In this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast, host David Hirsch talks to Special Father David Hall, the founder of Life Guides For Autistics and Neuroguides. David has three children who are all on the Autism spectrum and more recently discovered he is too. We’ll hear some sage advice and pearls of wisdom from David in this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. Here’s our host, David Hirsch.
Jeff Erlinger with Mr. Rogers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BZlyxS37Kk
Find out more about the Autism spectrum at https://neuroclastic.com
Find out more about Neuroguides at https://neuroguides.org
SFN 98 – David Hall Autism Advocate Who Also Has 3 Children On The Autism Spectrum
David Hall: Each of my children have their own wonderful gifts. And it has taken me many years of diligence study of their personhood to discover what their gifts are. But we’re in a place now where they’re applying themselves according to their own personal strengths and not seeing their autism as a crushing disability, but rather as a place to start from, and that there are strengths involved in that particular neurological profile. And, um, I believe that they’re going to have a great future. I really do.
Tom Couch: That’s special father David Hall, the founder of Life Guides for autistics and neuro guides. David has three children who are all on the autism spectrum and we’ll hear some Sage advice and pearls of wisdom from David. All in 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 Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: Special father’s 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. It’s to support dads to find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if your 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.
David Hall: And now let’s listen in to this conversation between our guest David Hall and our hosts, David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with David Hall of Olympia Washington, who is the father of three and who is the founder of life guides for autistics and neuro guides.
David, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
David Hall: You’re quite welcome. Quite welcome. Glad to be here.
David Hirsch: You and your former wife are the proud parents of three Asher, 19 Danny 18, and Levi 16, all three of your children. We’re on the autism spectrum. And you learn more recently yourself around the autism spectrum.
Yes. Let’s start with some background. Tell me, where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
David Hall: Thank you, David. I grew up mostly in Texas. My dad was, uh, with the treasury department and now retired. So I got used to moving. We moved around quite a bit, but again, born in Lubbock, Texas. I didn’t know if any of your folks listening in for West Texas, so, and then moved to quite a bit after that.
David Hirsch: Okay. So you mentioned that your dad is a. Former treasury department. What did he do for the treasury?
David Hall: Yeah, he was a bank examiner, worked for the treasury for, for many years. And, uh, I can’t, I remember moving, moving around quite a bit because the federal government required their folks to move to different regions as they were working with different banks.
David Hirsch: Is your dad still alive?
David Hall: Yes, he is my mom and dad lived in the Texas Hill country and they have done their best to stay isolated. They’re on the ranch during the pandemic times.
David Hirsch: So if they’re on the ranch, that means they’ve been practicing social distancing just because
David Hall: they have, yes.
David Hirsch: So this is not a big stretch for them as it might be for people that live in Dallas or Houston or places like that.
David Hall: Yeah, they they’ve kinda got it down.
David Hirsch: Okay. So how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
David Hall: I think my relationship with my own dad has been transformative over the years. We have come to a place of understanding and peace. I remember messaging my dad recently a piece I’d read from. Mr. Fred Rogers that said that fathers oftentimes don’t understand that their own sons are written in a different, uh, on a different page of music than one that they’re familiar with.
And so it’s to, to us as dads to, uh, try and understand that first and then try and understand that each person has their own unique. Uh, strands in the narrative of their life. And I think that’s where I’ve come to place with my own dad is, is that he understands me now. And I understand him and we’ve, we’ve just reached a place of a very quiet, appreciation and love.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. I’m wondering when you think about your dad, if there’s any important takeaways, something he said or did something you find yourself doing for that matter?
David Hall: I think just a consistency of presence that he. Always made the opportunity. Our boys made the effort to show up, to be there to be present.
I think that that’s one of the quiet and very understated things that we can do as dads is just, uh, even if we don’t get it right. We still show up and try.
David Hirsch: Yeah, that’s a really good point. I talk a lot about the importance of being present. Uh, financially is what the state cares about, but more importantly, uh, being present physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Yes. Unfortunately that’s just not the case for way too many kids growing up in America. Their dads are not only, not physically and financially present, but you know, our kids are. You know, and too many cases, you know, a bit aimless.
David Hall: Yes.
David Hirsch: So, uh, thank you, Graham. Thank you for emphasizing that. So, um, from a other father figures standpoint, did your grandfather’s either on your dad or your mom’s side play a role in your life?
