Mocha Dad and Moms: Fathers and Autism

How My Husband Dealt With Our Son’s Autism

My husband, Rodney Peete, was devastated by our son, RJ’s, autism diagnosis. As a former professional quarterback, he’s very strategic and scripted about things. So not fully understanding what autism was just wore him out. I’m telling you; it was really difficult.

He really thought he could fix it or make it go away. When he finally realized that he couldn’t, well, that presented a lot of different problems for both of us, because he stayed in denial for quite a period of time. And it was difficult and very hard on our marriage.

I give him the credit for sticking it out and finally understanding that he had to tweak his expectations for his son. Although RJ would never win the Heisman or be the first-round draft pick, he was going to be a loving, terrific boy and a great member of society, but just not in a way that Rodney had imagined.

Experts told my husband that his son would never play organized sports; no Pop Warner, no little league. I mean, you know, why didn’t they just take a knife and just stick it in his stomach? Those were hard things to hear. But RJ has defied those odds and through a lot of compassion and understanding with coaches in different leagues, he does play on a basketball team and he does play football.

Rodney and RJ connect on a higher level and they have a beautiful relationship. It’s really lovely to watch.

Holly Robinson Peete is a bestselling author, actress, and is a well-known advocate for families and children dealing with autism. She sits on the advisory board of Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Her foundation, HollyRod4Kids helps children with autism gain access to affordable treatments and therapies.

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Helping My Children to Learn About Autism

I’m no NFL quarterback, but I think my reaction to discovering that my child had autism would have been the same as Rodney Peete’s.

When my 2-year-old son, X, didn’t speak for the first year and a half of his life, my wife and I were concerned and believed he was autistic. Subsequent tests have proven otherwise, but before I knew the results, I was anxious and worried about raising a special needs child.

My anxiety was mostly due to ignorance. When I was a child, I never knew any autistic children. Actually, I may have. I just didn’t know they were autistic. The movie, Rain Man, was my introduction to autism.

Since then, I have encountered several parents with autistic children who have shared their experiences with me. I’m amazed by their patience, determination, and abundant love. But I do find it odd that the most vocal advocates of autism education and awareness are mothers. Fathers seem to be silent on this issue. That is why I was glad to discover that Rodney Peete wrote a book, Not My Boy, that explains what it’s like to have an autistic child from a dad’s perspective.

As a dad, I work hard to teach my children to accept and love all people. Because their school district advocates inclusion learning, special needs children are integrated into the general population. Therefore, my children interact with all types of kids on a daily basis. They operate on the belief all children are special and unique and should be treated as such.

I read Holly Robinson Peete’s book, My Brother Charlie, to my kids to help them better understand children with autism. Now they realize that an autistic child is not someone who should be ignored or shunned, but included and welcomed.

Stay Strong,




Mocha Dad and Moms is a regular column where I discuss parenting topics with moms. If you’d like to be one of the featured moms, send me a message with your idea to


About author

Frederick J. Goodall

Frederick J. Goodall is the founder of Mocha Dad - a parenting website focused on fatherhood. He is passionate about parenting and helping men to be great dads, husbands, and role models. You can contact him at or on Twitter at

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