Our guest this week is Joel Liestman of Maple Grove, MN who has been a professional actor for more than 25 years, a father to a son with William Syndrome and outspoken advocate for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Joel and wife, Jennifer, have been married for 23 years and are the proud parents of Bennett (11) who has Williams Syndrome, a genetic condition present at birth and is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning challenges.
Joel reflects on the importance of organizations like Parent 2 Parent and the William Syndrome Association have played in Bennett’s life and that of his family.
That’s all on this episode of the SFN Dad To Dad Podcast.
Show Links –
Email – email@example.com
Website – https://www.joelliestman.com
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/joelliestman/
William Syndrome Association – https://williams-syndrome.org/
Partnership Resources – https://www.partnershipresources.org/
Parent 2 Parent USA – https://www.p2pusa.org/
Tom Couch: Special thanks to Horizon Therapeutics for sponsoring the Special Fathers Network Dad To Dad podcast, working tirelessly to research, develop, and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about Horizon Therapeutics’ mission at HorizonTherapeutics.com.
Joel Liestman: Jimmy Hendrix might have been like popped up on the playlist or something and I’m like, oh yeah, the Jimmy Hendrix Experience, maybe I should call it the Dad Joke Experience, and thought about it and I’m like, yeah, you know what? This is sticking with me, the Dad Joke Experience, because things get so heavy that sometimes you just gotta laugh a little bit. And I said I maybe, I don’t know. Let’s try it. For better or for worse, it’s stuck.
Tom Couch: That’s our guest this week, Joel Liestman, a father, an actor, and an outspoken advocate for those with intellectual disabilities.
Tom Couch: We’ll hear Joel’s life story and how he and his wife Jennifer have raised their son Bennett, 11, who has Williams syndrome. That’s all on this week’s Special Fathers Network Dad To Dad podcast. Say hello now to 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: 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 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: So now let’s tune in to this conversation between David Hirsch and Joel Liestman.
David Hirsch: I am thrilled to be talking today with Joel Liestman of Maple Grove, Minnesota, who has been a professional actor for more than 25 years, a father of a son with Williams syndrome, and an outspoken advocate for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
David Hirsch: Joel, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview with Special Fathers Network.
Joel Liestman: Thank you. Thank you very much.
David Hirsch: You and your wife Jennifer, have been married for 23 years, and are the proud parents of Bennett, 11, who has William Syndrome, a genetic condition present at birth and is characterized by medical problems including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning challenges.
David Hirsch: Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Joel Liestman: Yeah. I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis in a city called Maple Grove. I have an older brother and my mom and dad. Great parents got divorced when I was about 13, but worked very hard to make sure that my brother and I were always taken care of.
Joel Liestman: In terms of a divorce, my parents certainly never pitted us in the middle of any issues that they had. They did a I think they did a really tremendous job. Grew up here in the burbs, very quote unquote, normal suburban life. And then late, late in high school played soccer pretty much my whole life, growing up. Everything that I did revolved around that. But then in high school I auditioned for a play because I had a crush on a girl and she was in the play and caught the theater bug there a after that and said, this is really fun. But I, it’s also really interesting and I’m really curious and I wanna know more about, and dived in maybe with a touch of OCD, of I need to know everything there is to know about theater and acting and performing in this business and yeah. And so really my life took a turn at that point in terms of what I was really interested in and what I thought I would be doing in my life. Went to school at what is now called the University of Minnesota at Moorhead, which is right up on the Minnesota/North Dakota border, where if you’re not careful, the wind will just flat out knock you down . And and then after that, just started working, did some regional theater and then moved out to New York. Lived out there for years. And then we moved back when my, my wife and I were dating this whole time. We dated for many years. And we got married when we were out in New York. And she got a job opportunity to come back to the Twin Cities and we said sure it’s too good of an opportunity for her to pass up. And I figured I can be an unemployed actor in any city. So I’m like, yeah, let’s do it. And it was a, ended up being a terrific move, not only for our family being back closer to our family and our extended family, but it has been great for my wife’s career, and it turned out to be really great for my career too. I, it took a little while to break in, but once I broke into the theater community, I’ve worked pretty regularly around, around the Twin Cities and around the region. It’s been really great. And then we decided to start a family.
David Hirsch: Excellent.
Joel Liestman: Yeah.
David Hirsch: I want to go back a little bit and talk about your dad and some father influencers. So I’m curious to know what is it that your dad did for a living?
