Host David Hirsch talks to special father, Tom Costello. Tom has twin 17 year-old boys, both with Autism. Tom tells us their story and how they’re both are blessed with incredible empathy. It’s a great listen and it’s all in this Dad to Dad Podcast, presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Dad to Dad 69 – Tom Costello Is The Father Of Incredible Twin Boys With Autism.
Tom Costello: I’ll give you one quick story about our son, Mike, who over the last couple of years have seen both Irene, his grandmother and my grandfather passed away. And at the end of their life, be at their homes and hospice. And to watch Mike. Go up and be interacting with them at the end of life and not be afraid of death, not be scared of death to have a big smile on his face while he’s doing it. Imagining what that meant to our grandparents and seeing him. Not be afraid and willing to hold hands and, and stay close to them.
Tom Couch: That’s Tom Costello, a father of twins, 17 year olds, who both are autistic. Tom tells his story to David Hirsch of raising two exceptionally empathetic boys on this 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: 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: And now let’s listen in on the conversation between special father, Tom Costello and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with my friend, Tom Costello of Frankford, Illinois. Who’s a father of twin boys and who works in Chicago as an investment manager at a family office.
Tom, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast for the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Costello: Happy to be here, David. Thanks for the invitation.
David Hirsch: You and your wife. Irene had been married for 18 years and the proud parents of twin 17 year old boys with autism. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up?
Tell me something about your family.
Tom Costello: Sure. I grew up in Orland park. And as you probably know, on the South side, you always mentioned where you live by parish. So I, part of st. Mike’s parish have a, a younger sister and a younger brother. So I’m in the middle of four kids. My mom and dad live in Frankfurt currently, and all of my siblings, except for my brother all live in the same area in the South suburbs.
So very tight knit family, you know, grew up loving and playing sports, all of us. And that was a big part of our growing up. And, you know, really had a pretty good childhood.
David Hirsch: Excellent. So you wouldn’t call your brother the black
Tom Costello: sheep of the family? No, Mike, uh, Mike is out in New York city doing very well.
He liked myself married up. He’s married to a Broadway actress. And so he and I both did it right by Marion great women and marrying up.
David Hirsch: Okay. So out of curiosity, what does your dad do for a living?
Tom Costello: So my father, he had his own sign business, which unfortunately. Was a struggle while we were growing up, ultimately did not pan out.
And then he changed careers right around the time we were in college and ended up selling insurance for the remainder of his career. And my mother, uh, she was a first grade teacher for 35 years. So probably the most important job. My younger sister, Becky, she also is a teacher. Third grade teacher. Out in the Orland park school district.
So really great career bass that they chose.
David Hirsch: Well, it’s something more we have in common. My mom was, there’s also a career educator. She taught
Tom Costello: for 38 years. Okay.
David Hirsch: She started in second grade for about a decade. Then she went down to first grade for about a decade. And then the last as part of her career, which is the most of her career.
She talks about Charlotte.
Tom Costello: Terrific.
David Hirsch: Yeah. So, uh, she, she was a patron Saint. She just had so much patience, right? Not only with me and my younger brother knuckleheads growing up, but, you know, with the students that you taught
Tom Costello: in the inner city. Absolutely. And,
David Hirsch: uh, you know, I really have a lot of admiration for
Tom Costello: teachers as do I, that’s an amazing career path and providing children, the gift of education is really remarkable.
And you mentioned patients. Unfortunately, I probably didn’t rub off on me. Um, but it was, uh, something that I, I certainly noticed and notice in my mom and my sister in particular are great
David Hirsch: women. Or your appearance still that
Tom Costello: they are, again, they live in Frankfurt, just a couple of doors down from us, which has been terrific.
And they’re in their late sixties. Unfortunately, my mother was recently diagnosed with ALS, so we are fighting that battle and she has done it with really the utmost grace and courage, and really been an inspiration to all of us in our extended family and our immediate family. And I’ll work. We’re fighting with her.
It’s a tough one, but you know, it’s amazing the challenges that you’re given in life, you see someone like her go through that and it really provides a lot of inspiration.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, best wishes to your mom. That is a pretty tough diagnosis. I’m hoping it’s one of them sort of milder situations. And it’s not as severe as some of the things you read about, but back to your dad, what type of relationship did you have or do you have with your dad?
