Father’s Day Q&A with Dany C., a military veteran raising three children, including two teenage boys on the spectrum
June 16, 2021
Dany C., 38, is a single dad to three boys - Jaden, 15, Daniel 13, (both on the autism spectrum) and Xavi, 9. He says one of the most important lessons of fatherhood he’s learned through the years, was the more you learn about yourself, the better you’ll understand your children and their needs.
As a military veteran, Dany said he does his best to treat all of his boys the same regardless of their diagnosis – using military-style structure and simplified instructions for daily living. Jaden loves math and engineering, is very positive, a hard worker and kind. Daniel loves computers, coding and art. Dany describes Daniel as a bolt of positive energy! Xavi may be the youngest of the brothers but has taken on the role of protector. He’s always there to help them, which Dany hopes will carry on throughout their lives.
“I never felt sorry or sad for my kids but try my best to understand what they need and then tailor my parenting skills around those needs. I actually went to college and studied behavioral science and development so I could understand them better and be a better dad.”
Learn more about Dany’s experiences as an autism dad in this special Father’s Day Q&A:
When you found out that you were going to be a dad, what thoughts ran through your mind?
I was happy and worried because of all the logistics that bringing a child into the world takes. I was in the Army at the time so planning ahead was part of my nature.
What did you do to prep for your life as a dad before your child was born?
I read a lot of books, made sure their mom was eating right and put in a move request to get back to the states so we could raise our family there.
How has life changed since the birth of your children?
I have definitely matured, but I had exposure to raising kids with my nephews prior to becoming a dad, so I wasn’t completely in the dark. I have always been a patient man and curious to see how I would do as a dad. Raising children has always been something that piqued my interest.
What advice can you give to other dads who are preparing for the arrival of a little one?
I would say read and inform yourself as much as you can. Information is right at our fingertips these days, so soak it all in. Also, don't be afraid to ask questions to those around you or seek advice from groups like Autism Speaks. Follow your instincts. In the end, there are no books or videos that will ever truly prepare you for what’s to come – you just have to do the best you can. Do whatever you can to provide your children with great memories and teach them to be good human beings and the rest will take care of itself.
What are a few life lessons will hope you take from your parents or guardians and pass down to your child?
As corny as this might sound, having a stable home environment with structure will go a long way with any child, especially those on the spectrum or with other disabilities. I was allowed to think on my feet, experience things, fail and succeed on my own. I didn't see those around me drink alcohol or smoke when I was growing up, so naturally I was never tempted to do those things. The best thing I will pass down to my sons is the ability to accept everyone around them the same, regardless of how they look, sound, act, etc. Allow them to keep that naive spirit but also help them realize the dangers of the world around them. Not everyone will be kind or accepting and that's okay.
Have you thought about the future and speaking to your children about autism and some of the ways it impacted your life?
We have talked about autism, especially as they got older and questioned why people don't like them or why they can't make friends. To hear that as a parent is heartbreaking, but we are a small family of four. My younger son, Xavi, who's typical (if there's such a word) has been a great helper - he plays with his brothers, takes care of them and helps them walk through life as well.
As for how it has affected my life, this is how I see it: I was born to be their dad and to help them navigate this world. I don’t know how good or bad of a job I'm doing both as a father and human, but my autistic sons are perfect in every way, from how they behave to how they help me and love me. I love my life even if it is lonely at times. All I want is to make sure they will be taken care of when I’m gone, and that they can be self-sufficient enough to care for themselves as well as those around them. I want them to leave a mark in our world. To be a small but bright light of hope to others who perhaps are not so lucky or fortunate.
What is your Father’s Day message to all other dads out there – especially those in the autism community?
Don't give up! Life will get better, I promise. You are the best father to your children, and you matter. Because of you their lives will be much better. And through it all, don't forget to smile.