In honor of Father’s Day, I want to shine a light on the Super Dads within our special needs community. Meet today’s Super Dad, Tony Sherock, father of two.
THE DAY I WILL NEVER FORGET
Life priorities totally change when a developmental pediatrician tells you bluntly that your son needs to be at “Communication Play Level 6” by the age of 6, otherwise he may not be able to fully speak and function independently moving forward. A 6 year period of uncertainty began. Day after day was consumed with working with our son on play and communication techniques.
LESSON LEARNED FROM AUTISM
Little did I realize how this relates in making positive changes in any area of your life. YOUR WHY needs to be meaningful and powerful, with keeping the long term goals in mind. In this case, the goal was to have a conversation with my son and help him achieve an opportunity to live life to the fullest. The daily grind of doing what’s right, not doing what’s easy was in full effect. I also realized that it had to start with me.
Today, our son is doing fantastic. He just graduated high school and starts college in the fall of 2021, is doing wonderful academically and runs cross country. I’m more than open to share my story now. I never used to because of the flood of emotions that flowed out of me, but was told my experience can be a tremendous help to others in varying capacities. The full version of my story is a key component in many of my speaking engagements and presentations to bridge the gap to better serve you, and help achieve your personal and professional goals. Please say hello if you happen to be in the audience.
What is your favorite thing about being a special needs dad?
It helped me become more understanding, patient, and appreciate the little victories. The little “life victories” make the big steps forward that much sweeter.
What do you wish people knew about being a special needs dad?
That there is an internal battle of hope and helplessness about the present and about the short-term and long-term future. Understanding the struggle at times to have to jump through 99 hoops before heading out the door to do something that many parents find a little easier, like eating at a restaurant, grocery shopping or attending family events with lots of noise and people (stimulation). Being told that we are doing a good job and to help us realize the progress that’s been made with our child. Being in the trenches each day you tend not to see the progress or positive changes.
What advice would you give to other special needs dads for cultivating a meaningful relationship with their special needs child?
Be present in the moment your child is in. Share their joy when they are having a good moment or day. Take an interest in what your child is into. For my son, it has been trains and NASCAR. It’s fun having conversations and actually getting to know things I never knew much about. Also, don’t compare your son or daughter to other children that are not on the spectrum.
As a caregiver, oftentimes, we give so much of ourselves that we forget to take care of ourselves. What do you do to take care of yourself?
I make it a high priority to have a set morning routine. For me that is mental and physical. Prayer, mindfulness, and working out are non-negotiable. A better and energized me allows me to take of others at a higher level.
Special needs dads are without a doubt, super dads. What makes you “super dad” in the eyes of your kiddo?
There isn’t one specific thing, but I would say my son realizing his potential after I help push him out of his comfort zone. Working, cross country (athletics), learning to drive are a few examples.