Inside: Stories about special needs fathers ( with their wives ) are so inspiring. Read on.
My sister Pangga, years ago, would take a bath for so long. She loved splashing the water on her body.
My dad would reprimand her for being in the washroom that long. Reluctantly, Pangga would hastily stomp out of the bath with wet hair and clothes. Then my mom, or her caregiver would follow her and change her into dry clothes.
Pangga listened to my dad, especially if his voice was loud.
Tough love, I should say, that he gave us, especially when we were younger.
It’s Father’s day in three days and what better way to honor our special needs dads than re-publishing this post about them and learn how they are as partners of their wives in taking care of their special kids.
We all know that there are lots of struggles in raising up kids, more so if they have special needs and these become challenges that are easier to hurdle if both parents are present for their kids. Thus, we cannot underestimate the help that our special needs fathers do.
Please allow me to introduce to you three of them, all close to my heart.
I don’t know if you agree that dads give more tough love than moms, and I don’t know if they are really tough even with their special kids. My dad was, with Pangga and Batch, my other special sibling, at least, when he was a little bit younger.
Jojo and Nathan
A very responsible family man, Jojo is a full time nurse who likes to go fishing and do some basic carpentry in his free time.
Married also to a nurse, they have 2 kids, their eldest daughter is in medical school and the youngest is Nathan, “the most special in the family, ” according to him.
Tell us about Nathan
“ Nathan is now 14, he was born with Down syndrome and diagnosed with autism later between 8-9 years old but started to show signs at 4 years old .
At present, he’s still having a hard time expressing his needs.”
When did you know that Nathan was special and how did you react?
” Actually, I was in the Philippines attending to my sister’s funeral when I learned that my son had questionable genes and that they would have to do some studies later to confirm his diagnosis, since he had the features of Down syndrome.
It was like a double blow on my part, attending to my sister’s funeral and my son having Down syndrome, at that time in my life.
And I was helpless because I was in the Philippines and my wife was still in the hospital since she delivered earlier than expected. I couldn’t get to the US in time for the birth of my son and I couldn’t miss my sister’s funeral. “
According to his wife, Diane, it was really difficult for him to accept at first. ” Jojo was given a parental leave for a few weeks, he just can’t function and think straight. I had to encourage and push him to get up and move on.
It took him probably 2 months to accept everything that happened to us.”
Related post: Down Syndrome with Autism-my son has both and he is a Gift from God!
Is there a special activity that you bond together as dad and son?
” We like to watch TV and listen to music together. We also love visiting my sister and her husband who lives in the same city as us. Swimming together and doing ball games has been activities that we both enjoy, as well.”
How do you share with your wife in taking care of Nathan?
” We take turns, since we’re both working 12 hours, on our days off (we alternate our work schedules, too so that there is always someone present for Nathan) and I bring Nathan to let him attend to some activities, like soccer and basketball with the other special needs kids via special olympics.
I also like to cook and Nathan loves to eat ( and me ) so, this is one thing that my wife loves me doing for Nathan and our family.
When Nathan was younger and starting to be potty trained, I really tried hard to let him go to the bathroom on specific times of the day and before I went to work and it all paid off.
He has been fully toilet-trained since he was around seven.”
Related post: How to Potty Train a Child with Special Needs…When is the Best Time to Start?
Do you have any fears or concerns about his future?
” Yeah, since we’re getting old and we don’t know what will happen to his future.
Luckily he has a sister who loves him very much and willing to take care of him.
Hopefully by that time he can express what he wants and his needs and will be able to do some daily basic living activities. “
Related post: Big sister, Little brother…he has Down syndrome and Autism!
Does he have any big challenges at the present and how do you handle them?
” Nathan doesn’t talk and when he doesn’t get his way he stomps upstairs and won’t come downstairs for awhile or unless someone goes to get him.
We put a certain time limit and if he doesn’t come down, we check on him or we turn on one of his favorite shows so he will hear it and come downstairs.
He also hurts people, especially if he’s in an unfamiliar environment and can’t communicate what he wants.
