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  • Writer's pictureGiset King

Autism Dad Creating Change in Houston's Community


CATXA How can you describe your Autism Dad Journey? How did you feel when you received the diagnosis of your son? Did you have support from family and friends?

RJ: As a dad of 3 amazing sons now, the beginning of this journey hit me hard. I asked myself, Autism, what is Autism, and why my son? When Noah was first diagnosed he was about 2 years old. I went into a depression state, denial, sadness, upset, anger all mixed emotions, and felt extremely sad for my son and was afraid of the unknown we had just entered. Thankfully our neurologist Dr. Shaun Varghese was a blessing to my wife and me, I still remember the impactful positive words he gave us, that eventually helped pave the way to seek early intervention for our son Noah, the therapies, support groups, and making our home a safe, positive and healthy environment for him to grow.

As for friends and family support, at first unfortunately we lost many, and I don’t blame them, it was a sudden change for us and them, yes it hurt at first but I adapted and grew from it. I went from being a friend and a family member that was doing it all, birthday parties, bbq every weekend, boxing/ufc fight nights, planning things, making most outings and get-togethers, always having people over at our house to hang or chill, a friend that was always there even if I was tired… but then Autism shook things up and I had to decide to put Noah’s autism journey above all things, even myself, I decided to do all we can do help him through the meltdowns, speech issues, unknowns of raising a child with autism. I had to place my family first and that meant being Noah’s voice, protector, and hands-on dad that our kids need regardless of any special needs diagnosis.

Thankful though for the friends and family that have stuck around, that continue to invite us to get-togethers, knowing we may not make it or will show up and have to leave quickly due to autism moments… thank you for sharing your understanding, love, and acceptance through our journey.

Overall autism has helped me grow into a dad filled with a lot more patience, and understanding, and my heart has grown more, and my love for my family and others has grown much more. Learning to enjoy every day given.

CATX: What inspired you to use your Autism parent knowledge to help in the community?

RJ: First off my respect and love to all the amazing moms, such as my wife and all present moms that are the foundation of our homes. I did see the need for a dad, a male that is open to sharing and connecting with others and being real with the new parents facing the unknown of autism and doing a small part to help them, either through conversing with them, support groups, information events or just being accessible when they are ready to talk and connect our autism parents to others that can help in different ways.

A huge inspiration for me that led me to get more involved and speak up when others haven’t yet, in all areas of our society such as work, social media, news media, church, or in general is an amazing man named Alan Fowler and his family, his wife Annette and his amazing son Kevin who is autistic.

When I met them years ago, about 2016, and saw how their love, understanding, and support for autism families through the non-profit they created and built up, called Blue Skies over Autism, it help many like me and others build lifelong friendships with other autism families, that can share, understand and connect with the real everyday walk of our autism journey. From childhood to adulthood, through the good and bad times, the Fowler family not only inspires me in many ways but has made me a better father, husband, and advocate for our autism families in any way I can.


CATXA: Are you working on any new projects?


RJ: One of the main things that I’m trying to do is be a positive voice in the

law-enforcement community and bridge the gap with our autism community in any way I can. Thankfully I truly get it, since I wear the autism dad hat and the police hat every day, I am here to connect and make this world a little better for our kids now and later in life.

I am also blessed to be a board member with Autism Moms of Houston. I met the amazing founder Andreza Carleo Silva years.back. She also motivated me to be more involved in events, and workshops, and help in any way I can. I want to let you all know I am open to helping any group by sharing my perspective, helping with events, or just getting an insight from an autism police dad.

Future projects, hopefully, bring to fruition the ideas I have had for years that will help our autism families connect in a better way with law enforcement and bring awareness, and understanding, so all of us can be heard.

I do ask for all of our autism families to reach out to your local police departments, seek some understanding connections and never be afraid to ask for support, such as police interactions at events, workshops, schools, etc.

I am just one guy but if we come together and seek more unity, understanding, and presence from law enforcement with our autism community, we can do amazing things together.

CATXA: How do you want to impact your community?

