David Hirsch’s guest on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast is Alex Lyubelsky. Alex and his family came to the U.S. from Russia when he was a boy. He now lives in Wheaton, Illinois and works in corporate recruiting. He and his wife Tonie have two children, one of whom, Amanda, has mild retardation, Autism ADHD and Aspergers. We’ll hear about Alex’s journey to the U.S.and how he and Tonie have worked together to raise their two children. That’s all on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
Contact Alex at email@example.com
Dad to Dad 123 – From Russia With Love: Alex Lyubelsky Has a Daughter with Autism, ADHD & Cognitive Challenges
[00:00:00] Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is thrilled to be sponsored by Rubin Law. A multi-generational law firm dedicated, exclusively to serving families, raising children with special needs. It’s not one thing they do. It’s the only thing they do. To find out more, go to rubinlaw.com.com rubinlaw.com or call (847) 279-7999 and mention the Special Fathers Network for a free consultation.
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Alex Lyubelsky: My message to anybody who’s listening to this conversation is that it will be okay. You will find your way you travel. We’ll find our way. And if you’re ever stuck. Anywhere find me and I will do whatever I can to help you get back on track.
Tom Couch: That’s David Hirsch’s guests this week, Alex Lyubelsky, Alex works in corporate recruiting.
He and his wife, Tony have two children. One of whom Amanda has [00:01:00] autism ADHD and cognitive challenges. We’ll hear how Alex came to the us from Russia as a child and how he and Tony have worked together to raise their two girls. That’s all on this Special Fathers Network, Dad to Dad podcast. Here’s our host David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the Dad to Dad podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special needs presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: Special Fathers Network is a Dad to Dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process.
New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads, to find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search Dad to Dad.
Tom Couch: And now let’s hear this [00:02:00] fascinating conversation between Alex Lyubelsky and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with Alex Lyubelsky of Wheaton, Illinois. Who’s the father of two and works in corporate recruiting. Alex, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network,
Alex Lyubelsky: David likewise.
Thank you. I’m honored to be here.
David Hirsch: You and your wife, Tony had been married for 26 years and are the proud parents of Samantha 21 and older sister, Amanda 23, who has autism ADHD and cognitive challenges. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family. Where did you grow up?
Alex Lyubelsky: So I grew up in Chicago, but, uh, the first seven years of my life were in Russia. I was born in a lot of a stock, which is where my mother and her family’s from. She had met my father, who was in the Russian Navy, through her brother who was in the same unit with my dad. My dad gets [00:03:00] invited over for dinner because he lived in, in Haida Cove, which is days away by train back then.
And, uh, he accepted the invitation and a year and a half or so later two years here I am shortly after I was born and my dad had finished service there in the Russian Navy and they moved back to his hometown in, uh, what then was, and is still part of the Ukraine. High-growth okay. So I spent a good part of seven and a half, eight years there.
David Hirsch: So from what I remember, you moved to the U S at around age seven or eight, and, um, you have a younger brother as well, but he’s quite a bit younger,
Alex Lyubelsky: 12 years also, Leo, which sometimes make is dangerous. But, uh, he was born here in the United States, so he can. Legally become president. Um, yeah, his name is Jerry and, uh, we are, uh, really close 12 years apart, but we’ve gotten [00:04:00] closer over the years.
Yeah. I’m really, really blessed to have a great family.
David Hirsch: So out of curiosity, what did your dad do while he was working?
Alex Lyubelsky: Well, my dad actually started working. Um, as you can imagine, back in the day, us or Russia, you started working at a young age. So he, his very first job was, uh, as a, as a tailor, as a helper, as he, as he grew into a young man and develop his skills, he became a, what is called, uh, gosh, how do you call it in English?
It’s called that Christ chick, which in, in American translation would be a cutter. He would cut layers and layers of material. It’s a specialty that he, I guess, honed over the years. So when he came here to the United States, he brought that trade with him. It took him a little while to land into that field here in the U S he was having odd jobs, construction painting, you name it.
He did it. But he, my dad is now going to be 77. He is a master tailor. The [00:05:00] last of the Mohicans. There’s actually a special on TV where there’s Italian master tailors, but he’s a Russian master tailor.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s fascinating. I don’t think I know anybody else who. Has told me that their dad is a master tailor, so I’m quite impressive.
