A father once said, “Children are a gift. You truly learn the meaning of unconditional love when you become a father and this is amplified when you have a child with special needs.”
Working with families of children with autism, we have witnessed how the incredible fathers always strive to provide the best support they can offer for their children. Their love for their children are limitless, and raising their children on the spectrum is not just a duty, but a labour of love that life assigns to them. In conjunction with Father’s Day, we have interviewed two incredible fathers with children on the spectrum. Here’s a peek into fatherhood, on raising a child with autism.
Marcos is the father of Lucas, a 5 year-old boy with autism.
1.Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your child?
My name is Marcos Nakagawa, married to Adriana, father to twin boys Thomas and Lucas. We are Brazilians and have been living outside our home country for more than 20 years. We have lived in the US, Mexico, UK, South Africa, Singapore and Vietnam, before arriving in Malaysia a year ago. Thomas and Lucas are going to be 5 years old next October and they have been a blessing in our lives since day 1.
They are outgoing, smiley, opinionated, smart, caring and very handsome boys. They love to play with each other, watch movies, run, swim, go to the beach, and play in the sand. They love adventures, hear action stories; they are currently at that magical age of 4-7 years old.
Lucas has been diagnosed within the Autism spectrum 2 years ago. After some hearing issues which led to adenoid surgery back in 2019, he was clearly falling behind and not being able to speak. He also became very picky eating and after many doctor consultations he was diagnosed within the Autism Spectrum.
2.How is it like to raise a child with Autism? What are the lessons raising a child with Autism has taught you?
Of course it presents its challenges. Understanding his strengths, his challenges and how to best tackle it has been a huge learning curve to all of us. In the beginning there was some denial, and it was not easy to even accept he was within the spectrum. His inability to communicate was my biggest concern. He could not express what he wanted, what he did not like, what he liked, or his feelings to us. That’s something that was very frustrating for us and for him. This was a trigger point for us that we definitely should ask for help. We have learned about Speech Therapy, Feeding Therapy, Occupational Therapy, ABA, Early Intervention, and so many more things. By acknowledging the issue, we have engaged with EAP and other therapies that are helping Lucas catch up and achieve his potential. Over the past year we saw huge progress and he is doing so much better.
Putting aside labels, our focus has always been on how to help Lucas flourish and unleash his potential.
3.What makes you proud of your child?
Lucas is a fighter. I am learning with him everyday.
I am proud of Lucas for everything he does. He is such a loving and caring kid, who worries and cares about his parents and brother. I love when he does something unexpected, like asking a tricky question, like asking to buy a toy for his brother, or using his imagination to get me to play with him. It has been a challenging and rewarding journey so far, but his bravery, cleverness only makes me smile and love him more.
4.What is one thing you wish people knew about Autism, and the change you would like to see?
People have different abilities and skills, that’s the beauty of diversity. We complement each other, push boundaries and grow. Autism pushes boundaries further. We need to create an environment and opportunities that help them develop and achieve their full potential. By doing so we will all be living in a better society and grow even more.
5.Can you share some words of encouragement to all the dads out there with children on the spectrum?
Nothing to be afraid of. Take time to learn, grow and help your child to achieve its full potential. You may never know, it’s limitless.
Valentijn is the father of Mathys, a 7 year-old boy with autism.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your child?
I am originally from The Netherlands and have been working in Malaysia since 1996. First in Miri, then in Kota Kinabalu and now here in KL. My wife is from the Philippines and we have two 7-year-old twin boys of which Mathys is one. We have engaged EAP since 2020. Mathys is a very happy child and enjoys the therapy sessions by EAP’s therapists very much. EAP is also doing school shadowing for him and we are seeing continuous improvements.
2. How is it like to raise a child with Autism? What are the lessons raising a child with Autism has taught you?
No doubt that raising a child with Autism is more challenging and requires a lot more patience and understanding. It required us to read up, attend talks to better understand Autism itself and learn to understand our own child. We are still learning everyday!
3. What makes you proud of your child?
Every progress, no matter how big or small, makes us feel incredibly proud of him! We commend him and celebrate these moments!
4. What is one thing you wish people knew about Autism, and the change you would like to see?
I wish that people would better understand the disorder and its challenges. People should stop the stigmatisation of autistic persons and their families and instead familiarise themselves better.
5. Can you share some words of encouragement to all the dads out there with children on the spectrum?
Never give up hope! Celebrate every progress moment with your child and have fun along the way. You are not alone, there is help available. Cherish every moment!
We would like to thank both incredible dads for sharing their stories!
Happy Father’s Day from all of us at EAP!