Joel Liestman: For the most part, my dad was a grocer. He managed a grocery store in the neighboring little town of Osseo, and it was just a small, little independent grocery store that his longtime friend Dean opened, and it’s called Dean’s. It’s still to this day, called Dean’s. And my dad, he was the guy that everybody in town knew because he worked at the market and everyone came into the market. My first job was working at Dean’s. My brother’s first job was working at Dean’s. It just was a great little supermarket. And then at one point, yeah, probably about 11, 12 or so, my dad left Dean’s and I think was just trying to find what the next thing was gonna be.
Joel Liestman: I’m not entirely sure being good midwesterners and Scandinavian and German people, they don’t really talk about it. Talk about what the circumstances that surrounded why he decided to try other fields, but for a while, had many different jobs and ended up back in the grocery business and worked in grocery for many years and then eventually moved over and was managing a liquor store.
Joel Liestman: Obviously it was a different time. It was a time where you went to work, you came home and that was pretty much it. And we had a pretty decent middle class upbringing.
David Hirsch: So that’s fabulous. I’m wondering how would you characterize your relationship with your dad?
Joel Liestman: Obviously I love my father and he loves me, and that is something that neither of us ever doubt, but we are two very different personalities.
Joel Liestman: We have very contentious moments and we’ve had long stretches of time where we don’t talk. Especially when I was younger, when I was an angry young man in my twenties, we went long stretches where we didn’t, where we didn’t talk. It was everything from political differences at the time to finances, to anything. I think it was just anything that we could find to argue about, we would find. Like I never doubted that he loved me and would always do whatever he needed to do to take care of me.
Joel Liestman: When my folks got divorced, they made the decision that my brother and I should live primarily with my dad since we were both early teenagers at that point and my parents thought that might be the best situation. So there was a lot of male testosterone going on in the house and led to some classic arguments. We, we get along well now but we, we talk about these arguments as if, as if they were these little epic asterisks in our timeline. Yeah. Our relationship is, I think at this point, it’s based on… I think he sees how I am willing to do whatever I need to be doing for my kid, just the same way he did. It’s just we have different interests and so how we are making that happen, but I like to think that he sees that same work ethic, that same dedication.
Joel Liestman: I will say about my dad is he was never afraid to be an affectionate father and let me know that I was loved. He wasn’t a stoic, quiet man who never said anything. He always made sure I knew that he loved me and that he was either proud of me or that he was frustrated with me. We so I think that is something that I’ve taken directly from him in my parenting.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thanks for sharing. If I can paraphrase what you said he was present and after the divorce, you and your brother lived with your dad, which maybe led to some confrontation, but in a healthy way, not an unhealthy way. And that some of the things that you’ve taken away are his work ethic, his dedication to his family, and his willingness to show affection, perhaps like you show affection to Ben, and those are really important attributes when you look back and say, yeah what is it that I’m trying to emulate that my dad did, whether it was conscious or unconscious. So thanks for sharing.
Joel Liestman: Yeah.
David Hirsch: You mentioned you went to University of Minnesota at Moorhead and you took a bachelor’s degree in theater, and I’m wondering where did your career take you from there?
Joel Liestman: Once I graduated from college, my wife was also a theater major. We both went to, we went to college together. We were a couple at the time, and then we just started auditioning around. I got on a dinner theater circuit around the Midwest, just going from one dinner theater to the next, and then we decided, you know what? We’re young, we’re dumb. Let’s move to New York. We have $500 and a dream. Let’s just up and move to New York and see what… And that, and that was our early twenties and that was or mid twenties. And that was, that was the best time we had. We had a great time. We did a lot of growing up. We found out a lot about who we are as individuals. We got married when we were out there. Some of my closest friends to this day are people that I met in those little over five years living in New York. I do feel like had we stayed in New York, I was, I would’ve been really curious to see what that next year or two years would’ve been and where my career would’ve gone. Cuz I feel like I was starting to get it and really starting to open some doors. But like I said before, my wife’s job opportunity to come back to the Twin Cities was too good. There was just no way we were gonna, we were gonna pass that up.
David Hirsch: What is Bennett’s diagnosis and how did it come?
Joel Liestman: Bennett was born two months premature for no reason. My wife and I literally went to her 32 week checkup. They said, great, everything’s looking great. We’ll see you back here in a couple weeks. And the next morning her water broke. And it was a pretty, it was a traumatic birth experience. An emergency c-section. There’s a whole story with McDonald’s french fries that I won’t get into, but it was a wild birth experience and we happened to have a nurse that was in the emergency room when my son was born and just said, the shape of his brow seems a little, it seems a little flat. His upper pallet seemed a little high. Essentially they came to me and said, we’re wondering if, if we could run a few tests because we are curious as to try to find out why your son was born two months early for, when there’s, there was no reason. You literally were just here yesterday. So I said, sure.