Alex Lyubelsky: And he, and he will not let you forget that he is. Yeah. You haven’t worked on your suits. He’ll look at you and say, I got this, just take off the jacket, but dad, you missed asleep. I have this take off the jacket, so yeah.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Very cool. So how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Alex Lyubelsky: Yeah, it’s an interesting question.
Um, growing up, it was a tough relationship. I lived in Russia for seven years of my life. So this very disciplined, uh, you walk the fine line. You did what that said the first time that discipline carried over into the U S where you come to a country that, you know, no one with no language. And of course being an immigrant child, you will become a doctor or a lawyer.
[00:06:00] That was all I heard for a good part of my life. The one thing I take away from, from my father being in his shoes, um, now as a father, is that we had great talks. He was, he was always accessible, but it was always. His way for a good part of my childhood until maybe 18, 19, 20 years of age, um, that he finally started bending his ear and, and listening a little bit of my side, but he was always accessible.
We, we, we would talk for hours, sometimes great stories of his childhood and you know, why it’s important to stay true to yourself and have integrity and credibility. And that’s all I heard for even to this day. Never lose sight of that. So I appreciate it more now than I did in my, you know, 15, 18, 20 years of age.
Um, it really kind of came home when Amanda was born, when I’m holding a, uh, special needs baby daughter, I’m [00:07:00] like, okay, gosh, it’s my turn. Um, so it kind of all came together then. Well,
David Hirsch: thank you for sharing. Um, I’m also thinking about other, uh, father figure influences. And I’m wondering what role, if any, your grandfather’s played starting with your dad’s dad and then your mom’s dad as well.
Alex Lyubelsky: I was, you know, the first grandchild in the family. So no matter which grandfather was with me, I was dad first grandchild. And I’m a boy. So the pressure is on. Um, but I will say that, you know, by default, because I live closer to my dad’s dad, he was my constant Yeti. He was my, you know, big brother, little brother.
Uh, my second dad, he and I were inseparable as is, as I matured and came into my own, he would slowly come to meet him for advice. Right. But he would always be that shoulder that you can lean on. Um, anytime of [00:08:00] day and when we would be together, which was often, it was very special. I mean, I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about them.
Uh, knowing my grandfather, Sam was known a true two gentlemen. Uh, they just took attention to his family. Um, his children were, were just precious to him and the relationship that he shared with them until, you know, unfortunately we lost him early, uh, due to sudden death, but. I can talk about him for hours, but he was, um, I mean, to this day, I think the bottom, like it was yesterday, he said he’s just an incredible human being.
I remember he was the one that led the families move from Russia to the U S right.
He did. Um, and, and it, you know, it, it’s kind of hard to put into words because this is 1975. And I think the, the, the plan was in the works for a couple years. I don’t know how he put this trip together, but at that time it was myself age seven, my mother and father in their early [00:09:00] thirties and my fathers, grandmothers, my grandfather, my grandmother, my uncle, my aunt, all on my father’s side.
They had a three-year-old and my aunt’s husband. So that’s what nine, 10 people all came here. I can still remember the day that we moved, because we lived in big apartment buildings. If you’ve ever been to Brighton beach in New York, you have these big apartment buildings. So picture, I think it was five or 6:00 AM in the morning.
A bus pulls up and my mom wakes me up and goes, we’re leaving. Where are we going? Uh, where we’re leaving, let’s get on this bus. So we all have some downstairs cause this, all that had to happen very quickly. And whatever you carried with you is what you brought with you. And next thing, you know, we’re on this bus and there’s dozens of people looking at you through the windows.
What are you going? What’s going on? I mean, this is Russia, 1975. And now that I’m 53, I can actually through watching some history movies and et cetera, a look back at this thing. How did this ever happen? We went to the train station, [00:10:00] got on this train and you know, here we are. And it was an incredible move and it should just seem to reflect back on that because my parents started giving away and selling all that furniture months in advance.
So our apartment, which was furnished, all of a sudden went to just a bed and a table and very cute minimalistic type of things around. And I’ll never forget that night. They let me go to sleep in what I was wearing. And I found that to be very odd. They’re like, Hey, you know, we’ve had a long day, forget the pajamas, just go to bed and what they have, they had a plan.