To amend that, we just talk to him in a nice way and explain that hurting people isn’t what you’re supposed to do.”
Is there an activity that he excels?
“He doesn’t have any noticeable talent yet. He just enjoys watching TV, looking through his books, playing with his favorite stuffed toy snake, or listening to music.”
How does Nathan make you and your family happy?
” We are glad when he is enjoying his shows and is dancing with the music that also occurs in the program.
Sometimes whenever he listens to simple things that we say like,” Help us prepare the table,” and then does what we say, we are happy.
We also enjoy when he shows that he is responsible, like he brings the laundry basket back to its proper place and when returning home from school he will take off his shoes and socks and place them by the door where they belong without any prompting from us.”
How do you celebrate Father’s day?
” Simply, we just have a family dinner together at a restaurant. Or enjoy food with extended family. “
How did Nathan affect your views on life?
” Sometimes, we still question why there is such a thing as a special kid.
We wonder if everybody should be the same with their knowledge and growth.
Many times we ask why do we have to take care of Nathan with things, when other kids can do them by themselves. “
Any advice to other special needs dads on how to take care of their special child?
” Just be patient with everything that they do.
Sometimes they get frustrated when they can’t do it the first time or within a certain amount of time, so just explain how to do it with simple words, try to make eye contact, and get down to their level.
This shows that you see them as an equal and are not looking down on them (as opposed to standing) giving off a commanding vibe.
Also when interacting with them or if you’re trying to get their attention, do it in a playful manner.
Lastly, spend as much time with them as possible. “
Any other experiences with Nathan that you want to share?
He loves to be with us before bedtime and is reluctant to leave our room to go to his own bed, but because of his
bad habits when sleeping (wanting to occupy the whole space) we have to make him go to his room.
Lastly, he loves the water but sometimes when we go to the beach, it’s a struggle since he doesn’t want to go home.”
Click here to get ten inspirational quotes about kids and parenting.
Arnold and Alyanna
A hardworking dad, Arnold is a caring father to three kids with Alyanna as the youngest.
As busy as he is with his job, he still finds time to fix their house, ( his hobby ) and when he starts a project, he doesn’t stop until it’s done.
His latest project was making a washroom in their basement from scratch.
A self-made handy man indeed!
And a man of few words.
Tell us about Alyanna
” My daughter Alyanna is a sweet little eight year old child, with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome.
She has learned how to walk confidently on her own and she has been roaming around our house and even following me around when I’m doing something.
Alyanna enjoys school, even in this pandemic.
As long as her tummy is full and she has enough sleep, she is just full of energy and smiles. “
When did you know that Alyanna was special and how did you react?
” At birth, we were told that Alyanna might have Down syndrome, so work up was done right away, but eventually, she was diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange syndrome.
It was easy for me to accept her condition, after all, she is still our sweet little girl. “
Is there a special activity that you bond together as dad and daughter?
” Singing and playing the guitar is our favorite bonding activity.
Alyanna really listens to me intently when I do this.
When I feed her, I also let her watch Nursery rhymes in my cellphone and she loves it.
She smiles and laughs a lot!”
How do you share with your wife in taking care of Alyanna?
” We work alternate shifts, thus there is somebody who is always there for her and her siblings.
I’m a hands-on dad, so I have learned how to change her diapers and give her food to eat. “
Do you have any fears or concerns about her future?
” Yes, I just hope that when she is older and we are not around anymore, her siblings could help her in whatever way.
We have been saving some money too, for her future care. “
Does Alyanna have any big challenges at the present and how do you handle them?
“ She is non-verbal, so communication is a big challenge, and she is still very dependent on us for everything, so our love for her and lots of patience do the trick. “
Is there an activity that Alyanna enjoys doing?
” As of now, she likes to walk around the house and listen to me while I play the guitar.
She also loves watching Nursery rhymes in the cellphone or the television.”
How does Alyanna make you and your family happy?
” She is so amiable that her smile and laugh is contagious. ”
How do you celebrate Father’s day?
