“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” – Billy Graham. On Father’s Day, we recognize just how important our dads are to our growth and the development of our character. Even from birth, children who have an involved dad are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections.
Dads are the ones we run to when we want to feel protected, or need a partner to go on an adventure. Our dads are the ones we call when we want career advice, when it is time to learn to drive or when we want to work on our batting practice until dusk. Dads are our personal superheroes; we think there is nothing they can’t do.
Finding out he will be a dad is one of the most amazing experiences a man can go through. He immediately starts planning all of the things he wants to teach or do with his soon-to-be partner in crime.
When a dad finds out his child has special needs, what does it feel like? How does he process the emotions and prepare for his new reality? Being the dad of a child with special needs may not look the same as he had planned, but it can also be a gift that he didn’t expect or know he could handle.
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 when they may feel lost or need to connect with someone who has been through the thick of it. To honor our community of dads this Father’s Day, we’d like to recognize a few who dedicate their experiences and share their advice for all dads of kids with special needs. If you’re struggling, you can do this!
To kick us off, we spoke with Jason, whose son William (age 3 ½) has Smith-Magenis Syndrome (SMS).
What was it like finding out your child would have special needs?
Jason: For my wife and I, it was actually a relief. We went through so much testing knowing something was not right and it was becoming very frustrating. Once we got the diagnosis, it was a relief; it was obviously stressful and shocking, but we were at least finally able to set up a game plan on how to help our son.
How have your expectations of fatherhood changed?
I don’t know if my expectations have really changed. I still strive to be the best father I can be to all of my kids. We have 5 kids, so it almost comes naturally at this point. Parenting is never easy; there is no book that can give you step-by-step instructions, whether parenting a child with special needs or a typical child. They all bring their own unique sets of needs and challenges.
What changes have you seen in yourself?
The biggest change I’ve noticed is my patience. With William, you never know when a meltdown is going to occur, or when it’s going to end once it starts. I’ve learned to be patient and weather the storm. The positives of SMS for us, so far, have far exceeded the negatives. I remind myself of that daily.
How do you and your wife remain close and connected?
Well we are not your average couple: five kids, including one with special needs, and we work together. So, we are together pretty much 24 hours a day. Our oldest daughter (12) is the mini mom of the house. We enjoy our time as a family and watching her relationship with William blossom. We take time for us when we can by going to hockey games or out for a quick dinner. A lot of times the only time we get just for us is if we decide to take a lunch together at work and get away from the shop for half an hour. But I wouldn’t change it for the world!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from having a child with special needs?
I’ve been fortunate to have special needs friends and family my entire life, so I wouldn’t say I’ve necessarily learned anything as much as I have been reminded not to judge a book by its cover. The special needs community is full of amazing and inspiring people from all walks of life.
What is the biggest surprise about having a child with special needs?
For me with William every day is a surprise. I tell people all the time we literally live moment to moment. That is not an exaggeration and could be good or bad. Fortunately, as I stated previously, the good surprises outweigh the bad.
What is a misconception you want people without a special needs child to know?
We are still your friends. We are still your family. We are still the same people, but our priorities have changed; our love for everyone in our life has not.
What would you say to dads who are struggling with a new diagnosis for their child?
Stay strong, talk to people and rely on those around you. We are not alone and it’s ok to ask for help! It takes a village to do what we do as parents and that’s ok! It’s alright to fall, and we will more than once, just make sure to get back up and keep fighting the fight!
Thank you, Jason, for being part of our community and a resource for all of your fellow dads out there. If you were inspired by Jason’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.