So it took us three and a half mile. It was a three, four month journey. Cause we had to stop in Italy to process some paperwork. And of course I went to English school. Uh, well everybody worked on processing paperwork, but I could not imagine myself doing that at 33. What my father, my grandfather, who’s done 48 give or take.
Moving little kids and [00:11:00] grandmothers and bags of stuff, because if you didn’t bring it, there was no FedEx, no ups. Nobody was shipping you, anything that was it. So literally clothes on your back. Just having this conversation just brings back so much emotion because you think back you’re like how in the world did they do that?
And today, you know, you ask a friend who drive from Northbrook to your house for dinner, and they’re like, Oh, come on, man. Just so fun.
Really? Can’t we meet in the middle and just blessed. Really. It’s amazing.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. It’s uh, there’s a lot of talk about immigration and I think that to a great extent, it’s a lot of politics, but I think when you look behind, you know, what is on the surface, there are families, there are real lives, right?
And it takes an incredible amount of courage and tenacity and just the willingness to step outside your comfort zone [00:12:00] and go someplace you’ve never been and maybe. Won’t fit in right away. And he won’t speak the language or have a mastery of the language and the willingness to say, you know, there’s something better, right?
There’s an opportunity. And you know, somebody got to take that big step, that big leap of faith and, uh, I just really appreciate your sharing your story. Very inspiring.
Alex. I’m wondering if there’s anyone else that served as a father figure while you were growing up?
Alex Lyubelsky: Yes. I was blessed to have two uncles. Um, my father has a brother, uncle Al was always like my big brother. And my aunts. Husband, Mike, you know, he’s, he’s a quiet guy. So he was always a man of few words, but when he did speak and give you advice, it always, it [00:13:00] always sat and resonated with me, you know, and that is a father figure.
But my aunt was my father, my brother, my sibling. Um, so I’ve been blessed to have those three individuals in my life that were just, you know, To this day, I can recall conversations we’ve had when I needed them. But, but beyond that, um, you know, fast forwarding a little bit, uh, to where we are today, I don’t think I, Tony, I would not be.
The couple that we are the parents, that we are, the siblings that we are, that the children that we are, and hopefully friends that we are without the support of our extended family, who are just amazing people and are there at any moment, but also the friends that we’ve built because of Amanda, right?
Because of Amanda, our community and the teachers, um, W we’re just so grateful in many ways, as a result of that, that I think [00:14:00] combination of where we were as young, young people, where we are as a married couple, we would not be together today. If it wasn’t for the values of our, of our family members and the support of everybody that I just mentioned.
yeah, it just, you know, Tony and I are blessed to be together because of everybody. Well,
David Hirsch: thanks for sharing. So, uh, my recollection was that you went to a Northern Illinois university go Huskies and you studied Russian languages and literature of all things. What were you thinking? What was your career going to take
Alex Lyubelsky: you?
Oh, I it’s interesting. Whenever I meet new people or go to dinner with friends and I’m always thinking, please don’t ask me what my major was, because they all know I’m from Russia. I speak Russian and here I am. Um, so. I really dreamed of working for the government. Well, unbeknownst to me, when I started really applying [00:15:00] myself and talking to somebody as government agencies, they were going to have nothing to do with me in the mid eighties, uh, being a, you know, Soviet immigrant, two uncles.
Um, father and grandfather who were officers in the Russian military. And I didn’t mention this, but my, my mother’s father was a high ranking officer in the Russian Navy. And so when I was talking to the recruiters at the FBI and CIA and all that other field offices, they’re like, yeah, that that’s great, but it’s not going to, you will not see anything that is interesting.
So I quickly had to make an adjustment and fell into recruiting in HR because my then girlfriend at the time had graduated a semester before me and started working in HR. And I said, Oh, this is kind of interesting. I like people. People like me and so here on him.
David Hirsch: So that’s another thing you took away from, um, NIU [00:16:00] was not just your, um, undergraduate education, but, uh, you met your wife or the woman who would become your wife.
Alex Lyubelsky: Yeah. Set up on a blind date. It was the best date I’ve ever had.
David Hirsch: I like to switch gears and talk about special needs first on a personal level. And then, uh, and then beyond, I know that Amanda’s entry into the world was a bit precarious to say the least. And I’m wondering if you can, um, recall that situation and then how things transpired, uh, along with the diagnosis.