Joel Liestman: And then they came back and said, we’d like to run some more genetic tests. And at that point, my wife and I were like you don’t ask to run these extra genetic tests if you don’t think you’re gonna find something. So we started preparing ourselves and, and then we got the phone call saying the geneticist would like to meet with you, and told us he had a diagnosis of Williams syndrome, which of course we had never heard of. And at the time, Williams syndrome was about one in every, one in every 17,000 or so. I think the numbers have gotten a little tighter there as diagnosing Williams syndrome has gotten a little more efficient and better, but it’s still considered a very rare disease. It’s about one in every 10,000 births, and then it became, okay, what do we need to do to get him home from the hospital? What needs to happen? And obviously having been born two months early, primarily he just needed to… which was difficult at first. He was very small. He was about four pounds, and he had a difficult time putting the whole suck, swallow, and breathe trifecta. Like he could do two out of the three. He could always do two out of the three. But trying to do three out of the three was tricky for him, and he was pretty healthy for someone eight, two months premature and having a diagnosis. A rare genetic diagnosis. So we were very fortunate on his health so that once he did finally figure out how to eat on his own, they said, great, you’re ready to go.
Joel Liestman: And then that’s obviously, that’s when the journey really began.
David Hirsch: So I’m trying to put myself back in your shoes at that time, shortly after the time of the diagnosis. You get this sort of out of the blue diagnosis about Williams syndrome. All of a sudden you have to learn everything you can about Williams syndrome. And I’m wondering what were the fears that you and Jennifer had as parents with a infant not even, to his birthdate, the scheduled birthdate, and you got this diagnosis. What was going on in your minds?
Joel Liestman: Yeah, it was a lot of fear. It was a lot of anger at first. We had a very negative diagnosis experience. The genetic counselor who gave us the information did not do a very good job. Kept talking about future children, how this won’t affect other future children, to which we finally had to stop. I had to stop her and say, can we stop talking about other kids that don’t exist? Can we talk about our… We had fears of what is this gonna be? What is William syndrome? Is he gonna have to have surgery after surgery? When, when is his heart gonna have problems? When are his kidneys gonna have issues? So there were all those fears. I gotta say though, selfishly as a dad, getting that diagnosis was one of the best things that ever happened to me personally as a dad, because up until my son’s birth, I was freaking out about, should we be already talking to preschools? Will he be an athlete? Will he love music? Will he wanna be a an actor? And how do I prevent that? And I was just caught up in all of this extra, all of that excess stuff, that rabbit hole that’s so easy to go down, that when we got the diagnosis, it really refocused me and allowed me to really meet my son where he was and go, this is my kid and I am going to be here with him right now. And it has, it really helped me stay, especially in that, let’s just say that first year or so really helped me stay focused on the now and how do we just help him be him. And that is something that I’ve really tried to continue to do going is always just trying to remind myself to meet him where he’s at and to just help him be the best version of him that he can be and not some sort of weird, preconceived notion of what I thought he might be.
Joel Liestman: So it was the whack, upside the head that I needed as a dad. I try to remember that, that my son’s from a, from an individual standpoint, my son’s diagnosis was maybe the wake up call that I needed to be the kind of dad that I want to be and that I hoped I would be at least trying to stay on that path.
David Hirsch: Yeah. If I can paraphrase what you’ve said, it’s very unusual, I think, at least that early on in your experience to come to the conclusion that this is the best thing that’s happened to me as a dad. I’ve had other dads say, I wouldn’t have asked for a child with special needs, but knowing everything I know now, I wouldn’t change anything at all. Which is a little bit different cuz that’s more of like a retrospective experience. But I’m wondering, was there some meaningful advice that you got early on that helped put you on that path?
