Meet Juan D.
Juan D., a proud father inspired by his son's ambition
"...autism is not a one-size situation. This affects everyone regardless of status, race, and political party..."
Guarionex was diagnosed with autism at age 3 and was non-verbal until age 5. Today, he speaks, reads and writes two languages, is learning Mandarin, and plays the violin. Behind his progress and success is his supportive and proud father, Juan Dipini.
Juan was inspired by his son to become an autism advocate. In his own community, he encourages other Latino dads to be more involved in the lives of their children. On a national stage, he advocates for increased federal funding of autism research and services and has shared his perspective on the variability of experience and access to care for minorities and those living in underserved communities. He reminds us of all that we can accomplish when we work together as advocates.
Learn more about Juan D. in this Q&A:
Tell us a bit about your family’s autism journey.
My name is Juan, and I am a veteran, cancer survivor, and most importantly an autistic dad and advocate. I became involved with advocacy once my son was diagnosed with autism. I'm also trying to get other dads, especially Latino dads, involved in the lives of our children. I researched everything on autism, not only the medical side but the legal aspect of it (something I believe we as parents forget). This is the reason my son was diagnosed at 3 years versus at 10 or 11. I became an Autism Speaks Advocacy Ambassador in 2017 for this reason, to advocate for research and tell our story up on Capitol Hill.
What resources and services have you seen benefit your son? What are your hopes for his future?
Guarionex has benefited from speech pathology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and ABA. He currently receives ABA services at school and home during the summer. My hope for him in the future is that he can become as independent as possible and learn to advocate for himself. He went from being nonverbal to the age of 5 to speaking, reading, and writing various languages. I know that they [autistic children] can and will learn if able to at their pace. We have to realize that eventually we won't be here, so let us help them become as independent as possible.
Can you tell us why advocating for reducing disparities in access to services, especially for Hispanic families is important to you?
For me, it is very important to advocate for my Latino community as I see oftentimes they don't receive the same services as our counterparts. It seems the communities most affected are the ones that are marginalized without funding for services.
From your experience speaking to members of Congress in DC and back home, what do you wish elected officials better understood about autism?
That autism is not a one-size situation. This affects everyone regardless of status, race, and political party, etc.
How did serving as a consumer reviewer for the CDMRP effect your perspective of autism research and advocacy?
As a consumer reviewer for CDMRP, I have learned that there is a long road ahead of us when you see so many experts trying to understand the cause. You also realize that research plays an important part in the autism community when you see so many studies from the brain to the gut bacteria to so many other research topics. It teaches us to also focus on other things that can make life easier for our children, adults and their family members. Being a consumer reviewer has been an eye-opener for me.
What advice do you have for other autism advocates/parents?
To those parents, I say you are not alone. You have a village behind you. You must not only become their voice but be sure to be heard for those who are nonverbal. For those who are verbal, we must teach independence and to advocate for themselves. We must not let our guard down and continue the struggle for services at every level for everyone.