Alex Lyubelsky: Absolutely. I would say that, you know, we were having a, a dream pregnancy. Everything was coming along nicely. We had our. Regular checkups and everything about it was great. In right about seven months, Tony had called me during lunch and said, Hey, [00:17:00] I just had lunch. And the baby’s not an active as it normally is.
We didn’t know what the sex was at the time we wanted to be surprised she has. So I called my doctor and he said, come on in. And the doctor was downtown. So everything was strategically convenient. She says, you know, nothing to worry about. I’ll call you when I, when I know what’s going on and she did. And, uh, she said, you know, I went through the doctor’s office and that the heartbeat’s kind of not really steady.
He says nothing to worry about, you know, just make your way to the hospital. They’ll do better testing that I can do here. It’s okay. Don’t panic. So she took the taxi to the hospital, um, said, Hey, just wrap up your day. You don’t have to worry. And if nothing’s going to, everything’s fine. Just make your way to the hospital and I’ll meet you there.
Okay. Wrapped up my day, made my way over there within an hour and a half or so. I show up to the, to the hospital and they lead me to Tony’s room. And the room was maybe about, [00:18:00] I don’t know, 10 by 10, just enough to fit a bed in some equipment. And we’re sitting there talking and having a nice conversation.
Your nurse comes in and says, Hey, everything’s great. Just relax here for a little bit. We’ll keep you on their observation. You know, worst case scenario. You may have to stay here over night. We’re like cool. Everything, you know, we’ll play along. She leaves the room and Tony and I just sit in there and continue a conversation.
All of a sudden the monitor went to zero and we’re both looking at each other and like, Hey, listen, can you just adjust that, that strap around your belly? And you know, maybe put it back on track where it’s slipped off. She did nothing’s happening. So opened the door I called the nurse nurse comes in and.
Tries to adjust a little monitor as well, or the little strap on Tony’s belly and nothing’s happening next. You know, she presses a button it’s code red. People are flying in the room. Sheets are flying off of Tony. Some, some guy shoves me in the corner because I started asking questions. He goes, stand the corner, you know, just be [00:19:00] quiet and just moves me along.
I’m a big guy, you know, six, three, two 40 ish or something two 50 at the time. And. The bed, my wife, everybody is gone within seconds. So it was just like a flash. And all I see is these sheets and wires in a, you know, and a beeping sound from the monitor laying, laying on the floor. And I’m just like, what just happened?
And it took me a couple of minutes just to kind of compose myself. I, I opened the door where they took her out of, and I said, Hey, what’s going on? Of course they yelled at me. So I shut the door. You know, we’ll get to you in a minute. By then I’m just freaking out, you know, I’m shaking, I’m all. And they also, so the anxiety, um, finally got the nerve to stick my head out again.
Nobody was looking. So I started walking down the hall and I look right, and it was Tony in an emergency room with all sorts of diagrams on her belly. And the doctor looks at me and I looked at him and all I asked him was I made a [00:20:00] sign. Is it up and down? Or is it sideways? Because Tony was adamant about having a normal C-section so she can still have a preserved, you know, body for it.
And he goes, yeah. So he kind of looked at me and stepped out. He goes, I’m sorry, but this is an emergency C-section you baby’s coming out now. And we have no choice. We have to go in and take the baby out and. Like in my head, I’m thinking we have two more months when we have time. And he’s like, yeah, time is not on your side.
So luckily, whatever was going on with Amanda, she had adjusted and her umbilical cord was growing outside the placenta. So as it was expanding, it was pressing on it and it was cutting off circulation. So whatever was transpiring had stopped. And she was stabilized. So, which was great to us because we were able to wait for our doctor to, you know, our, her physician to come in and do the C-section, which was important to us.
[00:21:00] But let me tell you that that 10, 15, 20 minutes was the longest day of my life. But, um, it happened, I was in the emergency room. They allow me to be in there, which is great. Cause an emergency turn out to be a non-emergency delivery after all. Uh, they stabilized her and, you know, and you know, when you, when you reflect and look at a horrible situation and, and in a normal circumstances, I was able to be there for the birth of my first daughter special needs or not.
And that kind of began to put things into the okay. Motion again. Right. Cause okay, now she’s born. She’s, you know, she was making sounds and very active. What’s next. So, yeah.
David Hirsch: Well, she was quite small though, that required a pretty extended stay in the hospital from, I remember,
Alex Lyubelsky: yeah, she was two pounds, couple of ounces, uh, [00:22:00] seven weeks or so and a half in the hospital.