Tom Costello: Yeah. You know, look, it’s had its ups and downs, you know, as a lot of times you can have with your parents when you have it tight, you know, very opinionated family, but we have a good relationship. Now it’s improved over the years, you know, we’ve, we’ve really benefited from, you know, an extended family that has really supported all of us, um, through or ups and downs.
And so, you know, I mentioned, unfortunately my father’s business, uh, was challenged. Financially, we have some challenging times. And, you know, despite that I have had grandparents who supported us and allowed myself and my siblings to go to college. When, you know, it was probably too difficult to afford on our own.
Which, you know, I greatly appreciate, and aunts and uncles who also supported us. And so, you know, when I look at our family today, there’s a real connection with our extended family, which is a really important piece of our life. And you know, my wife and I really appreciate all that has been given to us through, you know, both my extended family and her immediate family as well.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So I’m wondering when you think about your dad, if there’s some important takeaways, A lesson that you’ve learned along the way.
Tom Costello: Yeah. Yeah. Despite the hardships that we had, you know, I think there’s a level of work ethic and hunger that I draw on, you know, in a lot of ways you want to provide for your kids, everything that you can.
And certainly that’s mine and Irene his goal. But at the same time, you know, I look back on what we didn’t have growing up. And I think it gave myself and again, my siblings, a real hunger to. Go out and achieve on our own. And you know, nothing was really handed to us. You know, we all had jobs growing up and I think, you know, that that really builds character.
And I think it gives you a place to reflect on. As you have new challenges come up later in your life. You’re able to look back and see what you’ve overcome. And, you know, that’s been something that we’ve drawn on a lot, you know, more recently. Well,
David Hirsch: I think a good work ethic is one of those important criteria to pass on.
Right? Cause that’s not something that you hear about. That’s more something that you witness it’s important. So I’m wondering about your grandfather’s on your dad’s side and then your mom’s side, if they played an important role in your life as well.
Tom Costello: Yeah. So my grandfather on my dad’s side died relatively young.
I was a young boy when he passed away. So didn’t know him too well. I had the opportunity to know him until I was five or six years old when he passed. And my grandfather on my mother’s side was very influential in my life. He just passed away at 90 years old. Terrific man was an architect by trade and, you know, raised six kids of his own.
Oh, wow. My mom’s the oldest, you know, he really, what I’ve probably learned most from him, you know, he would always say the family unit and that was really what he preached from the Holy family down to, and really lived it in his life. Yeah. Some of my fondest memories are the holidays and going over to my grandparents’ house and being around our extended family, which is very big.
And really having fond memories of that to this day, myself and our siblings were very close with our cousins and now their kids, um, which you know, is, is really terrific and something that, you know, I view as a big gift in my life. And as I mentioned, you know, they were instrumental in. And giving me the gift of education and allowing me to go to the university of Chicago and which I looked back on my career.
And that was a huge stepping stone for me to be able to have the career that I have today and be able to provide for my family. So very big influence in my life. Terrific man. Excellent.
David Hirsch: Well, coincidentally, um, it was my maternal grandfather as well. That’s played an important role in my life and he lived to age 93.
I got to know him, not only as a young guy. But, you know, as an adult as well. And I cherish that relationship similarly to, I think the way you were talking about your grandfather as
Tom Costello: well. I should also mention I was a pretty young guy when I met Irene. We met, um, at the act test, believe it or not. So I was, uh, I was 17 years old or Irene and I were both 17 years old when we met.
And so, you know, in a lot of ways, Her parents have been big influences on my life. And Green’s father has an amazing story. He’s an immigrant from Korea, Maryland, and left Wednesday. He was 17 years old, uh, his home country and ultimately saved up enough money to come to America. And became a very successful builder and I had the opportunity and he was kind enough to hire me over summers when I was in high school.
So I got the taste of a real labor. Yeah. I always say I have job. I don’t go to work. Uh, cause I’ve gone to work and you know, that’s a, that’s a tough career, but you know, him giving me that opportunity and, and to learn from him and see one, what. Real hard work can do and create and to, to have the opportunity to do that in this country.