Joel Liestman: Not really that not anything specific. In fact, if anything it was some sort of, the opposite of advice, hearing other people talk about saying they’re sorry for our kid having, our kid has a diagnosis and having people go, oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. I was like it’s nothing to be sorry about. He’s still our kid. So things like that, and hearing other people talk about, oh, you’re and like the, oh, you’re so brave, or, oh, you’re not gonna get anything you can’t handle. And, and it was like, I, none of that is actually real. And it’s all of that talk that again, helped me go, you know what, I’m just going to be here with my kid and I’m gonna, I know he needs to strengthen his neck so he can hold his head up. I’m gonna work on that with him. We did have some really wonderful early childhood teachers that would come out to our house to help Ben. Finding that balance of being with your kid now, enjoying your child now, but also we do need to do some stuff, we do need to do some stuff to help him going forward here if we want him to be able to, to crawl. We do, we want him to be able to hold his head up and stand up and stuff like that. There is stuff that we need to do that is extra than that other kids might not have to, you might not ha, wouldn’t necessarily have to be so deliberate about.
Tom Couch: We’ll be back with more of the conversation on the Special Fathers Network Dad To Dad Podcast in just a few moments. But first, this quick message. Please help. 21st Century Dads gather research on families raising children with special needs by having them complete the Special Fathers Network Early Intervention Parents survey. A link to the survey can be found in the show notes. As a token of our appreciation, each person, mom or dad, who completes the survey, will receive a Great Dad Coin. Thank you. Now back to the conversation.
David Hirsch: I am wondering, at the risk of focusing on the negative, what have been some of the biggest challenges that you encountered?
Joel Liestman: It’s been hard for him to make friends. Luckily he’s got two cousins around the same age that they love each other very much. And so we are able to have some outlet for that. His physical challenges, there’s no real like going out and throwing the ball around. We will try to do that, but it, that is a challenge.
Joel Liestman: And that also doesn’t really interest him. He doesn’t have the same interests that I do. He could care less about soccer. I once asked him if he wanted to try to be in a show once, and he said, oh, would I have to like sing with other people? We’re like, yeah. And he goes, oh yeah. then no. And I’m like you love singing. He goes, yeah, I just like singing me. I just want, I want everybody to pay attention to me. And I’m like, oh, okay. Just trying to support his interests, support the things that he gets into, even when they’re things that I have had no experience with.
Joel Liestman: We’ve also been really lucky with his educational teams. So there have been educational struggles and some physical challenges that have been really difficult, but we’ve always found a way, we’ve always worked and I think in a very collaborative way with the people we need to work with to help him.
David Hirsch: Yeah. It does really sound like you’ve made the most of the situation. And the challenges that you’ve described, with all due respect, sound like the challenges that many people would have with a pre-teen, right?
Joel Liestman: Yeah.
David Hirsch: Trying to find out who they are and the world revolves around them. And you mentioned that when you were growing up, you probably thought the same way, right?
Joel Liestman: Yeah, very much.
David Hirsch: And your dad had the patience to stick with you and be present, and it looks like the baton has been handed down and you’re successfully carrying that and maybe the torch as a present and involved dad. So I think it’s just fabulous.
Joel Liestman: Yeah, I will say, we have been incredibly lucky with his health. We haven’t had a lot of the health issues that other families with Williams syndrome have had. He hasn’t been in and out of hospitals a bunch and we recognize how fortunate we have been with his health, which has allowed us to, to have these other sort of quote unquote, regular parent issues.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thanks for sharing. So I’m thinking about supporting organizations and I’m wondering what organizations come to mind that you’ve relied on for Ben’s benefit or your family’s benefit.
Joel Liestman: Yeah, early on after we got the diagnosis, after meeting some other families with Williams syndrome through the Williams Syndrome Association, I recognized, okay, these are people that I’m gonna want to have a relationship with going forward. Whether it’s helping find resources for education or medical resources, or just that sense of community. The WSA has been and other than that, we’ve mostly been able to rely on his public school. Some really wonderful teachers. Once the pandemic hit and all the all the acting work went away, that’s when I really started leaning into getting more into advoca… active advocacy. And I joined the board of directors for an organization called Partnership Resources, which is an adult service center, adult program center for adults with developmental disabilities and intellectual disabilities, helping them with everything from outlet for artistic expression to job training, to helping adults be adults and live as independently as they can or as they choose.
Joel Liestman: And that was, I got involved with them because to hedge my bets cuz I wanted to make sure something like that existed when my son got older. That was really the first really like big forward thinking thing that I allowed myself to do was to say, okay, I wanna start working with some people and learning about what it’s like to be an adult with disabilities so that I can be ready when my son becomes an adult and maybe have some things in place.
