Ron Fournier’s Conversation With the Hill Top Dads
Ron began the conversation with a description of how his wife started him on this journey of better understanding his son and changing his thoughts about fatherhood. He spoke with a quiet dignity and frank humility that helped to put everyone at ease. As he thoughtfully related some of his stories, heads were nodding in the audience indicating an understanding and connection to what is being said. Those dads with spectrum children who were already adults provided the dads with younger students a sense of perspective on their fears and questions about what will the future bring for their students and a renewed sense of patience for the rate at which things were happening. There was some laughter at ourselves and so often we could see ourselves in the stories of others.
We learned when helping to raise neuro-atypical children that:
- They are truly the most courageous people in our lives
- This is one of the hardest jobs we have
- This can be the most challenging and the most rewarding at the same time
- The times when we feel we are the most productive in helping our students is when we have rolled up our sleeves and moved away from the football game to get “right in there” and participate
- Truly understanding our students isn’t easy and connections with them don’t always come from in depth conversation…. but more often by merely sitting silently in the same space with them (in the car, in a restaurant booth, on the living room couch, playing a favorite game)
- Reward systems and tangible responses are often very helpful in helping them to reach measurable successes with activities that for most of us are automatic events in our lives (ie, regular showering, brushing teeth, combing hair, completing homework, completing house hold chores, active participation in traditional family activities)
* this work of parenting a child with complex learning differences can stress relationships with our spouse and other members of the family
- Moms are often the true heroes because they are there day in and day out. They provide the structure, the reinforcement, and the advocacy to others who don’t “just don’t get our child”; all of which is needed to get through through each day.
- We have fears about what is to be their future and that we all have questions about how can we make the best use of the time left to get them ready for “prime time”.
We need to re-define for our student’s sake and for our own what it means to be successful and what it means to show progress. We must create a new definition of “what is success” because while it always seems to arrive, it usually only comes in their time frame, on their terms, and in a way that is most meaningful to them.
Based on the feedback that I have already received from some of the dads who attended last night it seems that it is very special to know that we aren’t alone, that others share our questions and our fears, and that there can be creative suggestions to life’s daily frustrations from others that may help our own situation.
Lastly, it is truly evident that there is a lot of information, experience and support that can come from our own dads. It only took a little time on one chilly night, a little beer and soda from the sink, a box dinner and a conversation with another dad who is on the same journey as we are that helped to bring that out of us.
Thanks to everyone who came to join in the fun last night. Thanks to Ron for his willingness to lead the discussion.
I hope that we are able to do this again in the near future.
-Thomas W. Needham