David Hall: You know, my grandfathers were very gentle and just insightful presence in my life. I was. Privileged and blessed to experience so many years with grandparents. My, my parents being relatively young when they had me afforded me to know my grandparents, I even had a relationship and knew, well, in fact, it was writing letters to my great.
Grandmother for many years, we wrote letters back and forth, but I knew my grandparents, my grandfather’s grandmothers. And, uh, yes, they played a, played a pivotal role in just being great encouragers. They were great supports. They shared a lot of their life wisdom with me and I endeavored to be a good listener.
David Hirsch: fabulous. Um, Any pearls of wisdom that you can recall or that, you know, coming to mind.
David Hall: I appreciate you asking that from my grandma and dad for Raymond, I remember his sharing, the story of how he gave up, how you had to drop out of school to provide for his own parents. And he worked on a bread wagon.
He was an assistant driver, and this is back when they had. Horses pulling the bread wagon for deliveries. And he said that something happened to the driver and he was asked to step up and become the driver. And the long story short is that he did that. And years later, he owned the bread company. Oh, my, and it was a large bread company in West Texas, and he retired doing that.
So from him, I got just the, that great drive and being able to see beyond life’s current circumstances and being able to see how that if we are diligent, if we’re faithful, if we, if we give it our best effort, sometimes we’re not just driving the wagon. Sometimes we’re driving the whole. The whole fleet of wagons.
And from my other grandfather, I just remember a very quiet presence. He was a teacher and he was a citizen soldier, uh, in world war II. He was an infantry man at the battle of the bulge. And from him just took in, uh, the ability to face a very hard life, uh, oftentimes with great dignity. And, uh, caring for others.
A lot of compassion there.
David Hirsch: What great role models. Um, that’s fabulous. Thank you for sharing. I know that in a prior conversation and you made reference to them earlier, um, one of the other sort of father figures or influencers, I can call them that is Fred Rogers. And I’m wondering what’s the backstory there.
David Hall: Right. Yeah. I so appreciate you asking that, David. I, uh, I actually have, uh, not with me right now, but I have a Fred Rogers coffee mug that’s covered with his sayings and I oftentimes just read them as I’m sipping my cup of Joe. It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood.
I, and, and actually in my study, uh, I, which where all my books are, I have a portrait of Fred Rogers hanging above my desk. So, uh, yes, he’s, he’s important to me. You know, I don’t recall exactly where I intersected with Fred Rogers. I do remember as a child watching some of his, uh, shows on PBS. I was always impressed with the fact that though it would be very easy to write off what Fred Rogers had to say as being for children.
He always spoke to the fact that we are all children we’re just in older bodies. And Fred always saw that. He said that, you know, even though. We’re older. Uh, he always saw the child within each of us. And I think that that is, uh, for me personally, is a fantastic view and perspective to have, particularly as we endeavor to love and intersect and, and be present in the lives of our own children to just remember to see them as children and always look for that.
And I know that gets complicated. I know it can often be very frustrating and there’s so many things to deal with, but that’s something I have always taken away from Fred Rogers is that ability to see others. First of all, his children and each having a story of their own.
David Hirsch: Is there a particular, uh, aspect of Fred Rogers story, his life that, um, has had more influence for you than others?
David Hall: I remember writing an article fairly recently, and I think you can see it on it’s published on LinkedIn and also on a site called neuroplastic.com. And I’m sure David, you can provide that link after the show. But I remember writing a piece about Fred Rogers and his ability to see others as distinct and unique, fully human persons.
And there was an episode in which Fred bought onto his show unannounced. I think his team is his crew knew about this, but Fred Rogers had a way of just doing things. Uh, he was definitely a Maverick and Trenton and he brought onto his show, a young man named Jeff and Jeff was a severely, physically disabled in a wheelchair.
And to us today that may not sound any bit like any big deal, but you have to understand at the time that was. Something that just was not done at all. You didn’t bring anyone with physical disabilities onto a television show and he did it and he did it, not for ratings, but he did it for the demonstration that, uh, Jeff was a fully human person that he had a voice of his own.
And if you had, it seemed that show, you might recall that, uh, Fred and Jeff, uh, sang a song together. I think I know who that is.
thank you very much for coming by. I asked Jay, this is my friend, Jeff Erlinger. He’s one of my neighbors here and I asked him if he would come by today because I wanted. Would you to meet him and I wanted you to see his electric wheelchair. Well, I have a lot of things going on when you were, this just shows you a lot of things when you’re handicapped, but most of the time, and sometimes it happens when you’re not,
David Hirsch: of course,
David Hall: but you’re able to talk about this so well and help other people who might have the same kinds of things.
