This guest blog post was written in 2014 by RDI® consultant Maisie Soetantyo. We are re-posting it this month in honor of all the father’s around the world caring for their children with autism. You can read part two of this series here and part three here.
Colin: Mom, I have a question. How does a helicopter work?
Me: What do you mean, how does it fly?
Colin: Yes, how does it fly?
Me: Hmmm, well, it has an engine like other vehicles.
Colin: Yes, but how does the engine make the helicopter fly?
Me: Well the engine makes the propeller move.
Colin: YES, but HOW does it work??? Never mind I will ask Dad tomorrow…
Me: Good idea.
Nowadays, we have many more conversations that begin with the question “why”, which often leaves me in a state of confusion and probably makes my son even more confused in the process. Thank goodness for Daddy – who is the go to person for questions that Mommy does not know the answer to! We often take it for granted that our husbands assume many special roles in our family. Not only they work hard to provide for the family but they also do their best to be there for us and the children.
June is a celebration month for Fathers in America and England, where we get to show our appreciation for everything they do for us. To celebrate this special month, this article spotlights all of the unique roles that Fathers do best.
ASD is now considered the most frequently occurring developmental disability in the United States; with one in eighty-eight children, and one in fifty-four boys, being diagnosed (Vacca, 2013). The higher incidence in boys is also seen in other types of learning disorders. Because of its prevalence in boys, more researchers are now studying fathers’ perspectives on early intervention, parenting approach, education, stress level, communication style and future appraisal.
One of the most common concerns we hear from mothers of special needs children is that they wish their husbands were more involved in their child’s interventions. We hear from fathers that they actually do want to be more involved. However, many feel left behind in the therapeutic assignments and methodologies prescribed to their child by multiple professionals. To add to this challenge, fathers are not usually present during therapies and team meetings and it is difficult to understand many of the objectives without seeing a demonstration from a therapist. Thus, mothers tend to take on the responsibility of day to day implementation of therapeutic goals. This discrepancy in parenting expectations is often a source of contention for couples trying to do their best coping with the daily challenges in raising a child who is developmentally behind.
According to Kayfitz, Gragg, and Orr (2009), positive experiences from both parents are critical to reduce the overall stress level in raising a child with special needs. What do fathers do best, and how do we encourage them to be more proactive in day to day guiding process?
Maisie Soetantyo has been providing RDI supervision and training for families in California and South East Asia for many years. She firmly believes that through daily mindful engagements parents can make a difference in their special needs children’s long term outcome. Maisie and her husband, Pete Dunlavey, are both seasoned certified RDI consultants who run ‘Destination 4 Day RDI Parent Trainings’ all over the world. For additional questions or comments, contact Maisie at: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.catchclinic.com
Vacca, J. J. (2013). The Parenting Process from the Father’s Perspective: Analysis of Perceptions of Fathers about Raising Their Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Best Practice in Mental Health, 9(2), 79-93.
Kayfitz, A.D., Gragg, M.N. & Orr, R. (2010). Positive Experiences of Mothers and Fathers of Children with Autism. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 23(4), 337-343. Doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3148.2009.00539.x