“Not My Boy!” — Autism Awareness Month

Yesterday I reviewed My Brother Charlie, and talked about the HollyRod Foundation, launched by Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete.   On Friday,  the weekday CBS Show, The Talk, focused on fathers with autistic children.  Rodney,  actor Joe Mantegna, and single dad Jimmy Smith,  shared their experiences in a roundtable discussion led by Holly.  After watching the program, and reading Rodney’s book, Not My Boy!,  it felt significant to discuss the impact on dads, who sometimes feel left out of the equation.

Joe Mantegna has a 23-year-old daughter, Mia, who graduated with honors.  Joe said “he was relieved the first day of school when Mia’s teacher, who had an autistic child, welcomed her with love and talked to the classroom about how they all would help her.”   Jimmy Smith said he woke up one day when he realized that his son had an excellent memory and wanted to learn.  All three men said they were just glad to talk with other dads!

Rodney, a former NFL quarterback, was candid about how his son’s autism affected him.  “I had dreams for R.J. and wanted to do all the things that father’s do with their sons,”  said Rodney.  “I wanted to take him into the locker room, play ball,  but R.J. wanted to watch the water run across the rocks in a stream.  I was in denial, refused to accept R.J.’s diagnosis, would not read any books on the subject,  and wouldn’t talk to other dads.  I decided I am going to fix this.   That’s what dads do.”

One day Rodney had a pivotal moment when he took R.J. to the therapist.  “I got down on the floor and tried to play with R.J.,  and there was no connection,”  he said.  “The therapist showed me how he connected with R.J., and within minutes I saw my son laughing and talking.   It broke my heart — a stranger was connecting with my son.  In that moment I knew I had to turn things around.”    He realized that the entire family needed to be on the same page. Today R.J. has gone beyond expectations and plays soccer, with his dad there cheering him on.

Not My Boy!  should be required reading for all father’s who have children who fall under the autism spectrum.   It is a powerful look at Rodney’s own inner journey with his son’s autism.  It offers a message of hope and inspiration for families.

Next Friday, Apr. 15, at 2 p.m. EDT, The Talk, will feature inspirational teenagers who are autistic.

Visit elizabethannewrites  and read reviews of two excellent young adult books that honor Autism Awareness Month.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

8 thoughts on ““Not My Boy!” — Autism Awareness Month

  1. Oh my! Patricia this sounds like such a moving book to read. For anyone! It must have been heartbreaking for Rodney to see others connecting with his son and he couldn’t. There must be so many Dads out there who feel exactly how he did “Dad the big macho man who can fix and do anything” and yet he found he couldn’t where his son was concerned. It is heartening to not only read how he came around but the huge strides that his son makes once there is that connection and understanding, that love and bond, to be as he says “on the same page”. What I love also is that Dad’s are able to talk to one another and share experiences. One can not do it all on their own, and it is valuable what we learn from others. What a lovely warm heartfelt post Patricia. I know I am going to learn a huge amount and most of all about how I can adjust and see things from their perspective, which a lot of us do not do, or realise. Thankyou.

    • Diane,
      I’m so glad that I decided to write this post. I was so moved by the book ” Not My Boy!” and by the stories on “The Talk,” that I knew that I had to bring this full circle and focus on the struggles of Dad’s of autistic children. I am happy you enjoyed it! It was powerful to see dads talk for the first time. Thank you for your kind note.

  2. Your welcome Patricia. I tried actually watching the Program The Talk on youtube, but unfortunately it is not geared for my geographical region. Will try and see if I can get the book “Not My Boy”.

  3. Another excellent post, Patricia! As Diane has already mentioned, it must have been so hard for Rodney to see someone else able to communicate and connect with R.J. when he had failed. Sometimes we need quite a jolt to open our eyes to the way we’re falling short.

    Much to my amazement, our public library actually has this book (it seems that they don’t have most books I see recommended on other people’s blogs), so I’ll be able to read this.

    Thanks again for these thoughtful and insight-filled posts.

    • Thanks Beth. After reading the book and viewing the program, I knew there was another aspect of the story I wanted to tell. The book is really well-written and goes into more depth than I shared. I also wanted to focus on three dads talking for the first time — that was a story! I am so happy you found the book in your library. I bought it when I bougth My Brother Charlies in January, because my library didn’t have Not My Boy! Have been thinking about do I want to keep a library of books about special needs, or do I want to donate them to the library? I’m disapointed how hard it is to find currnt books.

      I did manage to link to your site, but not sure it was quite right.

      Patricia

  4. I really appreciated the Dad focus of this post, Pat, as it is so worth highlighting that they often approach such challenges in a different manner to their spouses. I am sure much of RJ’s superseding expectations is because Rodney came out of denial and was able to learn how to relate to his son and has no doubt invested so much in him – a wonderful story – Dads can, of course, be a real healing force in the family. Also Joe Mantegna’s testimony highlights how important teachers can be on helping integrate autistic children into school life. I hope that through posts like yours and TV specials etc this month, that many Dads will become aware of resources like Not My Boy to help support and educate them.

    • You are so right. Dad’s feel the need to fix things. That was Rodney’s top goal. Thanks for encouraging me to go ahead and do the post, as I realize it wasn’t a children’s book. But, it seemed important to link both stories about the same child! Another thing Rodney said was that he wanted R.J. to see the world through his eyes when he needed to see the world through R.J.’s eyes. Actually, this book is good for any father with a child with a special need — not just autism. I thought that wa another break through for him.

      I thought it was interesting that Holly, gave the single father an iPad2. She said they are great for connecting with with autistic children. There are so many wonderful interactive applicatons. Again, thank you for your great comments. 🙂

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