” If I’m not working on Father’s day, my family celebrates with me, like we eat out in a restaurant, but in this pandemic time, that will not happen. Maybe my wife will just prepare something special at home or we’ll just order some favourites.“
Was there an impact to you when Alyanna came into your life?
” Yes, indeed I became more resilient to the challenges of life.”
Papa Erning and Pangga
My dad is caring in his unique way, which I call tough love. He is a disciplinarian, especially for my brothers, who when they were younger, would challenge him in some ways.
Even Pangga then had challenging times when Papa would reprimand her for taking too long in the shower and wasted lots of water.
Papa has mellowed over the years, but his grandchildren would still get his “tough discipline,” from time to time when they would sneak those ice candies from the fridge that were for sale.
Oh well, I guess Papa’s tough love has made us learn how to discipline our very own kids.
When did you learn that Pangga was special and how did you react?
” When we learned later that Pangga was special, we took extra care of her, especially giving her breastmilk from her mom and some milk supplement, too.
It was easy to accept that she is a gift from God and a lucky charm for our family.”
Share with us Pangga’s growth and development.
I don’t exactly remember at what age Pangga learned how to walk and talk, but I’m sure it was later than her other siblings.
When she was big enough, my wife’s aunt took care of Pangga because there were 4 other younger siblings after her.
Every afternoon, they would go to church, so Pangga learned how to sing the prayer ” Our Father,” in the Filipino version.
Eventually, she learned how to talk and would answer simple questions.
She loved to sing, she had a good voice, thus singing became constant for her. “
How did you share with your wife in taking care of Pangga?
I would help the best that I could, like prepare her bed, food, and give her medicine when she was sick.
We are a big family, and although there were nannies to help, I was always there to support my wife in whatever way I can. “
Do you remember any struggles or big challenges as she was growing up?
” Nothing serious when Pangga was growing up, but just before her demise, she got sick with slight fever and wouldn’t eat for about a week until the local doctor treated her for a urinary tract infection.
Later she was brought to hospital because she stopped peeing. Her tummy was observed to be swollen after a day and was advised to be brought to a tertiary hospital in the city where the doctors found a serious abdominal infection due to ruptured appendicitis and pneumonia.
Her sisters brought her to the city, and we stayed behind in the province because my wife and I are already quite frail for our age to travel.
That was seven years ago and recently, my wife also passed away and I am left with taking care of my other special child, who is now grown-up and old with chronological age of 57, but he is independent and we go along fine with my granddaughters taking turns in sleeping with us and a caregiver who is with us in the daytime.”
Did you hope that Pangga would grow old?
” From early on, we knew that people like Pangga don’t really grow old, more like they pass away in their 20’s, so we feel that we were lucky to be with her until she was 46 years old.
Though we were unprepared of her death, somehow, we were comforted that she is now in heaven without those pains and suffering, and looks upon us from up there.
We know that she is now an angel looking after us.”
How did Pangga make you and your family happy?
” Being special, we always believed that she was the lucky charm in our family.
Her innocence and her no nonsense humor made us happy.
Just listening to her songs with some funny lyrics made our day. “
Related post: Luxury on Mother’s day…our Special needs moms deserve it
What do you miss most about Pangga?
” Pangga’s presence in our family is missed so much since she was considered the lucky gem and our home felt so empty without her, especially for the first few months after she passed away.
It has been seven years that she’s gone and we have accepted it and used to not seeing her around anymore, although her memories will always stay with us.
Of course, when we see people like her, we do really miss her!
She was the first ever member who has gone ahead, in our family of twelve. My wife just passed away three months ago, so there are now 2 angels watching over us.
Our home used to be somewhat busy with Pangga’s presence because she was considered the youngest, and mentally she was like 5-6 years old only, thus we have to remind her always about lots of stuff like, to wash her hands before and after eating, after using the toilet and to take a bath and limit her time in the bathroom.
You know if you have kids around the house, it always feels busy and chaotic.
We also miss her singing that even in the middle of the night, she would sing when she couldn’t sleep.”
