This June, we are thrilled to turn the spotlight towards some very very important people, who may not always get the recognition and visibility they deserve. Fittingly, we will highlight our FATHERS in this article who play such a crucial role in their kids’ lives as their families navigate the ever-complicated waters of autism.
We can begin by stating the obvious – dads carry a very different parenting tool kit than moms do, especially when navigating the ever-complex waters of autism. Yet for those who spend time with autistic children in doctor visits, playgroups, or therapy sessions, it’s not hard to notice the general lack of fatherly presence. Please hear this – WE ARE SOOOOOOO GRATEFUL for all the wonderful, caring dads who pour into their kiddos and families and we know you guys are everywhere!! But even from a cultural perspective, traditional parenting roles (and dare we say outdated parenting roles..?) generally assign the father to long hours away working while the mother attends to the daily needs of house and caregiving. Again, this is a cultural stereotype and there are many exceptions these days, as our societal norms shift toward a more balanced perspective. Recent statistics show that 32% of fathers with a wife in the workforce are primary caregivers for their children. Good work dads!
As we mentioned earlier, dads bring a different set of tools and skills to the table and for that reason they are so uniquely suited to support their children related to ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Specifically for many of the challenges which face autistic children, fathers can take the lead role in developing social, verbal, and physical skills in their children. For example, statistically speaking, fathers naturally tend to use a higher-level vocabulary with their kids and tend to be more directive in their conversations. This behavior can help children develop well-rounded language and communication skills, things which we focus on clinically everyday.
It won’t take long to notice that we PLAY and have FUN at PediaPlex and are intentional about creating a playful atmosphere for our wonderful kids. Dads, this is where you come in as NO ONE is better at play-time with young ones than good ole dad! The unique way fathers play with their children can be particularly helpful with children with autism, making connections and motivating their kids through physical play and wrestling. This largely non-verbal yet powerful connection is so important for kids who already have a difficult time communicating and connecting to the outside world.
And most importantly for families dealing with ASD in children, having BOTH mom and dad actively engaged in their child’s therapy can have a dramatic and positive impact. Parents know their children best and if one parent is absent from the equation then the opportunity to help develop the child is significantly hampered. A quote from the Journal of Early Intervention shares this, “if professionals are not involving fathers in early ASD intervention, they may be missing important opportunities to maximize social-communicative gains for these children”.
So, regardless of whether you work 60 hours a week or are the full-time home caregiver – you fathers are SO IMPORTANT to your precious kids and they need you involved! We cheer you on and celebrate you this Father’s Day as champions for your children and for your continued support of all that we do at PediaPlex!!
The PediaPlex Family,