And you know, initially Tony and I were there, there day and night. And then Tony took a leave of absence and was there with Amanda for a good portion of every day. I think she only came home a couple of times here and there. To kind of just take a break, take a shower, whatever, go get a haircut. And then went back to the hospital.
We were on a rotation, but that was a wow, quite an experience. I mean, you see your child in the emergency room and then, um, in the NQ and then special needs ward and all the wiring, the tubes and the kangaroo care and all the other things that you have to start practicing that was. Quite a gut-check, but in truly a miracle.
I mean, if you read, if I reflect back and say, gosh, why me? It’s hard to say that because she’s almost 24, we’re blessed in so many ways that I could not have imagined it working out [00:23:00] this well, you know, reflecting on it back then, but that was, um, you know, many thanks to the, to the. To our healthcare professionals, because we wouldn’t be here without them.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing. Um, I can’t even imagine, uh, the anxiety that you must have had, or that Tony must’ve had around that time. Um, so, uh, how did the diagnosis, uh, transpire, when did it at what age and, uh, what were the circumstances?
Alex Lyubelsky: Yeah, it was about a man who was almost three years old. Give or take where we were just not seeing.
The development, um, at age one or one and a half, there was still thinking that, Hey, she’ll have some delays, but she will at least, you know, you know, be active and whatnot, but she was just a slow crawler, slow Walker, slow everything. So at some point, um, we actually had a therapist who was working with Amanda quit after a couple of sessions, told us that Amanda.
[00:24:00] Based on her professional opinion would never be able to walk or talk, she’ll be wheelchair bound. And that was, uh, uh, you know, uh, a kick in the gut to where we both just, I think we drove home from the therapy session, just speechless because we’d bring Amanda home and she did everything opposite of what she was doing in the physician’s office.
So in the therapist office, she’d roll around and she’d make noises and get into her own trouble. But when we would take her there, she was basically still. And we’ve learned over the years at the man, there just is a silent watcher. She observes and then she reacts. If she likes you, otherwise she’ll just stay quiet.
Um, so we’ve got a second opinion, of course. And, um, we’re told otherwise. And so that’s where we kind of begin are a really serious look at. Therapies and, and just having her work with specialists, but fast-forward, I think at the age of five or so six, we took her to a specialist here in Elmhurst and after some [00:25:00] assessments and several days of testing, he basically said that her intellectual capacity, we probably around age 10, if we’re lucky 12, uh, fast forward she’s 24.
We’re seeing that he was pretty close. Pretty close. Yeah. So we’ve been managing that for, I guess, for the last, I don’t know, 13, 14, 15 years give or take.
David Hirsch: So it seemed like the diagnosis took place over a extended period of time. Was there any meaningful advice that you got early on that helped you and Tony navigate this, um, sort of slippery slope and it’s not lost on me that the girls are just a couple of three years apart.
So obviously I have a second child. You’re under foot as well. So that only complicates the situation a little bit.
Alex Lyubelsky: It does. And do you know, um, you know, Samantha was full term, um, bigger Dick than expected. I mean, she made up for everything that Amanda, you know, um, didn’t have one, she was [00:26:00] born full term, big baby and ate and slept like a trooper.
I mean, she was just, yeah, it, it, it really made you forget about the first experience for a little bit, but. W we, we listen to a lot of medical advice. We really did not have a, a support group if you will, until we moved here to Wheaton. And one of the reasons we moved here is because Wheaton at the time had a really a good school system still does for kids with special needs.
There was, there was a lot of families like us here. So then it became a little bit easier to kind of exchange stories. And Hey, how do you do this? There were support groups that my wife was part of. It was interesting the first couple of years, uh, cause you know, internet was just coming around and things weren’t readily available and all you had was medical books and healthcare professionals.
Things are a lot different. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing. Uh, the world has changed a lot in the last 20 years and uh, at the risk of focusing on the negative, [00:27:00] but just to be authentic, I’m wondering if you had to look back on those years or the years that have transpired. How would you articulate what the biggest challenge or biggest challenges have been?
Alex Lyubelsky: It’s hard to really go back and think because we were going to utilize all of our financial resources in time, in everything that was given to us to experiment. And we did, if things weren’t working out, we went to a different facility, we just kind of tried everything we could to give her a chance to be successful.