How do you celebrate Father’s day?
” If we have enough budget, we prepare food for family and extended family. But not this year because visitors are limited due to the pandemic.
Usually our kids from abroad call us on this special day and sometimes they give me money to spend for some celebration.
Just knowing that my children are all successful in their careers and married life, with the exception of my other special child ( he is now 58 but mentally, like 7-8 only ), I am happy that we have raised responsible kids who always see to it that my medical needs are met and are always willing to help me out in whatever way.
I’m just getting used to be by myself and my other special child, without my wife. I miss her so much but I know that she is happier wherever she is now.
For me, I don’t need big celebrations for Father’s day, my children’s greetings and well wishes are all that matters.”
Shout out to Our Special Needs Fathers!
There you go, three special needs fathers and their experiences in raising their special kids.
Their support and help to their wives cannot be ignored, always appreciated.
To my brothers-in-law, Jojo and Arnold, and my dad, Papa Erning, thank you for all that you did and are still doing for Nathan, Alyanna, Pangga and Batch.
To my other brother-in-law, Aries, whom I failed to interview, your care and love for Mark is much appreciated, as well.
Related post: A Mother’s Unconditional Love.. It is for Real
It’s really challenging raising our kids, more so if they have special needs, but of course they give our families pure joy and bliss with their innocence.
Happy Father’s day to all our special needs dads out there!
Originally published: June 8, 2019 Updated: June 17, 2021
Hey, special needs dads, what is your best bonding activity with your special kid? Please share with us.
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32 thoughts on “About Special Needs Fathers ( Meet three awesome dads! )”
First, let me say you have a beautiful site. I was able to peek around a little bit and enjoyed the information here.
I am a father of four young boys and know the challenges that go with this calling. You give us the personal stories of exceptional fathers who need to have their stories told.
You present three stories of special children who require exceptional patience and sacrifice from their families. It is heartwarming to see there are still fathers who will not abandon their families when things get tough, but take the responsibility for their children.
It is impossible for “normal” families to appreciate the strain that these children put on everybody in the family; of course, they also can provide happiness and fulfillment in helping them achieve their greatest potential.
It is a fitting time to honor such fathers on Fathers’ Day – thank you for popularizing these exceptional fathers.
Thank you for those nice words for our special needs dads and their families.
Hope you had an awesome Father’s Day celebration with your boys and your wife.
Marita, thank you for this special article, raising a child with special needs required understanding from both father and mother (perhaps)
Like any other parent who has a special needs child, at first, we wondered what have we done wrong, but then we realized that our son is a gift from God. We do not take for granted that everyday will always turn out the same, but we always try to make the day will be the best day of all days.
We thank God that He gives us strength everyday, and believe it or not, we also learn a lot about life from our son.We see the world differently, we face challenges with different attitude, and perspective.
Our son is 27 years old now, and we love every moment with him.. We believe that God has a big plan for him, and our family.
I believe if Pangga could have expressed herself and told a story, she would have told everyone that she had a great life, and she had the best family who loved her, and took care of her.
We are sorry that Pangga is no longer with you, our heart and love goes to your family.
Thank you for sharing this, I am sure that your father appreciates this very much.
Kalle & Marie
Hi Kalle and Marie,
I’m so touched by your nice words for my family and Pangga.
Happy that you shared your story about your son. He is so lucky to have you as family.
I have great respect to these three gentlemen. Plus the fact that I know them all personally! It’s very challenging to raise special kids but you are all doing your best.
Manang Gigi (Dr. Marita), this is a beautiful compilation of interviews — up close and very personal. Worth sharing to families and caregivers who have the same experiences.
Hope to see more videos on your next posts. You’re getting better! I’m giving it my two thumbs up!
Thanks for the appreciation.
I really hope families of special needs kids find inspiration from these interviews and the whole website in general.
That’s my purpose after all, to reach out and share information.
A humbling article Marita which really makes me thankful that I have 3 amazing healthy children. My wife is a special needs teacher so I in part understand some of the challenges that parents go through albeit only from the sidelines. While kids are our future, a big pat on the back to the dads (and mums) that get us all where we need to be.