RJ: Honestly, I just want to connect and help do any small thing I can to make our community and of course our autism community better. I am not the type of guy that seeks any titles or recognition, never have been. I just really want to help in any small or big way I can and make lifelong impactful relationships for us all. I would love, one day, if possible( within my career) be able to connect daily with our autism community and be the voice for our autism and special needs community.






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CATXA: As special needs parents our kids teach us lessons every day. What is something you have learned from your son with Autism.

RJ: Noah has taught me to love unconditionally, to love even during the worse of times, and has taught me to listen and sometimes to just shut up and be an ear to people. Noah has taught me to value my time, health and enjoy today. Noah has taught me a level of patience I didn’t have before. Noah has taught me to man up and do all I can for my family and never give up even if things are against us. Noah love you son thanks for being you.



CATXA: To be a Special needs parent can be stressful. What are things that have worked for you and your wife, that you would like to share with our readers?

RJ: I would say try not to add more stress and compare your child to others in terms of progress or milestones. Try to just relax and let things go at their own pace and comfort level for your child. And take stuff day by day. And enjoy the small victories you have always had.

We try to make time for each other as a couple or if we are by ourselves we enjoy some time doing something we like to do as an individual. Even if we can't get a sitter and go out, we have dates at home when Noah goes to bed. Our dates are simple we sit, talk, and catch up on each other's day or watch a movie alone.

Prayer has worked for us. I am not a huge religious man but we pray every night with Noah, we pray over him, we pray over our family, and confess blessings and victories in our life even when things are going bad.

We have open, real talks with our family, and let it be known it’s ok to feel mad, sad, upset, happy, etc. but must communicate and find balance.



CATXA: As a cop, What is a tip you can give to parents of special needs teens/adults that are not verbal to assist first responders if their child gets lost?

RJ: Well first off, I encourage you to visit your local jurisdiction Police Department and get to know some of the officers in your area and introduce your child to them or call their community affairs team and maybe set up a day to visit the station, etc . Also, an idea I had years ago has not come to life with Houston Police yet, but thankfully Harris County Sheriff's Department had someone that made it happen. It has online web registration for autism families where you can register your child and have a picture up as well for future use, called Project Guardian (Google it) Project Guardian is a program to help keep individuals with Autism safe. The program is a free, voluntary, and confidential database offered, managed, and maintained by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. The program is for Harris County residents. The database contains information on the individual with autism to help deputies respond safely and effectively in the event law enforcement is called. I also suggest connecting with many local autism support groups on Facebook such as Café Azul Tx Autism, Autism Moms of Houston, etc. TRUST me! I have been blessed to assist officers and used these groups that eventually helped me find respected parents or kids.

Another suggestion, depending on your child's abilities is to teach your child sign language (we have translators that help), and teaching your child to text and use a phone or iPad when we make contact will help as well. Perhaps, write your # inside clothes, sew on shirts or an ID bracelet I have seen them before.

It is very important to be clear when reporting a missing or lost child to the police, good description, a recent photo, and be very clear that the child is autistic, non-verbal, runner, etc so we get the appropriate resources quickly to assist and locate the child.


CATXA: What advice will you give to a fellow autism dad that is starting this journey as a special needs parent?

RJ: Huge advice from an autism dad to other special needs dads is, Man up brother! Be a present dad, and don’t give up on your child regardless of what your marriage situation is, whether you are divorced, single, married, or separated… it doesn’t matter, because your child needs you and will benefit so much from having a loving, supporting and loving dad around.

Also, it’s ok to be mad, upset, sad, or angry at the situation you were given but seek help, don’t get stuck in a dark place. I am here to lend an ear or help in any way I can but don’t be afraid to seek mental health support from support groups, professionals, churches, etc. We are all battling something and we can and shall overcome.


CATXA:

How can other Autism Dads connect with you? (You can add your email, social media handles, etc).

RJ: Autism families, I am a text away always (easier) or phone call if my availability Permits it: 832-744-0221

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2 Comments


Alan Fowler
Alan Fowler
Feb 03

Raul is a leader among men. Super proud to call him a friend. His passion and articulate voice serve the autism community well. This guy walks the walk. Seeing the Juarez family rally around Noah is as beautiful as it is inspiring.

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Giset King
Giset King
Feb 05
Replying to

I can attest your word, Amazing person and leader.


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