A Father's Story: Love, Strength, and Outreach
"Being a parent of a child with ASD is a very humbling and educational experience."
Rodney Toulson Sr.'s first reaction, upon learning of his son's diagnosis, was nothing short of devastation. Immediately, he went into fix it mode, to no avail. He found that after he accepted the fact that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Rodney, Jr. were a package deal, they could begin to move forward. There were many trying times, moments of frustration, despair, and anger. Rodney, Sr. says that being an ASD dad has taught him to love better and to appreciate his son for his growth and personality. It changed his perspective about what a committed and dedicated parent is, and it humbled him into asking for help.
"I learned that 'normal' is relative and that being different is okay and embraceable."
When Rodney, Jr. was diagnosed, he was severely autistic. Nonverbal and unable to sit up by himself, he also had difficulty adjusting to change and/or crowded, noisy venues, which limited the family's ability to travel or attend events. His diet was limited and the long-term outlook for his quality of life was bleak. Rodney Jr. received a tremendous amount of love and support from his family. Rodney Sr. says that his son has taught him the true meaning of appreciating "what's on the inside" of the people we meet. Rodney Jr. is 16 years old now and thriving in high school. He enjoys bowling, plays on the volleyball team, loves putt-putt golfing, and going to the mall.
"Although he may never know it, Rodney Jr. has been an inspiration to everyone who has seen him grow up and come so far from where he began."
As the Restorative Practices Director for Collington Square School of the Arts in Baltimore, Maryland, Rodney Sr. works in an inner city pre-K to 8th grade school, and his focus is primarily on middle school students. As the father of a son with ASD, Rodney Sr. has been inspired to reach out and extend his interaction beyond his professional life. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Hearing and Speech Agency of Baltimore, as well as the Arc of Baltimore, two organizations concerned with the continued education of the community and outreach. Reaching out is something Rodney has taken to a new level, with his work on a monthly support group for fathers of disabled children called, "Guy Talk."
"My experience with ARP was amazing and humbling."
According to Rodney, Sr., his experience as a peer reviewer for the ARP was nothing but warm, professional and very organized. All of his questions and concerns were answered thoroughly and quickly. The scientists were very friendly, supportive, and truly made him feel like his thoughts and ideas mattered, that his contributions were considered valuable. Rodney, Sr. had no doubt that the scientific community was committed to understanding ASD. What he had not realized before participating in peer review was the level of commitment. He was fascinated, and greatly encouraged, by the various studies and approaches to understanding ASD. The peer review opened his eyes to the vastness of research that is taking place to help increase our understanding of the disorder, and to improve the lives of those with ASD.
"I am truly honored to have been selected and look forward to hopefully being allowed to participate in future reviews."