Do you know that song? I think it’s ULI. I’d like to sing that to you and with you, it’s you,
it’s not the things you way, it’s not the way you do your hair
the way, the way.
Not your fancy chair.
And it was just his powerful demonstration of Fred Rogers, the ability to see other persons regardless of their disabilities, as a complete and unique human person. And I think that, that one in particular, that demonstration stuck with me more than anything else. And I, I will not ever forget that.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous.
Well, thanks for sharing. We’ll attach that to the show notes, for sure. So from what I remember from an educational standpoint, uh, you went to Sam Houston state university, and then you also have a masters from covenant theological
David Hall: seminary. And I’m wondering
David Hirsch: when you finished your education, Where was your career pointing you?
Where did that take you?
David Hall: Well, it’s a, it’s been an interesting journey. I remember distinctly when I was about to graduate from covenant theological seminary, with a master of divinity thinking that my future road ahead was going to be in a pastoral setting. And I remember conversations with colleagues and with mentors saying that, uh, they thought that that would be a fine idea, but I believe that I had unique strengths and gifts that would take me beyond that and are into the different venue.
And I remember saying no, no, thank you for that, but I’ll be my own thing. And so I went to a service of several organizations as a development officer, raising funds and speaking strategically for organizations. And that of course, opened a doorway for me. Uh, as I served, uh, organizations internationally.
To understanding the impact that was possible with nonprofit work and, uh, was the doorway, the impetus possibly to my decision a few years ago to start my own organization.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s fabulous. And you’re very humble. I know that you had done some work for the boy Scouts of America for quite a few years.
Yes. A missionary care ministry in Athens, Georgia, a mission to the world. Uh, and in fact, rotary international
David Hall: that’s right,
David Hirsch: right here in our backyard here in Chicago, up in Evanston. So, uh, That’s very close to my heart as well. We’ll talk a little bit further about a life guides for autistics and neuro guides in a few minutes, but I’m wondering from a special needs standpoint, first on a personal level, and then beyond, before Asher was diagnosed, did you have any experience with the special needs committee?
David Hall: I remember having a bit of. Intersection with special needs community, but not in a formal way. I was always someone who wanted to reach out to people with special needs, but not, not anything in a formal sense. At that point, it was actually the, uh, You know, the birth of my first child and subsequent diagnostics that brought me into a full intersection with that community.
Yeah. And from that, even when my first child, my, my oldest son was young, I remember. Uh, stepping up to take over a leadership role in the called friendship class, which was a group of about 40 or fifties, uh, often severely disabled adults, physically disabled and intellectually disabled adults. And I remember working with that group and, uh, that was a, uh, heart expanding experience and it brought me a lot of joy.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So, um, you know, going back to Asher, what was your first reaction to the diagnosis? Uh, how old was he, when did that
David Hall: transpire? Well, let me start with this. If you are a father of a child with a special need, a physical disability, intellectual disability, or ID, oftentimes that’s very easy to, to see you can, you can see with your own eyes, some of these physical disabilities, not all, but most visible intellectual disabilities, these things can be measured.
These things can be addressed, right. Having an autistic trial is a, when you say a bit trickier is, is a challenge in the sense that. There’s nothing visible. And if you’re not experienced, if you’re not studied in the neurological aspects of autistic persons, you’re really just at times you feel a drift.
I think that my first reaction with Asher as a young child, as a baby was just a sheer confusion. Uh, why would it be that? No, if you’ve done everything the way you’re supposed to do by the book on right child, why is this baby constantly screaming when they ought not to be when there’s a open window, when there’s a light coming into the room, when something as subtle as a fork or knife has dropped in the kitchen, why does this child begin screaming?
Why do they seem so frustrated? You know, with everyday living and, and overwhelmed. And so there’s a lot of questions that, that come up that, uh, if you’re, again, if you’re not familiar with, with autism, you don’t know where to turn. You really don’t. And it wasn’t for me until. Uh, right before, or actually, you know, sometime during the diagnostic cycle that are recall finding a book since that time, I’ve read dozens of books on autism and neurodiversity and things, but at that time getting a book and it was a, if I remember the title, it was the sensory sensitive child.
