Special Children, Blessed Fathers
Encouragement for fathers of
children with special needs
by Randy Hain
Emmaus Road Publishing (8 May 2015)
This is a wonderfully encouraging work. Being a father today can be a challenge. Being a father of a child with special needs must have its own challenges...and blessings.
The brief guide for fathers of children with special needs is worth reflecting on often: They need to remember that we are made for heaven, we need to keep Christ at the centre of our lives, we are not alone, we need to cultivate gratitude, we need to see children with special needs as a unique blessing given to us by our loving Father and we need to accept them and not wish for a better version of God's precious gift. The theme of fathers imitating the sacrificial love of the Father goes right through this book. Devotion to Saint Joseph is also strongly emphasized. He was obedient and accepting of God's will. He made selfless sacrifices and was devoted to his family. He led by example. And he showed great fortitude.
Unlike some of the fathers I have had the privilege to speak to, well known author Joseph Pearce writes that he felt at peace soon after realizing that he was the father of a child with Down syndrome: "I hear myself saying 'so be it' with utter peace and contentment." He was more devastated later when visiting a centre for disabled children until a child with disabilities held his hand: "She returned my forced smile with a radiance of her own that transfigured the situation and exorcised the demons from my hardened heart."
One father with a child diagnosed with autism gives readers excellent advice. Fathers in similar circumstances need to learn patience and understand the motives of the behaviours of the child with autism, the child with autism needs clear communication and promises need to be kept: "If you say you will do something, you can bet kids with autism will remember...and hold you to it."
The broadcaster Doug Keck makes the interesting observation that far from being uninterested in the stimuli around them, the autistic child is overwhelmed by them and that is why he makes his retreat.
Many fathers speak of their need to speak on behalf of their children with special needs, to advocate on their behalf. We need to also learn to celebrate difference.
Each and every chapter tells a different story. And they are fascinating.
Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan