When I first started this blog, I had no idea how many different autism families I would meet. I knew that there were many autism mom bloggers out there and, as I have said, wasn’t too sure I would be writing about my experiences with autism. However, there is one thing I did notice missing from the autism blogging community; autism dads. I was so surprised by this and I wanted to give these dads the opportunity to talk about their experiences as well. Over the next few weeks, I’m so happy and proud to give these special dads their own platform to share how they feel about autism. All of the dads you will hear from are sharing their own stories based on their personal experiences. I am hoping this will help other autism dads to know they, too, are not alone in this journey. Because of the overwhelming response I received, I will be breaking these interviews up into weekly posts.
The first dad I would like to introduce you to is David Holley. I learned of David by watching his wife’s, Jessica’s, YouTube channel, “Blessed Jess.” I first found Jessica when searching for information about visiting Walt Disney World with an autistic child. After finding her video, I subscribed to her channel and have been watching ever since. David and Jessica are wonderful people who, as of this year, have been married for 10 years. They have two children, Nate, 7, Lucy, 5, and a baby boy on the way! David has been an Associate Pastor at the Faith Family Church in Acworth, Georgia, for the past 3 years and active in full-time ministry work for more than a decade.
Thank you so much David for sharing your story with us.
1. Before your child’s diagnosis, what was your experience with Autism?
My younger brother is severely autistic, so I grew up helping my parents take care of him, protecting him, and looking out for him outside of our home wherever we were.
2. Before your child was diagnosed, what symptoms or characteristics did you notice that initiated the evaluation? Was this a mutual concern with your spouse/partner?
My wife and I both saw his lack of eye contact, communication, and noticed that he was consistently ‘in his own world’ and not really wanting to interact with us. We, at first, thought it might be just delayed development, but we both had a feeling that it might be more.
3. After the initial diagnosis, can you share how you felt about it?
As devastated as we both were at the reality of the diagnosis, it was also a lifted weight that we could call it what it was and prepare ourselves for the future. It also gave us direction on how to pray and mentally prepare for it.
4. What kind of therapy services does your child receive and your thoughts on the process and progress?
We give our son special help at home as parents, but also at his elementary school. He is part of a class with teachers who are qualified and have a passion for special needs kids. He has grown so much mentally, verbally, and even in physical ability from this class and we are so grateful for them!
5. What has changed since your child’s diagnosis? (Ex: relationship with child’s mom, friends, family)
To be honest, not much has changed. We love him unconditionally. He loves us, his sister loves him, and we just do life everyday together. We may not have the traditional or typical family dynamic, but we make it work. Our kids get to have fun, go to church and school, travel on vacations, and we do our best to make sure they never feel left out or that they can’t be a part of what we are doing.
6. What would you like people to know about your child and special needs children in general?
That every child, special needs or not, is unique, different, and, not to be a pun, they are SPECIAL! You can’t play the comparison game, and you can’t assume that what works for one child will work for another. Building a connection with your child on a deep, personal level is so important. You need to so you can know their needs without words needing to be spoken because sometimes they just can’t be. You have to get to know each special needs child on their level and for who they are, or you are doing a disservice to them and to yourself.
Final thoughts or anything you’d like to share?
You cannot be successful as a parent to a child with autism without help. You MUST rely on others’ wisdom and insight who have been there before and, from my own perspective and experience, you need God’s help to give you peace and perseverance; that is supernatural. If you try to go it alone, frustration and anger will set in because you can’t think and do beyond what you have in yourself. God loves that child more than you ever could and He will give you wisdom, insight, and the grace to walk a daily life as a parent to that child. And by pulling from others around you, you know you’re not alone. You gain encouragement and a wealth of resources to parent more efficiently and effectively.
Thank you again David! If you would like to reach out to David or his wife Jessica, I’ve listed their social media contacts below.
Twitter and Instagram: @_davidholley
Twitter and instagram: @blessedjess86