And. When I read it, I almost just jumped for joy. And, you know, it felt like doing a dance right there in the bookstore is I read that, you know, this was the profile, uh, the neurological profile and the behavior profile, my own kid. And it started at that point. Just making more sense.
David Hirsch: So that’s how the journey began.
David Hall: That’s how it began. Yeah.
David Hirsch: So can you remember back then where there’s some fears that you had as a young dad with your first child? Going into this sort of dark sort of uncertain place, the world of special needs.
David Hall: Oh, I think so, David, you know, I think it’s inherent in us as dads and we have this sort of prefabricated guide book.
We get this from our own dads, smart granddads, and so on. It’s handed down to us that if you sort of do all the right things, If you raise them by this certain formula, they’ll grow up to be this, you know, fair-haired, uh, strong, vibrant, uh, athletic, you know, all American kid. And so, you know, when you you’re faced with first of all, a situation with your own child that you don’t understand, uh, and you’re scrambling searching for some answers as to why they’re not.
Fitting into the mold. Why are things not going according to plan a, it causes a lot of stress and anxiety. And so, uh, yes, absolutely. I felt, uh, often anxiety often fearful, often misunderstood, you know, and I look back with fondness up on the few people in my life at that time who were able to say, you’re just raising a very different child.
And, you know, we appreciate your, your struggle and your strength as you look for answers and how best to help your child to grow and to develop successfully.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, that’s very interesting. Was there some meaningful advice that you got early on that helped you sort of catch some traction, sort of get your hands around?
What was going on?
David Hall: Yes. One that comes to mind immediately is. Never miss an opportunity to be an actor advocate for your child. You are your best advocate. You are, you are their best advocate and your own best advocate, but always step up and, you know, do it in a wise and careful approach. But, but don’t ever shirk away from the Trinity to just stand up and be an advocate for your own child.
There’s no one who’s going to do it. Who IQ will. And. That always stuck with me. So I think that as I searched for answers, and even after I had began to understand, uh, the situation with my own child and children, I always appreciated that advice of just, you know, be the advocate for them. And then later, uh, be an advocate for others.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Well, I’m sort of curious if you could just, uh, Give a brief description about what the situation is for each of your children, starting with Asher, then Danny, and then Levi. Sure. If they’re on the spectrum, which can mean a lot of different things, what their individual situations are just so our listeners can put that in perspective.
David Hall: Well, the good news is that each of them is developing well. I’m excited about their future as a fellow human being and as a dad, I think it’s important to understand, and I’m not going to go. I went to, you know, a full delineation of what autism is, but I can at least say this. And I ought to say this autism is a neurological difference.
It is categorized as a disability. In fact, you can look in the, uh, in the standard textbook, the DSM you’ll find it there. Uh, although the designation of Asperger’s syndrome has dropped off, uh, in the last few years, but it’s understood to be a neurological disability, however, Autistic persons have always been a part of human history.
In fact, I could go through quite an amazing list of autistic persons who have been present at many points in human history. Many of them undiagnosed because of the way we’ve done diagnostics. In fact, my great uncle. Leslie was a very quiet man who lived in the back room of my great grandmother’s house.
In South side of San Antonio, Texas. He worked in the furniture store of my great grandfather and my great uncle. Wesley was a confirmed bachelor. No very odd book. Love it. Okay. I think all of mine, probably my favorite uncle. And he was always working math problems. It was always, you know, interested in mathematics and science questions, but particularly in mathematics, it was his fun thing to do.
And, uh, I asked him shortly before he died for, he passed. I said, what did you do in world war II? You know, I knew that that all my uncles had gone off and flung, literally flown bombers and drove tanks and other things. And I said, what did you do? I never heard what your story. I said, you know, did you drive a tank or did you have a bayonet on your rifle?
Oh no, no. He said, he said, no, I didn’t do any of that. I, uh, I spent the entire war in England. And I said, you spent the entire war in England. I said, where was that? And he said, Oh, I said, I was three stories underground in a bunker. And I was in a place called blush. We park and I thought. If any of your listeners know about Bletchley park you’ll know that that was the ultra secret headquarters of the Codebreakers, uh, during world war II.
And, uh, so my great uncle, uh, it was most definitely an autistic man was a Codebreaker. He, someone discovered his gifts in mathematics and analytics and put him to work and, uh, breaking the codes and, uh, uh, sparing of several more years of world war II.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I love that story. Thank you for sharing.
