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A Father’s Unique Perspective on Raising a Special Needs Child

June 13, 2024

As Father’s Day approaches, it’s a time to highlight the vital role dads play in their children’s lives. For fathers of special needs kids, that role often requires extraordinary dedication, patience, and resilience. One such dad is Rodney, a member of the AngelSense Customer Care team, whose daughter was born prematurely with a brain bleed and is on the autism spectrum. In this interview, Rodney shares his unique perspective, the obstacles he has overcome, and his hopes for his daughter’s future.

Rodney and his wife have four children, including a 15-year-old daughter with special needs. One of the most difficult periods was his daughter’s first 18 months, when she was frequently hospitalized due to complications from her premature birth. Rodney credits his understanding commanding officers for allowing him time off while on active duty in the Marines to be with his daughter during those hospitalizations. “The first year and a half of her life was the most difficult for us. She was always sick and in and out of the hospital literally every other week.”

Despite the challenges, Rodney doesn’t dwell on them. When asked about the biggest challenges he has faced, he replied: “She is actually very easygoing, always happy and has very little behavior issues.” However, he did note it has been difficult at times accessing necessary services and therapies for her due to shortages.

To support his daughter’s needs, Rodney emphasized the importance of advocating for her, observing her responses, and letting her make decisions when possible. Using the AngelSense device allows them to build up that independence gradually and safely. “We try to let her make her own decisions (as best as she can) and then we do our best to honor those decisions.”

As a father, Rodney doesn’t feel that the perspectives and experiences of dads in the special needs community get as much attention. “I don’t feel like I hear about or know very many special needs fathers because I don’t feel like we put our stories out there anywhere near as often as the mothers do.” However, he believes the struggles are universal for special needs parents, noting “I think special needs parents all have the same struggles and in most cases the mothers feel it more because they spend more time with the loved one.”

The family decided to try AngelSense Assistive Technology for their daughter when she started being able to open doors, for peace of mind in case she were to wander off. This proved invaluable on a trip to Disney World when she wandered away briefly after being distracted by another group of kids. “Only because she had the AngelSense device on were we able to find her because it was very crowded in the park that day.”

Rodney decided to join the AngelSense Customer Care team because it allowed him a flexible work-from-home schedule to be more available for his family. His personal experience influences his empathetic approach: “It has made me more understanding and sympathetic to customer needs and issues which drives my desire to resolve the issue for them.”

Looking towards the future, Rodney’s main hope is for his daughter to live a long and happy life. “As she grows and in combination with other things I hope that she can become more independent and be able to experience life the way she wants to.”

His advice for other fathers in similar situations is powerful in its simplicity: “Just be open minded and listen/pay attention to your children regarding the things that make them happy or upset.”

On Father’s Day, although his family doesn’t formally celebrate it, Rodney understands its significance: “I would guess that you would want to recognize the contributions that the father makes to raising his children.”

In the end, Rodney’s story highlights the unwavering commitment, adaptability and optimism dads of special needs children must have. His perspective is an inspiring one as we celebrate all fathers this Father’s Day.

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