You know, I know he’s extremely grateful of it. He’s been so generous with us and with our children and with his kids, he and Pam have five kids. My wife’s the oldest of five. And so, um, another huge influence on me, uh, being a young man and having met him. Okay. Done for us.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So I’m wondering if there’s any other father figures while you were growing up, or maybe even more recently that have played an influential role in addition to your dad, in addition to your mother?
Tom Costello: Sure. Yeah. You know, I’m not sure I’d call them father figures, but certainly mentors in my career, probably too many dimension here, but really from, you know, from when I was a young man to, you know, today I’ve had people who have lifted me up and helped me as mentors. Uh, for my entire career. And you know, one of the things I really, uh, look forward to most is now having that opportunity to, to help train and, and work with younger professionals and hopefully give them the same opportunities that I’ve I’ve had in my career.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So you went to the university of Chicago, undergrad, and you also want there to the booth school to get your MBA. And you’ve had a pretty impressive career originally at Lehman brothers than at William Blair. Back to business school. And then, uh, Robert w dot Baird, before you went to the Duchess, well, a family office.
And what type of work do you do there?
Tom Costello: So I primarily focus on acquiring, um, privately held businesses and, uh, we look to make investments in those companies and help them grow. And the family, the Dutch SWAT family, longtime owners and operators of businesses. So it’s really drawing on their legacy and experience and apply it.
And that’s a companies today and it’s been a, you know, one of the great. Honors and privileges in my life to be able to work for them. I’ve learned a ton in the two and a half years, even though I’m, you know, in the middle part of my career, you know, the last two and a half years I’ve been there, just been fabulous.
I’ve won it. So.
David Hirsch: So let’s switch gears and talk about special needs initially on a personal basis and then beyond. And I’m wondering before Mike and John were born, who are now 17, if you or Irene had any connection to the special needs community.
Tom Costello: Yeah, I’d say, uh, limited. And it was limited. Um, one of the. Partners. I worked with when I, back when I was at William Blair capital had a son with autism, and that was, you know, for the most part, really the closest connection I have to autism in particular.
My sister, Jenny has been a long time supporter of special Olympics actually recently over the last couple of years, she was the chairman of special Olympics, Illinois. And she started her work with special Olympics back when she was in college. So I had some exposure to that, but really far less informed then certainly when the boys were diagnosed and we got very involved in the case.
David Hirsch: an aside about special Olympics that Dave Breen, who on special Olympics as the executive director, as a good friend and a great advocate of
Tom Costello: his special father’s network
David Hirsch: and was one of the first people we reached out to, we are contemplating this and it’s not lost on me that there’s like 35,000 families that are somehow or another connected to special Olympics.
So anyway, it’s
Tom Costello: amazing organization. Dave is an amazing man at that. The privilege of meeting him multiple times, really what he’s done and what the organization has done to grow and support this community is second to none. It’s really terrific. And my guys are athletes, so we benefit from it directly.
And that’s one of my favorite things to do is to go and, and watch them compete and the satisfaction again on a competing. It’s pretty fun. That’s awesome.
David Hirsch: So let’s go back in time a little bit. Um, How was it that the twins were diagnosed? What age were they and what was going on back then?
Tom Costello: You’re right around, I’d say 15 months.
Um, we noticed that they were having developmental delays with speech occupationally. And so we, we had a sense that something was going on one,
David Hirsch: or did you notice that
Tom Costello: above that? Both of them. Okay. We did. Um, they are identical twins, so no, the fact that one was delayed, uh, wasn’t overly surprising that both of them would kind of be in the same, same position.
And so we started with speech therapy and occupational therapy and physical therapy. When they were 15 to 18 months old. And then as they got a little bit older, you know, they were officially diagnosed with autism around their third birthday, third or fourth birthday. And, you know, even over time, it’s, it’s been really interesting for us because not that there is such a thing as classic autism, but.
That’s not really their handicap today. Surprisingly, it’s really their intellectual disability. And, you know, that’s really the, the challenge that they face every day. No, a lot of kids, for instance, that we know that have quote on quote, classic autism. And again, that’s, that’s a bad word because there isn’t such a thing, but you know, have real trouble with outside stimulus and.
You know, being able to communicate effectively and you know that that’s not really our guys, our guys are, that’d be ability to be out in the community and. Go to a sporting event and not be overwhelmed by the crowd noise and the lights and all of the stuff going on, which is stimulus overload for anyone, for me, they’re able to, they’re able to, to manage that for yeah.