That was your great uncle, Leslie.
David Hall: Yes, that was my great uncle Leslie. And so each of my children to, you know, to answer your question, each of my children have their own wonderful gifts and it has taken me many years of diligence study of their personhood to discover what their gifts are. But we’re in a place now where they’re applying themselves according to their own personal strengths and not seeing.
Their autism as a crushing disability, but rather as a place to start from, and that there are strengths involved in that particular neurological profile. And, um, I believe that they’re going to have a great future. I really do.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well from your lips to God’s ears and just to get a little bit. More detail, verbal nonverbal, mainstream, not mainstream, you know, as far as their education.
David Hall: Sure. Uh, no intellectual disabilities. We oftentimes, uh, sort of shoot from the hip and say, Oh, so they must be high functioning. I’m just going to be really direct and say, I don’t really like that phrase, high functioning or low functioning. As some people might be aware that particular phrase zoology, the high functioning, low functioning actually originated, uh, during, uh, mid world war II.
Uh, it was spoken by dr. Hahn’s Augsburger where we get Asperger’s syndrome. And he used that terminology as a way to. To spare some of his patients from the Nazis who had him surrounded, he was operating in nausea, occupied territory, and he had to make a choice to spare as many of these patients as he could.
That’s where we get high functioning, low functioning, high functioning, autistic people at that time were seen as of use to the Nazis as code breakers. As people building this’ll pieces and all of that, or they were seen as low functioning and, you know, we don’t need to go into what happened to the low functioning people.
Okay. So, so my children, not intellectual disabilities, a lot of sensory challenges. This is one of the least understood of autistic persons in my work, in service with autistic persons worldwide. I don’t recall ever having met an autistic person who is not challenged with what we call sensory processing integration disorder, sensory processing disorder SPD in a nutshell is a neurological overload of sensory inputs.
So these people are very susceptible to loud noises. Overload of light textures and touch. A lot of times you’ll find autistic persons wearing extremely soft clothing and insisting on it. They wear hoodies. They like to that low light. They liked the sound muffling. If they have a choice, the first thing they’ll do when they’ll get a shirt or a piece of clothing is they’ll tear it up, tags right out.
I can’t stand the touch and the sensation of tags. Whereas some of us might think, well, it doesn’t feel great, but I ignore it, uh, to them. That’s it. Right. Um, you know, uh, into fits of having to tear those things out. So they’ve got my kids and the other autistic persons that I serve and work with have those sensory issues.
And David dent stays with them every waking hour of the day. This is very misunderstood. So if you are overloaded with light and sound and your senses are just on high alert all the time, every waking moment of the day, what happens is you get exhausted. So autistic people tend to fall into either shut down in which they sort of run away from the world.
They sort of walk themselves away and go quiet and dark, or they go into meltdown. And when an autistic person has a meltdown, it is not a temper tantrum. Let me say that again, meltdowns are not temper tantrums. Uh, they’re not manipulative. They’re not conscious. I’ve had autistic people. Describe them to me before for us.
It’s like a steam pipe breaking. I can’t stop it. And the more you try and stop it, the worse it gets that they’re completely overloaded. I’ve seen some examples of working with autistic persons and I’ve done this myself many times. When a person, autistic person is in overload meltdown, you don’t grab them.
You don’t try and hold them. You don’t try and make them, you give them space or you set up quiet for them. You allow them to just go through this meltdown and when it’s over, well, they’re perfectly fine. And then they’re happy. They’ve sort of reset. And so, um, you know, my own kids is along with others that I work with.
This is a, these are serious things. These sensory issues.
David Hirsch: Well, it sounds like, um, you’re a very enlightened person today just because of all the years and decades of experience that you’ve had.
David Hall: Yes.
David Hirsch: But again, not to go backwards, but to be real about this, because not everybody that has a child or children with autism might have this perspective that you have.
Um, not again, not to focus on the negative, but, um, What were some of the bigger challenges that you had early on, so that other dads who might find themselves in those earliest stages can relate to what it is that you’re talking about and sort of make that transition if I can call it that
David Hall: yes.
David Hirsch: From the experiences and how raw that can all be to getting to the point where, you know, it’s not easy, but it’s more
David Hall: manageable.
Yes. Well, I think it’s important. To say that if you don’t have the answers you need, when you’re, when you have a special needs child, look for support, don’t be afraid to seek support. And if you are a dad with, you know, perfectly healthy neuro-typical children that are not affected with autism or any other physical disability or intellectual disability.