All the best – Jason.
Thanks for the nice words.
You are one lucky dad. Happy Father’s day!
Your wife is one passionate teacher who plays a very important role for those special needs kids that she mentors.
Your post is informative and useful for families with special needs kids.
I admire dads and moms with limitless patience for their special kids.
More power to all of you. Your priceless sacrifices will be rewarded from heaven.
Hi Auntie Sofie,
Very true, parents of special kids are God-sent.
Thanks for reading.
I enjoyed reading your article Ma. Gigi, maybe because they are all related to me and close to my heart.
Glad you enjoyed the post. Happy Father’s day to Dong.
These stories had touched me deeply because I grew up with a special needs sister.
I truly respect my father, as a single parent he has 7 children and the oldest is my special sister.
I have to say growing up was not easy. When we were young, we all have the responsibility that we had to take care of our sister, it wasn’t not that I didn’t like her, but understanding her needs and being a child then at the same time making this responsibility harder than it should be.
As I grew older, I have seen how my sister has grown over the years. She is her own person now, she has learned not to choose violence and tried to deliver what she wants.
She also shows more affection to all of us.
I am sure our father had a harder time than us since taking care of our sister is definitely a 24/7 job but he enjoys it.
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there.
Wow, I do really admire your father who single handedly took care of seven kids including your special sister. He learned to delegate some responsibilities to you kids because he can’t really do them by himself all the time.
God bless your dad and all special needs fathers.
Thanks for sharing.
I didn’t know someone could have down syndrome and autism. You’ve taught me at least one thing today. Jojo sounds like a great dad.He works well with his wife to care for his kids. It must be hard for them not to share days off though. It would be for me.
I can just picture Arnold and Alyanna playing and singing the guitar together. It’s a very sweet image.
I know right, but Jojo and his wife and the whole family goes on vacation whenever they can, so that would give them time to really bond as a family.
I hope Alyanna becomes a singer like her dad and older sister later. She also likes to play the piano randomly and when her sister plays, she also hovers around, so she really is into music as well.
Glad that you learned something from my post.
Your article is so inspirational. These dads who put their heart and souls into their children just to give them a normal life.
It is wonderful to see them teach them and care for them just as any other child. And to see them as a gift form God.
Dads do not get much credit when it comes to raising children so it really warms my heart to see that these Special Needs Dads are getting the support that they need from their families.
Happy Fathers Day to All You Special Needs Dads and God Bless You All.
Hi Lee Ann,
Thanks for appreciating our special needs dads. I know a dad with 3 autistic sons and we can just imagine his struggles.
Like the special needs mom, our special needs dads do deserve applaud for being there for their special kids.
Salute to these fathers who still carry on when times get tough because they always think of their family. They showed enough patience in taking care of their kids with special needs and let’s be honest, not all men have this capacity as these featured fathers. Training and giving their kids some task is another level. This requires a lot of patience, understanding, time and effort.
I admire them for having a bonding activities with their kids. It just goes to show that aside from being responsible, they enjoy spending time with them and focusing on their needs and interests. They would always go to their level for a better communication. There’s so much inspiration these fathers radiate to people. Yes, it’s essential for parents to take care of their kids but with special challenges, they are simply amazing.
These dads are doing their part with enjoyment. They treat their kids as little angels, so innocent and so pure. I know someone who has a daughter with Down syndrome,like these fathers he treats his daughter with so much adoration. We can attest how proud they are for each of her daughter’s progress and milestone. Thank you for sharing an inspirational article. It’s heart warming to know these people could bring light to the world.
I’m really happy when people like you, appreciate what our special needs dads ( and moms ) do for their children with special needs.
Thanks for reading.
Thanks so much for the excellent article. This is such an amazing blog site and I feel very grateful to have found it. I work in education, my fiance is a special educator, and I found this to be super insightful for strategies to help our students with special needs. I always point out that children’s first and most important teachers are their parents. It’s so amazing to see these wonderful fathers supporting and teaching their children. I really appreciate how each family has its own set of challenges and strategies, but there is an overarching sense of love and compassion from the fathers.