Right. Not to live our dream of having a, a healthy, normal, no normal child, but to give her that chance to be successful in life. And that’s really has always been our mission.
David Hirsch: Well, to focus on the positive that I can remember you prior conversation mentioning that one of her strengths as her strong visual memory.
And her personality and that she might not have been very verbal early on, but [00:28:00] she seems to be making up for some lost time there as well.
Alex Lyubelsky: Yes. Uh, Amanda will. Talk your ear off on a six hour drive to Northern Wisconsin or on a three, four mile walk that we do regularly, she will, um, make sure and cover what we’re doing this weekend for a few miles so that she doesn’t forget.
Um, but she, her memory and her visual, um, recollection of things are just truly shy of amazing. I mean, I think I’ve shared this with you. I’ve had days where I’m just, you know, it’s an early morning, a lot has happened and I’m driving Amanda to school. And for some reason I go, right, because I’m thinking she wants Dunkin donuts, but she didn’t ask for her normal Dunkin donuts.
So I turn right. She goes, Hey daddy, where are you going to school’s left. I’m like, Oh, wait. You’re right. We’re not going right today. We’re go left. You know? And so she has these visual, uh, flashbacks are just truly amazing. W which is great. [00:29:00] Sometimes if you forget to give her a medicine in the morning, she’ll remind you before you leave the house, which is great.
And Tony and I always joked about it, that, you know, the older we get, I think the more we want Amanda around because she’ll be helping us take our medic medication someday. Um, and, and that’s kind of, it puts a smile on your face as that. You see, uh, some of the things develop even though at age 24, there’s always something new that we’re discovering about her that are just truly amazing.
So it’s fun. Well,
David Hirsch: that’s beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Um, one of the interviews that I did not so long ago was with a fellow down in Austin, Texas. Jose Velasco is his name and he has two kids on the spectrum. They’re young adults now as well. And, uh, he’s been working at SAP, the large German software company for decades, maybe.
Two and a half decades and the, for the last six years or so, he’s led the SAP autism at work program. And it’s most remarkable. They’ve hired well over 500 [00:30:00] individuals. And what they all have in common is they have some level of autism and their skills are perfectly suited for jobs at big companies like SAP.
And it’s like leading a revolution. Right. Which is in most cases, autism or Asperger’s, et cetera, are thought to be, uh, as a deficit, right. Something less than, and what we’re learning collectively as a society is that, you know, they just have refined ways of thinking about things or doing things right.
Which might not seem conventional. Or typical, but they are perfectly suited to do certain things. So perhaps that’s part of Amanda’s destiny as well.
Alex Lyubelsky: Um, we’re, we’re hoping we’re, we’re, we’re, we’re looking for those additional light bulbs to go off because nothing, uh, uh, makes a parent happier and I don’t care what category you’re in to see your, your children’s stand on their own two feet.
And I don’t mean that they’re first. [00:31:00] Steps. It’s the many steps that they take after seeing some of that progress. I think for any parent is just truly, um, you know, just, it’s just, it’s just a joy. Uh, we personally struggling with that because Amanda still, um, has a hard time differentiating between the safety elements of being on her own.
But under supervision, she is a work machine. So much so that I discovered a hidden secret this summer is that she loves to pull weeds, uh, which comes in handy in my home garden, uh, so much so that if I’m going outside to go to a garden, she goes, can I come and pull weeds? And I have to be very careful because, you know, uh, a plant looks like a week to her.
Um, but she’s developing that skill. So I’m thinking maybe some sort of a landscape assistant. Sure. So I have to share that with you. It’s something that just developed over the last month or so. And my wife and I are just, you know, we’re w we [00:32:00] had the biggest grin on our face because she puts on her gloves.
She puts on her little work boots. She has this. Bucket that we use for weeds, that she then takes to a bigger trash container. And she is just a workhorse it’s, it’s kind of cool to watch. Um, I couldn’t pay my younger daughter to do it. I tried once and she goes, Oh, I just saw a spider I’m out. I have video to prove it by the way.
But, uh, so it’s, it’s becoming a joy to be. Together with her because she just is developing some habits that are no family central.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing.
Alex Lyubelsky: Of course.
David Hirsch: Speaking of Samantha, the younger sister who might not be, um, inclined to do the weed pulling, I’m sort of curious what impact has Amanda situation head on Samantha?