Well, and you know, they’re able to communicate fairly effectively. And so, you know, it’s been an interesting journey for Irene and I, because we had this initial diagnosis of autism. And we’ve addressed that to the best of our ability. And over time, it sort of manifested itself in a couple of different ways.
So, you know, that’s been interesting for us. Okay. So what was your first reaction
David Hirsch: learning of a diagnosis?
Tom Costello: You know, for me, there was a level of understanding that there was something wrong, but it was also just a label. If that makes sense. And it didn’t really change who they were for me. So it was helpful in the sense that I think we were able to have a better understanding of what tools we might need to help them along this journey.
But at the end of the day, for me, it was just, okay, this is what they have. Here’s how we might be able to go help them. But it really doesn’t change who they are. And autism in particular is so ingrained in who people are and their personalities. It’s really hard to sort of dissect the two. And so certainly tough because I think all parents look ahead and they want to project out where their children are going to be.
And. Whether there’ll be independent and how they can be independent. And, you know, I think for us, you know, that reality hit that they may not be fully independent at some point in the future. And so it changes your mindset a little bit on what goals you have in the short term, in the longterm. And, you know, honestly, in a lot of ways, it’s a blessing too, because you recalibrate what’s important and you recalibrate what successes.
And we’ve done that along the way. It’s an interesting, special blessing in a lot of ways you
David Hirsch: mentioned that this was your reaction, right? It was just a label. And that, you know, you’ve seen a little bit of a silver lining. I’m wondering if Irene had similar reaction when you first had the diagnosis? Yeah,
Tom Costello: no, look, I think it was, it was a little harder for Irene, you know, we’re different people in a lot of ways and.
You know, she is very much a planner and that’s, what’s great about her then that’s why we work together because she’s always has everything planned out and thank God for that. Cause that is not me. Um, and so I think it would goes a little bit harder for her to come to grips with, well, what does all this mean?
And, you know, despite that she moved into action immediately and you know, I think it’s due to her efforts. Uh, which I’ll talk about in a second, that our guys are in the best spot they can be today and looking forward. And so, you know, one of the really interesting things about Irene is she, after she graduated from the university of Chicago, she had an opportunity to go work for Citadel.
The large hedge fund here in town had a great career going on. And when the boys were, were diagnosed and she put her career on hold. To really help the boys and take care of them so much so that she went back to school and got her master’s in speech pathology and became a practice in speech path. And she did that for five years.
And then as the boys got to junior high and we’re getting them repaired for high school, she put that part of her career on hold still keeps all of them, the licenses. I think she’ll go back and practice at some point to really focus on them and make sure they were ready for high school. And so, yeah, you know, despite the.
Very tough diagnosis early on. It’s really been an inspiration to watch her move into action and put everything in her life on hold so that she can make sure that our guys are in the best spot available and, um, you know, real credit to her. Yes,
David Hirsch: that’s fabulous. Thanks for sharing. I’m wondering if there’s any meaningful advice that you got really on, whether it’s from a doctor or one of the therapists that you were working with.
Tom Costello: Yeah. You know, I think for us, um, one of the families that had a child with autism who was a little bit older than us, one of the things that they had told us, which really rang true, I think with us was don’t put limitations on your children. Um, despite this diagnosis, don’t put limitations on them.
Continue to challenge them to be the people you want them to be, to have the success you want them to have. You know, that was, that was really important because cause again, especially with, uh, an autism dog analysis, um, the spectrum is so wide, there is no one path that makes sense for everyone. And so, you know, in a lot of ways, Irene and I’ve worked really hard to.
Raise the boys too, you know, despite their handicap have the same values as us and respect people the same way that we try and respect people. And when they step out of line, we still try and correct that. And it’s not always easy because there’s a lack of understanding in some cases of why they’re being scolded or reprimanded.
But we still work really hard to give them the tools to live their life the best way possible. And so we haven’t put a limit on what they can do. I think we’re realistic about where they will ultimately end up. And so we keep that in the back of our mind, but we try and challenge them every day. And.