Joel Liestman: Then I started working with Family Voices of Minnesota, which they’re part of the Family Voices USA and the Parent to Parent Network, Parent to Parent USA Network. I got involved with them through another, another parent friend and I originally was just going to edit their virtual fundraiser during the pandemic. Just fell in love with the idea of parents talking to other parents. People helping each other based on their own experiences and tending to that emotional aspect that you don’t get from just looking things up on Google or often you don’t get from talking to medical professionals. We have to tend to our soul a little bit, and that emotional component. And I really feel like that’s where parents are a huge benefit to each other. Being able to say, I get it. It sucks. I was there too, or I am still there, but maybe in a slightly different spot. So you’re not alone. And so I, yeah. So I started working with them and it’s, that has been the next big shift in my life is really prioritizing that.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thank you for sharing. It’s clear to me that your advocacy is not only making an impact on the community, but I suspect that it’s been somewhat therapeutic for you and your family as well. So in addition to Williams Syndrome Association, Partnership Resources, and the Parent-to-Parent organization, you took the initiative to start something called The Dad Joke Group. And I’m wondering what was the backstory on that and who’s involved?
Joel Liestman: Yeah yeah. When I joined Family Voices of Minnesota I still am the only the only dad cuz all of us that work for Family Voices in Minnesota are all parents of kids with disabilities and complex medical needs. But I was the only dad. And dad jokes are so fun and dumb and they’re a great way to just break the ice on a Monday morning when we’re having a Zoom meeting and stuff. And so these dumb dad jokes just became a thing that I would just throw out in meetings and when I’m talking with my colleagues.
Joel Liestman: And so when my boss and I, when we were talking about what, what are next steps, and I said, I think it’s time that we try and see if we can get a dad’s group going. She’s great, run with it. Do whatever you need to do. She gave me free reign and like we have talked about, and I know you’ve talked about with other dads and other men, it’s hard to get men excited about a support group, calling something a support group. So I’m like, I don’t wanna call it a support group. Can I be calling it? And so for some reason I even think, honestly, I, it’s so silly, but I think even like Jimi Hendrix might have been like, popped up on the playlist or something and I’m like, oh yeah, the Jimmy Hendrix Experience, maybe I should call it the Dad Joke Experience. And thought about it and I’m like, yeah, you know what? This is sticking with me, the Dad Joke Experience, because things get so heavy that sometimes you just gotta laugh a little bit. And I said I maybe, I don’t know. Let’s try it. And for better or for worse, it’s stuck.
Joel Liestman: And so I started the dad’s group back in January of 2022 and it was pretty slow going over the summer months here. But we have a core group of guys that come back every month and we all, we’re all starting to get really familiar with each other’s stories so that we’re comfortable enough with each other to, to sometimes ask hard questions and sometimes ask awkward questions and be able to talk to each other about it. To have a group of guys that are willing to talk about some of the things that are unique to dads, especially dads of kids with, with special needs. Other, especially other dads don’t get it. And, and that’s fine that they don’t get it, but it does mean that you get really lonely sometimes and to just have a… whether just once a month.
David Hirsch: Yeah. I love what you’re doing.
Joel Liestman: Yeah.
David Hirsch: Is it a virtual experience or a face-to-face experience?
Joel Liestman: Yeah, right now, because yeah, we still, since we started back in 20 January of 2020, it’s been virtual. Most of us live in and around the metro area, so I do see maybe at some point we are able to maybe try to do an in-person meetup. But I don’t think we’ll ever take the virtual component away because that way we are able to be spread out all over the state. I have a couple guys that come pretty regularly that are located up in the, up in the Lakes area of Northern Minnesota and it’s really wonderful, it’s really great to, to get a slightly different geographic input, cuz they’re raising kids with special needs in a, in, maybe in a little bit more rural of an area.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Talk about being isolated, right? You’re near a big city, right? Lots of resources for you as a parent for your children for that matter. But if you’re in a remote area, right? Where the nearest town might be 30 minutes away or 40 minutes away, the possibility or probability of being isolated is much higher.
Joel Liestman: Yeah. And it, I’m in constant, in, in awe of these guys, and I’m in awe of anybody that is willing to go, I don’t know and I need a little help. Our society doesn’t place value on asking for help. We’re all just expected to know things. So that act of bravery of saying I’m lost here guys. I need a little help. I always try to make sure I honor that. I, it’s a great thing just knowing that somebody has your back a little bit because they get it, just makes you walk a little taller.
