Exemplary Father Talks about Autism, Support and Thinking Outside the Box
Regrettably it’s a common misconception that the fathers of children with autism all run away or that they are so disconnected from their child that they don’t know anything about autism. If you believe that misconception than this interview will blow your mind. This father is right there with his wife. Not only that, he supports his wife wholly and gives her the total recognition she deserves as the amazing mother of an autistic child that she is.
Some Background Information
Mr. Dustin Fry is the father of 2. His family lives in Oklahoma. Dustin’s son, Garon, was recently diagnosed with Autism level 1 (formally mild, high functioning autism). His daughter’s name is Valicity and she is 11. In my opinion Dustin is an “out of the box” thinker, a dedicated father, and an overall delight to interact with. Mr. Fry, and his wife Vanessa, are one of the strongest sets of parents to an autistic child I have ever seen. I could feel Dustin’s love for Vanessa with every answer he gave. If more individuals knew that there are special needs fathers out there like Mr. Fry society would have a whole new notion of what these fathers actually do! Mr. Dustin Fry is the perfect example of what a husband and father are supposed to be.
Brooke: Thank you for allowing me to interview you Mr. Fry. Let’s start with the basics. What is Garon’s diagnosis? ASD 1, 2, or 3? Any co-morbids?
Dustin: Garon is diagnosed with mild, high functioning autism. At the time of his diagnosis they had just removed Aspergers from the ASD spectrum. He does not have any Co-Morbids.
Brooke: The changes in the DSM-V mixed with getting the initial diagnosis must have been confusing! If you had to pick one emotion you felt whenever you heard that Garon had autism what would you say it was? Why?
Dustin: Relief! My Wife and I could tell something wasn’t right. He would do strange things. He regressed after 18 months and stopped using words. No eye contact, no social interaction with other kids, no smiles and lots of angry fits. When we got his diagnosis we could understand a little why he wasn’t acting like other kids his age.
Brooke: I had never thought about it from the “relief” standpoint! I can see how you could feel that way! Did the doctor(s) diagnose it right off or did he go through several misdiagnoses?
Dustin: His Pediatrician kept telling us there was nothing wrong, he was “normal”, nothing to worry about. We started using the “google machine” to find out something about his behavior, and decided to get another doctors opinion. Our suspicions were right.
Brooke: A lot of parents have that same issue with the family doctor dismissing their child’s autism. So, what age is Garon now? Tell me about your family dynamics. Is his mother in the picture regularly?
Dustin: He will be 4 in July, dynamics are important. We have a routine that hardly sees change and we find comfort in it as well. Close friends have “conformed” to our routine, they know his stims and have learned to appreciate them. Still, distant relatives and new acquaintances’ find it hard to be around him long. His mother is very much in the picture! My wife is an amazing woman. She has made many sacrifices to stay home with him, to find ways to connect with him and make much progress in his development.
Brooke: Mothers are often the ones that their child’s successes can be attributed too, but being the daddy isn’t an easy job either! What has been the hardest part about raising Garon?
Dustin: The hardest part was/is getting past my own selfish desires, the “my way or the highway” attitudes, doubts, and uncertainty. I have learned to accept the comfort he finds in “stimville” it’s easier said than done, I know. Showing your child you believe in them and being a cheerleader is the best thing you can do. Don’t ever think your child is incapable. Don’t say they will never do this, or that. How do you know?
Brooke: I couldn’t have said it better myself! What has been the funniest thing about raising Garon? Tell me about it!
Dustin: We like movies with big explosions, sword fighting, and zombies. Judge me if you want but nothing makes my boy giggle more than seeing a group of walking flesh eaters get blown away. When most people gasp, he busts out in laughter. He gets it from me, but no one expects laughter in situations like that. He has a weird sense of humor and I love it!
Brooke: No judgments here! I’ve learned on my journey with autism the last 10 years that you can’t be picky! If he loves zombies than zombies it is! Moving on, a lot of parents have one thing they accredit a large amount of their child’s success too. What would your one thing be? Therapy? Medication?
Dustin: We don’t medicate, that was never an option for us. We do have OT and Speech once a week with therapists, but my wife is the reason he is progressing like he is. Also all the wonderful techniques we learned. Vanessa used every bit of info and all the wonderful things Lynette [the therapist] had shown us in just a few days and stuck with it. Garon has been making leaps and bounds. His communication has never been better. Like I said before, just showing your child you believe in them and spending that time being a cheerleader can work wonders.
Brooke: Your wife sure is an amazing mother! Your children are extremely lucky to have you two as parents. In a short time you have virtually nailed how you raise a child with autism, I commend you! Tell me, if you could give only one bit of advice to a fellow parent of a child with autism what would it be?
Dustin: My advice would be not to let doubt take control, your child can still do all the things a “normal” kid can do. You just have to find a way to communicate. If you have a non-verbal child it doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. Be a good listener, be encouraging. Don’t try and get in between them and their stims, let them find their comfort for a short time just don’t let them get lost in it, be a good distraction, make them smile, find a way to get a reaction and get their attention and teach them, or let them teach you.
Brooke: What great advice! In conclusion, what has raising Garon taught you the most about yourself? Do you thank autism for that?
Dustin: My son has taught me that conformity is for the weak minded and lazy. Our crazy life is great. It’s messy, smelly, loud, and hardly slows down. Our son saved us from a life full of boring, shallow, meaningless people pleasing, we aren’t your average suburban family now, and we don’t care. Our life is way more exciting. So, yes, I thank his disorder.
I’d like to send a thank you to Mr. Dustin Fry. This interview was the first time I’ve ever gotten to speak to a father of a child with autism about their feelings surrounding their child’s diagnosis. I thank Dustin for the opportunity to do so. I must say that he is an amazing father and husband and from what I can tell a role model for all special needs fathers out there. Dustin has earned a great deal of respect from me, as has his wife too. His family has a very unique view on life with an autistic child and, I must say, they certainly have made it one beautiful view!
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