Make sure that they have that sense of satisfaction and gratification of accomplishing challenging tasks and goals. And so that probably more so than anything early on was a great piece of advice and someone I would recommend to anyone else who’s going through the same journey. Well, I think that
David Hirsch: I’ve heard that, uh, often that you don’t want to set limitations and you want to.
Challenge your kids, whether they’re typical or not, and hold them to standards,
Tom Costello: high
David Hirsch: standards and, uh, not doing so can handicap a child
Tom Costello: that’s right. That might already
David Hirsch: have handicaps or a typical child. Okay. As well. So pearls of wisdom. Thank you. So I’m wondering if there were some important decisions you made as parents of children with special needs.
In addition to the fact that Irene has obviously dedicated a very large amount of our time and energy to becoming a speech pathologist and really being out on the, uh, how did that
Tom Costello: occur if you will? Sure. I think the most important decision we made early on was where to live and raise the boys. When they were originally diagnosed, as you mean, I might imagine Irene and I, I went into a mode of, well, what’s the best schooling they can have.
And where is that located? And we found some really terrific places, um, outside of the South suburbs of Chicago that would have required a move. And, you know, we ultimately made the decision that being closer to that family network, that family unit. Was a better and more important part of their upbringing than the best school, the best education.
And boy, when I look back on that now, I, I want to have changed that decision for the world. And a big reason for that is, you know, at some point, no, the boys are going to have to live without us. And I think by being around this extended family, that’s very large family, all of these different people and personalities over the course of their life.
We have hopefully prepared them to live at a time when Irene R and I are no longer around. And I think it’s given them the ability to have as independent whole life as they can, and be comforted for both with that. And so, you know, in addition to, I think providing them those tools to be around, around, and interact with very different people and having them be comfortable with that.
You know, the fun part of all of that has been watching the joy they bring to others. And, you know, I would love at some point to pull our family and just have them sort of give a memory of the boys, something that stands out and bled. I almost guarantee every single one has a pretty cool or special story about how one of them made them laugh or give them a hug at the right time, or, you know, so I think it’s been great two way street okay.
Of our family providing a lot for the boys, but then the boys also giving back. Unknowingly, but giving back a whole lot to us, uh, it’s been really, really cool to watch.
David Hirsch: That would be a fun project to pursue.
Tom Costello: Yeah.
David Hirsch: And I don’t know what the timing of that would be, but I always think about things like no time, like the present.
Yeah. Right. Because not everybody is going to be around
Tom Costello: that’s. Right. You know,
David Hirsch: if you have some elderly relative,
Tom Costello: well, their high school graduation is coming up. So I think, uh, if Irene you’re listening, I just gave you a project.
David Hirsch: That’s a good one. So not to focus on the negative, but I’m wondering what some of the biggest challenges, even cognitive,
Tom Costello: you know, the boys operate at a level where they really can’t ever be on their own or fully independent.
Why is that? They cognitively just operate at a level that they can’t fully appreciate when. There’s a harmful situation that they’re in there naive, but that naive it’s say also makes them very, very sweet and enjoyed a be around, but it can put them in dangerous situations that they don’t fully understand or grasp.
And so, you know, one of the challenges have been just. Now and for the foreseeable future and maybe for the rest of their life, always needing someone to be there with them. That’s watching over them and making sure that they aren’t putting themselves in danger or harm’s way. And so that’s a challenge, but you know, again, the, the flip side of that is we’ve been extreme.
I’m really fortunate because they’re fun to be around. And so we’ve had a lot of interest and support and people taking on that role. To be around them and take them places and to spend time with them and to be comfortable, making sure that they’re okay. You know, that’s probably the, the thing that I always think about, well, that concerns me is, is when I Irene and I are no longer doing this as someone going to make sure or that they are watching out for them.
And they’re not going to put themselves in harm’s way in any way. Which is, you know, which is hard. It’s hard to think about. And, you know, we’re working on finding those right situations for them, where they can, uh, they can be around the right people for the long term. That’s great.
David Hirsch: So one question that came to mind is, are they getting mainstream
Tom Costello: in school?
David Hirsch: Are they in special classrooms?
Tom Costello: Oh yeah. Great question. Um, so we are in the Lincoln way school district. Uh, we moved there. About 11 years ago, specifically to be in the Lincoln way school district. And we did a lot of research. Once we decided we wanted to stay in the South suburbs, be around our family network.