David Hirsch: Yeah. I love your heart for working with other dads and it’s pretty basic. We’re the gender that doesn’t pull over and ask for directions when we’re lost. So what I hear you saying is, you know, anybody who’s willing to say, hey, I’m lost, I could use some direction, it’s a logical thing. But like you said society doesn’t celebrate that. You know what we’re talking about is showing vulnerability. And most of us Neanderthals think that vulnerability is a weakness. And then when you really peel back the onion a little bit, you realize that’s actually a strength, right? To be able to say, Hey, I’m not where I want to be and I wanna do something about it. And if I stay in the cave I’m not likely to find the solutions on my own. So opening yourself up to be in the presence of other individuals, and we’re talking about dads in this situation, is a wonderful thing, right? And you’re gonna form these relationships, maybe lifelong relationships as a result of making the extra effort being there supporting one another. Thank you for taking the lead on that.
David Hirsch: So I’m thinking about advice, and I’m wondering if there’s any advice that you can offer a parent, a father in particular who maybe is close to the beginning of his journey, after getting a diagnosis, what would you suggest?
Joel Liestman: Yeah, the piece of advice that I would give, I think piggybacks on what you were just talking about. As an actor I’ve trained for years and have worked with some wonderful teachers, and one of the things we’re always trying to strive for is having that vulnerability and being vulnerable on stage or in front of the camera and all of that, that the word vulnerability means. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you invariably will allow yourself to be honest. And so I guess a piece of advice I would say is get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Get comfortable with being vulnerable, because that’s when you will find the honesty and to bring it all the way back to what I said at the beginning of this interview, when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and that honesty comes through, that’s when you can meet your kid where they are. And I feel like that might be a good encapsulation of how I am trying to approach, not always successfully, but how I’m trying to approach things.
David Hirsch: I love it. Thank you for sharing. So I’m curious now, why have you agreed to be a Special Fathers Network mentor father?
Joel Liestman: Because I believe in it. I believe in what dads can do. I believe that dads are important, that we can have this exciting, dynamic relationship with our kids, regardless of what their abilities are. I love being a dad. It is just, it’s the greatest thing. I love, I love being a dad and I want to see if I can help other dads.
Joel Liestman: I know that it’s hard being a dad of kids with special needs, and I just, if I can help another dad even just for a little bit, go, yeah, you know what, this is pretty great. It’s absolutely worth it. It’s worth the extra hours. It’s worth the time. It’s worth sitting in front of a computer screen over Zoom.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thank you for being part of the network. We’re very grateful for your involvement. I’m wondering if there’s anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Joel Liestman: I knew this question was coming and I just, I still, I don’t really I guess I’ll just reiterate once again that it’s okay when things aren’t going well. You’re not alone. You are having an experience that so many of us have had that type of experience, but your experience is still unique unto you. Tend to your emotions too. Don’t feel like everything has to be facts, figures, talking to doctors, talking to, reading, reading articles tend to your soul. Listen to a sad song. Watch a good movie. Heal your soul up a little bit. Talk to another dad.
David Hirsch: Great advice. Thank you. So let’s give a special shout out to Corey Ferguson for helping connect us.
Joel Liestman: Absolutely. Thank you, Corey.
David Hirsch: If somebody wants to learn more about William syndrome, Partnership Resources, Parent to Parent, or to contact you, what’s the best way to do that?
Joel Liestman: The best way to contact me is through my website at www.JoelLiestman .com. There you can find links to the organizations that I work with and my theater stuff too is there, my, my acting stuff is there, but I also have all my advocacy stuff there. Or just, just Google Family Voices of Minnesota and we’ll get you hooked up with with some awesome people.
David Hirsch: We’ll be sure to include all that in the show notes so it’ll make it as easy as possible for somebody to follow up. Joel, thank you for taking the time and many insights. As a reminder, Joel 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.
David Hirsch: If you’d like to be a mentor father, or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stCenturyDads.org. Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network Dad To Dad Podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did.
David Hirsch: As you probably know, the 21st Century Dads Foundation is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free to all concerned. Would you please consider making a tax deductible contribution? I would really appreciate your support. Joel, thanks again.
Joel Liestman: Thank you.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the Special Fathers Network Dad To Dad Podcast. 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 match up with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support other 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 would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com, groups, and search “dad to dad”. Lastly, we’re always looking to share 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: The Special Fathers Network Dad To Dad Podcast was produced by me, Tom Couch. Thanks again to Horizon Therapeutics who believe that science and compassion must work together to transform lives. That’s why they work tirelessly to research, develop, and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about Horizon Therapeutics at HorizonTherapeutics.com.