Men are often seen as the protector, provider and dominant force in a nuclear family. But, according to the mother of a disabled child and author of a web blog on special needs parenting, fathers secretly harbor pain and heartache when it comes to a disabled child.
Suzanne Perryman, who writes the blog specialneedschild.com, recently wrote that the father of special needs offspring are needy, too.
“No matter how many precautions they take, how physically present they are, how hard they work to support their family, even how hard they try, special needs dads will see their child and their family experience pain, over and over and over again,” Perryman wrote recently in an essay published in the Huffington Post.
Such despair has resulted in the emergence of local support groups aimed at helping fathers of children with disabilities. One of the largest is the Washington, D.C. -based Male Care Givers Advocacy Group.
It was established in 2001 specifically for African American men who are fathers of special needs offspring. At Wednesday meetings in the THEARC playhouse in Southeast D.C., the group, averaging 100 men per meeting, finds emotional and strategic support to help its members cope with the daily challenges and demands of raising a special needs child. They also provide a network to steer fathers to the best education and health care venues for special needs children.
“This is the only one of its kind in D.C...,” group organizer and member Derrick Philson said of the non-profit organization.
Philson, 44, is the father of a 25-year-old daughter who is wheelchair-bound after being struck by a car 14 years ago.
Another member of the group, Anthony Hunter, said he is grateful for the support the group provides.
Hunter, 29, is the father of a 7-year-old daughter who is wheelchair-bound and unable to speak. Before he discovered the group, he often hammered himself with self- pity. “One day, I just stopped and asked God, ‘Why me?’
“We are adult men with huge responsibilities of taking care of special needs children,” Hunter said. “The beautiful part of being a member of the group is that it empowers me and keeps me going.”