We started looking at what school districts would be the best in that area. And we quickly came to the realization that Lincoln way was the right spot. That has been a godsend. One of the things we really like about their high school is they have a self contained classroom. With four other peers and very good.
It’s sort of a tension with almost a one to one teacher to student ratio. But the other thing that they do, and we we’ve noticed some maturity in the boys since high school is they will get them together with the typical students for different parts of the day. Those can be the non curriculum classes, like physical education, art for lunch, for instance.
So those types of situations allow them to interact with. Typical peers. And, you know, we’ve really enjoyed watching them mature. Now it could be just their getting older as well, but we put a lot of value on that and think that they’ve started to see how to behave as a teenager, a young adult, and seeing some of their peers do that.
We’ve noticed some growth in them as well. So we’ve been really, really happy with our school situation. It’s been terrific. So I’m just
David Hirsch: thinking about the age of your boys. They’re 17. And there’s a Rite of passage, at least for most people that age and it has to do with driving. And I’m wondering how you’ve addressed that
Tom Costello: situation.
So, um, we’re fortunate in that they’re not looking to drive. They love driving with us and getting out into the community, but they have not asked us to drive. And so. We’re fortunate in that regard, because we don’t feel like we’re taking anything away from them. Surprisingly though, our interestingly though, they do have interest in cars, both know all makes and models of cars that you can imagine it.
So I think so where their back of their mind, you know, they probably would like to do that, but you know, at least to this point, they haven’t really been pushing us to try and get behind the wheel.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, every situation is different. And along the lines of what you were saying earlier about not having any limits, right?
Don’t put any limits on your kids. You know, I do know of a number of kids who have autism, who drive and independently drive. I’m not saying that that will be your situation, but you know, learning how to drive. Just for the sake of learning doesn’t mean that you’re gonna be driving. Right. Right. And, uh, you know, I’m sort of curious to see how that plays out over the years, because if they have an interest in cars, they’re probably going to connect those dots.
Tom Costello: I would imagine at some point.
David Hirsch: So, um, I’m curious to know if there’s any other supporting organizations in addition to special Olympics, which we talked about earlier that played an instrumental role in the boys’ development.
Tom Costello: Yes, the Lincoln way, special rec association, which the boys have been going to since we moved out to the Frankfurt area.
So the LWS sorry, an amazing organization. That is where the boys can be and special Olympics. That’s the organization they compete through and both of them swim, run, track. Son, John does botchy ball. Okay. Just funny. That’s his speed.
David Hirsch: Uh,
Tom Costello: yeah, that’s great. Yeah, exactly. And that is one of the special Olympic events where they do that, where there’s a special 1:00 PM and then appear, which is a lot of fun.
So that’s good. And then in addition to that, they have social events, dances, and they have a teen club that they go to every Saturday. And so. That organization has been terrific. They’ve developed great friends. I read and I have developed great friends through that organization. And it’s something that they will continue to participate in for as long as we live in that area, really can’t say enough great things about Keith who runs the organization and all the people that work there, you know, daily.
David Hirsch: so I’d like to switch gears a little bit and go beyond your own personal experience of one of the things that, uh, you had shared with me in a prior conversation is this twin hearts, autism foundation. And I think you were quick to give Irene. Most of the credit for that. So what is it, when did it start?
What’s its mission visit, serve, et cetera.
Tom Costello: We started 10 years ago. We just had our 10th anniversary this past summer, and it really started out of the idea that when I read would be. When she was a speech path, she worked in the early intervention program in Illinois and she would go to her students’ homes.
And, you know, a lot of them did not have the same means that we’re fortunate enough to have. In addition to that, she had a lot of students who would phase out at three years old and not have the ability to continue on with the. We’re required speech or OT or PT needs that they clearly needed. And so the idea really stemmed from her suggesting that, that we should find a way to help those that are less fortunate dealing with special needs and those families.
And so it’s evolved over time, but that was the original idea. And, you know, we’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of support over the years. And what we’ve done is we’ve raised capital every year and then supported either individuals or families or organizations that support special needs families or individuals, and provided that capital to hopefully.
