tickle my son to death... Nice blog, btw


Thanks for sharing!

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