In honor of Father’s Day, one of our very special Woodall-dads graciously answered questions about his role as stay-at-home dad to Jenna, a five-year-old girl with autism.
Richard: “I retired early to take care of Jenna. I am her primary caretaker as my wife works full time. I get Jenna up each morning and feed her breakfast. Then I get her dressed and ready for school, I pack her bags, and make her lunch. Each day I drive her to school, various therapies, and doctor appointments. Then I take her back home where I prepare her dinner until my wife gets home to share the duties. Taking care of Jenna is a 24-hour job.”
How does autism affect your role as a father?
Richard: “There is no down time, as anyone who has a special needs child knows quite well. You are constantly second guessing yourself, thinking you are not doing enough or that you need to do something different.”
What do you want most for Jenna?
Richard: “I think the ultimate goal is for her to have a happy childhood and to be able to interact and communicate with us and the people around her, as well as to give her the knowledge and life skills she will need to be an independent adult.”
What special activities do you do with Jenna- just you and her?
Richard: “Anyone who knows Jenna knows her favorite thing to do is to swing. I take her outside in the back when we get home from school to swing –weather permitting.
Also, almost every night Jenna and I share some Häagen-Dazs Sorbet. It is our special treat for just the two of us.”
Richard: “I love watching my children grow and seeing that they are not much different from myself in the things they do. I also love to play around with them. We have a lot of fun and I just love having my children around.”
What advice would you give other fathers?
Richard: “I would have to say to other fathers to make sure your children know you love them. Time is love, so spend as much time with them as possible. Always express to your children, as well as show them, that you love them. I grew up never hearing those words from either of my parents. While they may know you love them by your actions, your children still need to hear those words, ‘I love you.’”
Does your family have anything special planned for Father’s Day, or have they told you yet?
Richard: “I don’t know; they have not told me yet. It’s a surprise. They always surprise me.”
Dads, we thank you for your unconditional love and devotion and we hope that you thoroughly enjoy this special day with your families. Happy Father’s Day!
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