A Father’s Heart
A summary of Ron Sandison’s achievements to date is indeed impressive. Ron works full time in the medical field counseling people with mental health challenges, and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is also an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America.
Ron has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University, is a prolific freelance writer of countless articles, a bestselling book author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom; and he has just finished his second book. He is the founder of Spectrum Inclusion, which takes him on numerous speaking engagements throughout the year. He is husband to his beautiful and equally extraordinary wife, Kristen; and his past accomplishments include being a teenage track champion.
What makes Ron’s accomplishments truly stellar, is that he also happens to have autism.
At 18 months old, his normal development stopped, and he began to regress - losing the ability to communicate words he had previously learned, and becoming unable to make eye contact, were among his symptoms.
Thanks to the unwavering dedication and determination of his loving parents and others within his support system, strategies and opportunities presented themselves and were employed, which enabled Ron to capitalize on his strengths and fulfill goals that would have otherwise escaped him. He was eventually mainstreamed into a typical classroom educational experience where his ability to run fast, a near-flawless memory for details, the need to strictly adhere to schedules and routines, and an inborn drive to succeed made him an award-winning athlete and scholar. He graduated from both high school and college with honors. Ron’s message of hope, extraordinary yet accessible insights, and ongoing accomplishments have been lauded by layman and distinguished professionals from various fields alike. Any of his achievements and interests would be worthy of a feature. However, here, we are focusing on the newest, life-changing facet in his life – Fatherhood!
His cherished daughter, Makayla Marie, was born in March 2016, bringing with her a dimension and a richness to his life that he could not have imagined.
It is estimated that only 2% of those diagnosed with “high-functioning” autism ever become parents; and only 10% of those with Asperger Syndrome join the ranks of parenthood.
Overjoyed, grateful, and humbled to be among these few, Ron sounds like any other loving father when he speaks about his daughter. “Watching Makayla develop each day, meeting her neurotypical milestones on time; helping her learn new things; and watching her play, all make me happy.”
When asked what he found most surprising and challenging about being a father, he frankly and good-naturedly replied, “How much work it is! 24-7-365!” When Makayla was born, Ron took 2 weeks off from work to start getting acclimated to life with a baby – not an easy undertaking for anyone. As someone on the autism spectrum, whose well-being and performance is largely dependent upon sticking to a strict personal routine, this presented some additional adjustment challenges for Ron, which he tackled with his signature determination and sense of purpose.
He’s also quick to credit his phenomenal wife for her help and understanding; and his Christian faith. It is literally impossible to discuss Ron’s life without sharing about his profound and pure faith in and relationship with God.
He views this as the foundation of his identity and the root from which all of the goodness in his life springs. He spends 2-3 hours each day in Bible reading, meditation, and prayer. This devotion is the anchor and guide that supports and strengthens his role as a father, and every other area of his life. Ron finds Psalm 84:11 particularly life-affirming:
For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. “Being a father is a good thing,” explains Ron. “So God made me a father, and He helps me be a good father.”
Ron sees many of his autistic characteristics as gifts that help to make him a good father, and enhance his parenting skills. His exceptional memory and attention to details help him attend to the specific needs of a child. It also makes him a wonderful storyteller which nurtures communication and imagination. The ability to maintain a schedule helps establish stability, trust, and security. He also has a deep sense of empathy for those experiencing difficult, hurtful, and unfair circumstances, which enables him to comfort and provide wisdom. As an added bonus, he has never lost his childlike appreciation for toys - always a plus when dealing with children of all ages!
How has being a father changed him so far? “Autism comes from the Greek word ‘auto’,” replied Ron, “which means, ‘self.’ Being a father has made me less selfish and more selfless.” Along the same lines, Ron has found that fatherhood has also enriched his relationship with his wife, Kristen.
“We spend more time together, and communicate more.
And Makayla is part of both of us – the 2 (of us) became one flesh.” (Referencing Mark 10: 7 & 8 - For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.)
His hopes and prayers for Makayla truly reflect the heart of a father. Protection is at the top of his list, followed by fulfillment of all that she was put on Earth to accomplish, in service to God. And that is the essence of what every parent desires for their child – safety, happiness, and fulfillment.