Provide special experiences or financial support for things like therapies that these families want to have on their own. It’s been one of the most rewarding things. I think that Irene and I have done, and again, she does 99% of the work. It is an organization where every single dollar we raise goes back to support the cause.
We don’t take any salaries. Our boards don’t take any salaries, so it’s all on donation and. Donation of time and donation of capital from our supporters. And so it’s really been terrific and, you know, hopefully in a small way, we’ve helped some of those families that, you know, aren’t as fortunate as us.
David Hirsch: fabulous. I’m wondering how do you raise
Tom Costello: money? So we’re a fundraiser think big event, one, usually one big event a year where we do a golf outing. And a dinner dance. Okay. We sold it out every year since we started. So, you know, a great fun way for people to get out and enjoy themselves and support a good cause.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So I’m wondering
Tom Costello: what role spirituality has played in your lives? Yeah, very big one, Karina and I both grew up Catholic and remain Catholic and you know, it’s interesting, you know, we look at the boys and a lot of ways as angels, honestly. And we think that way because of the level of empathy they have for people, they truly in a lot of ways act and walk like Christ.
And in a lot of ways have taught us and me in particular, how to hopefully be a better Christian. I’ll give you one quick story about our son, Mike, who over the last couple of years have seen both Irene, his grandmother and my grandfather passed away. And at the end of their life, be at their homes hospice.
And to watch Mike. Go up and be interacting with them at the end of life, not be afraid of death, not be scared of death and to have a big smile on his face while he’s doing it. And that level of empathy and imagining what that meant to our grandparents and seeing him. Not be afraid and willing to hold hands and, and stay close to them.
You know, I imagine the way, you know, Jesus would do it himself. And so we’ve been extremely blessed and fortunate that they were brought into our life. And in a lot of ways, teach us how to, how to act like God did. And so just, uh, uh, amazing, amazing young people to not look at individuals and judge them too.
Have empathy, like I said before, those are the, probably their best qualities and have certainly helped me reflect on my own interactions with people. And I think hopefully that made me a better person too.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. That’s a very powerful story about Mike. And just to be clear, you’re referring to them as you are grandparents.
Tom Costello: They’re great would be their great
David Hirsch: grandparents, which is even another blessing. Right. Amazing fact, that there’s four generations.
Tom Costello: Yeah. It’s very neat. It’s uh, you know, one of the, one of the coolest things that we’ve been able to experience, so
David Hirsch: I’m thinking about advice and I’m wondering if there’s some important takeaways that come to mind, you’d like to share about raising a child with different.
Tom Costello: So I would say a couple of things. You know, one is the piece of advice that I received early on about limitations. Although a diagnosis like autism or any special needs diagnosis is scary. Embrace it and try and understand the unique qualities. If it’s that these individuals can bring into your life. I guess I have learned far more.
I’m sure from my kids than I have taught them. And I think it’s allowed me to be a better person. So trying to see the good and all of the difficulties that happen. And then for those individuals that, you know, have a spouse or a partner to try and find time together. Because as you know, most people know who live with special needs children.
The world really revolves around them. And it needs to, and it should because they’re a special people in our lives that need the most help at the same time. You know, I think one of the things that has really helped and benefited mine and Irene relationship as, than the ability to step outside of that for you even small moments in time, and to make sure that we’re focused on each other and we are.
And this is not lost on, on either of us that we’ve been extremely fortunate to have willing and capable family members to spend time with the boys so we can get away. And not everyone has that benefit, but you know, some of our favorite moments are. Putting the boys to bed and, you know, watching a show together and just, you know, spending that time together, quiet moments where, you know, we make sure that we’re on the same page and supporting each other, I think has been really, really important.
And the biggest you, no reason for that is I know certainly I could not do this alone. I need her in my life as my partner to make sure those boys have the best opportunity in their life going forward. And so we’ve chosen to do it together and it’s been, you know, that ability to spend a little bit of time away here and there, um, to focus on each other.
That’s really helped us. I think
David Hirsch: you didn’t use the term respite, but that’s what comes to mind, whether it’s the symbol moments like you were referring to, like when the boys go to bed, You can focus on your relationship and with your extended family. It sounds like you might’ve been able to actually go to dinner and have somebody watch the boys, or maybe go for a weekend someplace or, you know, maybe celebrating anniversary.
