Now that EPIC’s production of The Tempest is over, I couldn’t think of what to write about this week. No autism movies to review, no film festivals, conferences, panels or inspiring UN presentations. What’s an autism mom to do? Since Sunday will be Father’s Day, I thought I would write a blog to honor the love—and tremendous hard work—of autism dads, especially my husband, also a father of twins.
Hallmark does NOT offer special cards for the special dads of children on the spectrum. But given that 1 in 59 children are now born with autism, maybe they should. (?!) Unless you (or a loved one) are the parents of a child with autism, it’s impossible to truly understand the emotional and financial strain as well as the enormous sacrifices that both mothers AND fathers make over the course of child rearing.
My beloved husband is past retirement age and still unable to retire. As he likes to joke, our daughter is our mortgage. Forget the American Dream of owning a home; it wasn’t in the cards for us. Instead we invested in our daughter: ABA, private special ed schools, speech therapists, occupational therapists, tutors… Howard supported our daughter through all of her worst years, advocated for her annually with the Board of Ed, paid a gazillion “providers” (some of whom turned out to be overpriced predators) and did everything in his power as an attorney and a father to help Samantha reach her full potential.
We’re talking about some truly magnificent—even unbelievable—potential. After graduating cum laude from Pace University—a miracle in and of itself—Samantha co-starred in the award winning film, Keep the Change, which won the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and earned her a Best Actress Nomination. Howard also spent his 65th-plus birthday last year in the Czech Republic at the Karlovy Vary Film festival, where KTC won an international critics’ award. That was ALL last year. So far in 2018, Samantha has spoken at the United Nations for World Autism Awareness Day, sang to the traders on the floor of the NYSE and rang the opening bell. We were also invited to Israel by a producer who bought the rights to KTC. My husband had the opportunity to see Israel in a way most parents will never know—as the father of a budding international movie star, with adoring audiences asking for autographs, selfies and, yes, even hugs!
I know Samantha joins me in her gratitude to “Daddeo for paying all of the bills” and for loving her through the difficult years when she was “a bummer” (as she herself puts it). Now I hope that Samantha has made her dad one of the proudest fathers on the planet. I want to take some time to honor Howard’s tireless contribution to our daughter’s success. (Yes, he will have to sit still long enough to enjoy and share in her accomplishments.) Like many other autism fathers, my husband had to work longer and harder than most to support his family. Father’s Day is the perfect time to celebrate all of the victories large and small which would not be possible without the efforts of Dads. All kids need their fathers as role models, but those with disabilities need especially strong, patient, and persevering Dads. Dads must set an example for their sons and daughters and love them unconditionally. As a therapist once commented, “How can a little girl grow up to win the heart of a man if she hasn’t won her father’s heart?”
Samantha and her father worked hard to win each other’s hearts. I hope they are as proud of each other as I am.
We have a lot to celebrate this Father’s Day.