“The quality of a father can be seen in the goals, dreams and aspirations he sets not only for himself, but for his family.” ―Reed Markham
Our focus at Abram’s Nation is not just to create practical solutions and impactful products; we strive to create a community where a family can turn during their journey and connect with someone who has been through the thick of it. As we continue to honor our community of dads, we recognize a few who are sharing their experiences and advice for all dads of kids with special needs. If your dreams feel a little out of reach, find inspiration from our next dad and hear how he has embraced new goals and dreams for his family. Please meet Jeff, whose 8-year-old son, Caleb, has Angelman Syndrome.
What was it like finding out your child would have special needs?
Jeff: In short, it was devastating. I can remember the day that Jamee, my wife, came home from a neurology appointment and said that the neurologist wanted to test for Angelman Syndrome. We Googled it and we knew then that was the diagnosis. A few months later we had genetic confirmation. At the same time, Jamee was pregnant with our second child, Myla, so we then had to have Jamee tested to see if she was a carrier (she is not), and Myla was born only months later. It was a whirlwind and the one thing that stayed consistent in that time was Caleb. He is so loving, happy and innocent. As we coped with his diagnosis, at the end of the day, loving Caleb, keeping him happy and protecting him is all that mattered. That call on our lives is what got us up and got us over this news.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from having a child with special needs?
As someone who admittedly hadn’t faced much adversity/heartbreak in life before Caleb’s diagnosis, I have learned that it’s possible to live life with an underlying sense of sorrow in even life’s greatest moments. This feeling doesn’t have to overcome me; I can admit it’s there, yet I can still be happy.
What would you say to dads who are struggling with a new diagnosis for their child?
I would say to allow yourself to grieve, not to resist that feeling, and in working through those feelings, you can face the loss of the life you had envisioned and embrace the life that you’re in. I would also encourage special needs dads to find things that your child loves and to learn to love that yourself and encourage that love in your child. It might not be what you love, and it might not be conventional – it might be water play, or marching bands, or painting on your garage door – but you’ll never stop finding enjoyment in seeing them do what they love.
Thank you, Jeff, for being part of our Abram’s Nation community and a resource for all of your fellow dads out there. If you were inspired by Jeff’s experiences, would you like to share your story and advice for other dads? Please click here to introduce yourself! We look forward to connecting with you and hearing your story.