I primarily work with students from China and especially see the social struggle of “saving face” when working with special needs students. Often parent’s might acknowledge their students learn differently but there can be some difficulty in facing the situation without embarrassing anyone (even though it OBVIOUSLY nothing to be embarrassed about!) I know you are currently working with families in the Philippines and I’m curious if you face any similar challenges in having the conversation with parents? If so, do you have any suggestions or strategies for having a healthy, positive, non-shameful discussion with them?
Thanks for doing such great work, I’ll share your site with my fiance!
Happy to meet you. Thanks for the appreciation of my site and what we do.
Like you said, parents are definitely the first teachers of their kids.
And teachers like you and your fiance are so honorable as well, for patiently offering yourselves to your students, especially those with special needs.
From my experiences in talking with parents, usually they are accepting of what their kids can do or have achieved. Usually they know what they are capable of learning.
I think as teachers talking to the parents, you just need to be honest to tell them what their kids have learned or if they are capable more to learn. Just tell them clearly what your expectations are and be very appreciative of what they have achieved. I’m sure the parents can feel your sincerity in helping their kids.
Are you doing this online?
Wow, all three stories are truly humbling and I think all these Dads are amazing.
I know a few families where I live in the UK, where there are children with special needs. Similar to the families you have talked about on your site, these people seem to be so patient and experience so much joy from their wonderful children.
There’s no doubt that these children most likely require more care and attention than their siblings, but nothing ever seems too hard for these families.
It makes me think more about what is actually important in life, and not to sweat about the little day-to-day problems, that aren’t really problems!
Thank you for such a wonderful article and I hope all three fathers have a lovely day this Sunday.
It gives me so much joy to know that normal families like you appreciate special needs parents on how they take care of their kids.
It is quite hard for us to understand how these parents do this, but we all know that when we have struggles, we just learn to adapt and just appreciating what their special kids can do is enough for their parents to have an amazing day.
Being positive and dwelling on their kids’ capabilities, not on their disabilities, is the best way to make life less stressful for them.
Hey, first I like to say that is an honor to see that you’ve created a website on such a delicate topic.
Not that it is taboo, but that you take your time to help other people that have someone on their lives that have special needs.
This article is amazing, Jojo is an amazing father. While working twelve hours a day, he still manages to be with his son!
Thanks for appreciating our special needs dads, especially Jojo.
They are all amazing, all our special needs fathers.
Thanks for visiting.
I know of a father who struggled with his eldest who is autistic. He didn’t want to have any more kids after that, but things changed and he got another daughter and son who are both normal. Many years later, he was thankful for the other children because they become his support during tough times and as he becomes older, the siblings also learned to take care of their special need sister so it kind of bonds and strengthen the family as a unit.
We all know that it is really overwhelming and quite scary to care for special kids, but as long as they have supports, like your friend, it all becomes easier. And siblings do really care and help, just like this family that you shared.
Thanks for visiting.
This has been such an inspirational article to read and I feel so inspired by reading how these 3 fathers have coped with the responsibility of being a father to a special needs child. I have a friend in work who is in a similar situation with a son who has special needs and It has been great to see how our work team has gotten together over the years to support him and his wife.
I will be sharing this article with him when I see him tomorrow as I am sure he will relate to a lot of it. Thank you for sharing it
So nice of you and your work team to give support to your friend who is a special needs dad, and to his wife. Truly, these activities and mindset have been inspired by how your dads and moms brought you up when you were growing up.
Thanks for the appreciation!
I am in awe of what these dads do. I have 3 non-special needs children myself, and life is tough at the best of moments.
The story of Nathan is so simple but yet so authentic and eye opening.
The simple things are sometimes the best and how Nathan and his father Jojo connect and spend time together is really inspirational.
It really all boils down to quality time spent together as father and son. I’m sure you can relate to this.
Thanks for visiting.