For the rest of your family for that matter.
Alex Lyubelsky: Yes. You know, Samantha Samantha’s coming into her own and I know it not be embarrassing her by saying this, but, you know, it was, it was rough, you know, it was just rough because [00:33:00] Amanda was a force to be reckoned with when she was little she’d be. And that, that transfers to her cousins.
We, you know, Tony’s sister has two girls about the same age and Amanda was the family bully. Hmm. No, they come over and I mean, they’ll like to push people back then, especially little kids and get a, get a joy out of it because the baby then was stark or the little child would start crying. Of course, because there were scared, not heard, but just scare they’d fall in their bud.
So we had a family joke that when Amanda would walk in, all the kids would sit down and it’s a true story of for years. It took us a while to. Develop some better social skills by we go anywhere that knew Amanda at that age. And we, as soon as we’d walk in that either run to their parents or sit down because they knew Amanda would eventually get them the little shop.
Um, so it was hard on Samantha for awhile because it was hard on us. You know, there are certain things that. There’s nothing on the internet that can tell you what to [00:34:00] do in the middle of the night or late at night when your daughter is having a meltdown with special needs, you know, how do you control it?
You’ve had a long day that you have dinner and a table and, you know, full of dishes and you know, you’re not having your best parental moment. All the attention is on Amanda. As a family, we knew that we, we talk about all the time, but you know, Samantha’s. Very strong woman as a result of it. But you know, if you were to pull her aside and talk to her individually, I can’t imagine it being easy and it’s not that we ever, you know, overlooked her.
She had all the same opportunities that Amanda did, um, in we parented and disciplined the same way. But you just can’t have a conversation without Amanda being in the middle of the conversation. So it just made it tough to really stay in sync. And unless you were outside the house and, you know, doing a one-on-one, it was just really hard to have a family discussion even now to [00:35:00] this day, you know, Tony last night and I were having a conversation and Amanda wanted to go to bed and every five minutes I’m ready.
I’m ready. I’m ready bedtime and it just breaks the momentum. And so that’s how I, that’s how I really have to say is that it just, it broke the momentum of parenting and having a good time because inevitably that good time with blow up because something happened because of Amanda’s, um, inability to sometimes control herself in an element that was new to us.
So we sometimes didn’t know where we would be getting into, even to this day until we get her into that. And I will say this, that one thing that Tony and I did from, from early on, uh, as soon as Amanda was old enough to be going outside and not be at risk of any sort of, um, health issues because of her overweight.
We would take her everywhere on, on, on trips [00:36:00] to the beach, to the zoo. Um, we were always out and about families and friends. If she was having a bad day, we would just pick up and leave. We learned to put Amanda to be six in situation to be successful. Um, that’s one thing I will share is that we’ve always put her in an environment to just get her out into the public.
So it was nothing new to her.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I think the point you’re making, if I understood it, Alex, is that, um, you know, you didn’t shelter her, right? She wasn’t like always kept pack or you didn’t treat her differently than you treated Samantha. And you try to do things as a family and, you know, you’re exposing herself, right?
There’s going to be moments of embarrassment and situations that arise that, you know, maybe you just as soon avoid. If you got the longer vision in mind, which is how is she going to get socialized, right? How is she going to adapt to the bigger environment that she’s going to be living in for the rest of her life?
So, you know, it’s [00:37:00] almost like the old adage pay me now or pay me later. And now if you’re willing to make those small incremental adjustments or payments, um, hopefully everybody’s better off as a result. So again, thank you for your transparency and authenticity. So I’m thinking about advice now, and I’m wondering, um, if there’s an important takeaway you can share with another dad or dads and think about the younger Alex, like, what would you be sharing with the dad who had a two year old or a five-year-old
Alex Lyubelsky: I would say, except what you’ve been given.
Look at all resources, not just one. If somebody gives you one path, you should explore another, not necessarily for shortcut or not necessarily for an answer. Uh, but just to give yourself and your child that fighting chance. There’s just so much out there today that wasn’t around, you know, 20, some odd years ago, you know, don’t feel any shame or guilt in [00:38:00] this really, you know, And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you don’t know something, or if you know another dad who has experienced what you’ve experienced, pick up the phone and talk to them or go to special groups.