Sure. You know, um, and know that they were being well kept.
Tom Costello: Um,
David Hirsch: and I think that that point about being intentional. How about the rest, but even if you don’t think about it as restaurant, but you mentioned it, it’s just that you’re focused on your relationship is super important.
Tom Costello: Yeah, no, I would, I would completely agree.
And it’s moments like those, we, we certainly look forward to and we’ve been fortunate enough to have some of those. Some sort of curious to know.
David Hirsch: Why is it that you’ve agreed to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network?
Tom Costello: Now, you know, when you and I first met David and you were talking about the organization, you know, something really resonated with me, which is.
I’m not sure I can provide the best advice. I’m certainly not the best father in the world, but I look back on my life and all of the mentors that I’ve had, whether it’s in my athletic career or my professional career, the people that have helped me get to and where I am today, because I couldn’t do it alone.
I still remember and think of, and stay in touch with fondly and yeah. You know, to have that opportunity to. In a small way, maybe give back a little bit, you know, it’s something that I’m really excited to do. And again, I, I’m not sure you’ve got to provide the best advice, but I certainly can share my experiences.
So, you know, it’s, it’s really just, um, one, you know, personally wanting to do that and to, um, I do think there are. Real opportunities to find real benefit and skillset and folks who are atypical and I think a huge way for that to happen. And it is for their parents to provide those opportunities. And so, yeah, no, in a small way, if I can touch it, you know, the life of a special needs individual through a parent, I think that that can be really helpful.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. That’s not like me that your boys are 17. No doubt. You can be a lot of help to another dad who has sons or daughters for that matter, the tree younger than your voice, but you still have some milestones ahead of you. So I’m thrilled that you’re willing to be a mentor. But recognize that maybe there’s some more seniors, the guys in the network who might be able to mentor you as well.
Right. They’ve already made those transitions because you know, one of those coming up, you know, five years or so from now, is that transition once all the educational and other resources that are available through age 22, Are gone then what? Right. You know, then you’re thinking about transition and living situation, etcetera.
And there’s a lot of guys with a network who have already been there and done that. So I’m hoping that you’ll be able to benefit as well.
Tom Costello: Absolutely.
David Hirsch: So let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend,
Kim Duchess, Walter, putting us in contact with one another. She’s an amazing person.
Tom Costello: Very amazing and really, really happy when she reached out to me and suggested that we get together.
Yeah, that was really kind of her to do that. And it’s been a pleasure getting to know you better and developing this friendship. So we owe that to her. Absolutely.
David Hirsch: So is there anything else you’d like to say before?
Tom Costello: Yeah. You know, I think for, uh, I would just say, um, we’ve really been blessed to have both Mike and John in our lives and, you know, despite the challenges that go along with raising, uh, Special needs child.
As I mentioned earlier, it is, it is really a blessing and we’ve been able to, to navigate this with a lot of help. We certainly didn’t do it alone and we won’t do it alone. And there’s a long way road ahead. But the joy that they bring to our wife are outweighs. I’m sure the joy we bring to their life and.
That’s hard to see when you are young and they’re young and there’s a difficult diagnosis, but wow. When you, when you actually go through it and then you look back at over time, it’s really special. And it’s, and it’s very, very neat. And so we’re just so happy that we have them in our lives. It’s really a blessing.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing. If somebody wants to learn more about the twin hearts, autism foundation, or contact you, how would they go about doing that?
Tom Costello: www.twinhearts.org right on there.
David Hirsch: So Tom, thank you for taking the time and many insights. As a reminder, Tom is just one of the dads who has agreed to be a mentor father as 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, a father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21st century dads.org. Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Networkdad to dad podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did, as you probably know.
The 21st Century Dads Foundation is a 501 c3 nonprofit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free. To all concerned, please consider making. A tax deductible donation today, I would really appreciate your support. You can also post a review on iTunes as well as share the podcast with family and friends and subscribe.
So you’ll get a reminder when each podcast is produced. Tom. Thanks again.
Tom Costello: Thank you.
Tom Couch: And 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. 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. That’s 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: If you enjoyed this podcast, please be sure to like us on Facebook and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen.
The dad to dad podcast is produced by Couch Audio for the Special Fathers Network. Thanks for listening.