There’s, there’s, there’s help out there. You’re not on your own. Um, and I think I said this earlier, we were lucky to have family around them that helped us, but I never really had that friend until years later that had a job with special needs. So I can sit her on and ask silly questions. Hey, how are you doing this?
Just to let me cope with it. Um, and so that’s, my advice is don’t, you’re not in it alone to summarize everything. You’re not by yourself. There’s resources and people around me.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, pearls of wisdom. Thank you for sharing. And this might be a good way to segue into why did you agree to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network?
Alex Lyubelsky: I’ve been looking to give back for a long time and Tony and I have in many ways in our community, but I feel that I can reach more [00:39:00] people being a parent, a father, a husband, an in-law son-in-law an uncle of a child with special needs is it’s, it’s, it’s difficult because you know, in, in your, in the way you’re, you’re out there on your own, it’s just you and your wife, or sometimes it’s just single parenting.
I just want to give back in any little way that I can just to let people know that, Hey, um, there is help. You’re not alone. And it’s interesting. I never, I didn’t share this with you. And it just popped into mind when a segue story, Tony and I were at a restaurant one time and mind your own business. And Amanda’s having a moment and we’re of course not turning our heads, but we know people are watching and a lady on the way out.
Walks out and puts a hand on Tony’s shoulder and she goes, things will be okay. And the man that must’ve been like two, three years old. And to see me in that a restaurant back then was truly a sight because she was very disruptive. Right. She there’s stuff all over she’s loud and she walks [00:40:00] by and a gentle little voice.
She will be okay. Um, you are going to see some. Miracle things coming out of this child. And we, and then she kept on walking. We were like, wait, is this person like, why didn’t she, it was almost like, you know, talking back about spirituality. It’s almost like this. And we’re having a moment because we’re stressing, we’re sweating and this woman just puts her hand on her shoulder and just brings us to ease.
Because it turns out when we walked outside, she told us that she had a daughter with special needs who was older and she re get the, our moment gave her flashbacks and now her daughter is living on her own and all these things. And so my message to anybody who’s listened to this, uh, this conversation is that it will be okay.
You will find your way you travel. We’ll find our way. And if you’re ever stuck. Anywhere find me and I will do whatever I can to help you get back on track. Yeah.
David Hirsch: That’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing. [00:41:00] So let’s give it up a special shout out to our mutual friend, Jim Visel Apolis Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad podcast, interviewee number 113 for helping connect us.
Alex Lyubelsky: Jimmy. Thank you. I appreciate you.
David Hirsch: Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Alex Lyubelsky: I just want to thank you for doing what you’re doing. It’s a true miracle. I am. I’m great that we’re meeting now, which would have met you sooner, but what you’re doing in your mission in life is again, one of those miracles that parents with special needs children need.
So thank you for your support.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for those kinds of words. It’s very humbling, Alex, to hear you say that. So, if somebody wants to learn more about the experiences you’ve had or contact you, what’s the best way about going and doing that. So
Alex Lyubelsky: I am on, uh, on LinkedIn, feel free to reach out to me there, you know, in the public forum. Otherwise my personal email is [00:42:00] firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Hirsch: We’ll make sure to include those in the show notes. So it’ll be easy for people to follow up.
Alex Lyubelsky: Of course,
David Hirsch: Alex, thank you for your time. In many insights as reminder, Alex is just one of the dads.
Who’s part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation, your own. Please go to 21stcenturydads.org.org. Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network data dad podcast.
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Alex. Thanks again,
Alex Lyubelsky: David. Thank you.
Tom Couch: Thank you for listening to the Dad to Dad podcast presented by the Special Fathers Network. The Special Fathers Network is a Dad to Dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process.
New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for fathers to support fathers. Go to 21stcenturydads.org.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or we’d like to offer help, we would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search Dad to Dad. Also, please be sure to register for the Special Fathers Network biweekly zoom calls held on the first and third Tuesdays of every month.
Lastly, we’re always looking to share [00:44:00] interesting stories. If you’d like to share your story or know of a compelling story. Please send an email to David@21stcenturydads.org.
Tom Couch: Dad to Dad podcast was produced by Couch Audio for the Special Fathers Network. Thanks again to Rubin Law for supporting the Dad to Dad podcast. Call Rubin Law at (847) 279-7999 and mention the Special Fathers Network for a free consultation.