Yeah. I would encourage you to be understanding and supportive of other dads and other men that you can play a role in just supporting them, even if you don’t understand, you know, the situation just to be supportive as an, as a fellow human person to a dad. That is, that is struggling. That’s really critical.
I think that, um, I think it was very difficult for me as a dad, because again, I had this playbook that was handed to me. This is how you parent, you know, you, you need to discipline, you need to do this. You need, I mean, all these things that when I tried them with my own. Uniquely wired, neurologically different children.
It blew up in my face. It didn’t work. I mean, the playbook, the formulas were not working. And so, um, I had a lot of anxiety and, uh, oftentimes felt depressed because I couldn’t, I didn’t have the answers. And so I personally. Began this journey of discovery and, and understanding. And, you know, and, and I was following along the trail that had been forged ahead for me by other people who had done this discovery.
And. It took a lot of work. It took, it took many years of, of study and understanding and just listening to the perspectives and, and the journeys of others to begin to understand all of it. And I think that, um, that was some challenging, David, that was really challenging. Yeah, I just, I just would stress, perseverance and looking for support and others.
And again, if you’re a dad who is not facing this situation, then you can be a friend and you can be a, a support and encourage her, uh, of others, uh, in courage, put courage in to others.
David Hirsch: That’s wonderful. So I’m wondering when you can look back on this now. If there was a turning point that you can say, this was an important point and my relationship with my kids or my ability to help my kids in a more meaningful way.
David Hall: David, I think there’ve been a lot of those moments, but I do remember at one time being with my oldest son who was having a meltdown, he was sensory overloaded and. Instead of me trying to, you know, uh, I would guess, I guess you’d say aggressively calm him down just to be able to step back and assure him that he was okay.
Uh, and just allowing him to presence to begin to calm down. And I think that, that I remember that, uh, as a moment where I just came to appreciate. A fellow human person who was overwhelmed by life. And I couldn’t directly control that. I couldn’t take that away, but what I could do is be present and appreciate them going through this unique challenge of their own.
And just being able to be there. I think that that was a turning point for me to understand that I can’t fix everything. And I certainly can’t, you know, I wouldn’t dare to rewire the neurological processes of another person and that’s not up to me. It’s up to me to be a good dad and to be present and to, to demonstrate, you know, love and care.
That’s that’s my calling.
David Hirsch: Right. That’s fabulous. Are there any supporting organizations that come to mind that were, have helped to one or more of your kids and helping them develop like they have?
David Hall: Well, I will tread carefully here because there is so much misinformation and unfortunately, and I would even use the word tragically, many parents who are parents of a newly diagnosed autistic.
Person tend to fall into the pathway of, of organizations who, who operate with a deficit model thinking. And they sometimes will burden parents who are desperate for answers. They’ll burden parents with expensive therapies and treatments, and sometimes quite dangerously. There are organizations who purport to have cures.
For autistic persons and many of their cures that they purport to have are, uh, sometimes, uh, even lethal. And so I would say for parents, please be, I know that, uh, that this is very stressful. It’s, they’re under a lot of anxiety. I’ve been there myself, but listen carefully and investigate which organizations are actually.
Approaching your children from a strength based model from an actual intercessory place and not trying to fix or cure or see them as broken because autistic persons are not broken persons. There’s not something wrong with them. Uh, in fact, there’s many things right with them, but they definitely operate differently neurologically than, than other people neuro-typical people.
So it just, it just requires an enormous amount of understanding. And so to those parents, I would just simply say you have good courage and, and be discerning. And for organizations that see the uniqueness in your, your own child and can see beyond. Those behavioral challenges can see beyond those things and look for real answers, which is why I launched my organization.
David Hirsch: Well, thank you. If I can paraphrase what you’ve said, um, there’s a certain number of organizations or view that this is a deficit model, right? I think that from my own perspective is maybe, uh, a traditional way, a older way of looking at this if, uh, Child’s not developing on a certain scale or schedule not reaching their milestones.
That’s considered to be a bad thing. Right. And we’re trying to fix it. Yes. And I don’t think that, uh, what we’re talking about lends itself to fixing, but you have to be able to adapt, right? Yes. You know, this strength based model. Way of approaching things. Um, it’s something that I got exposed to when I was in Lincoln, Nebraska, back in the mid nineties.
And it was the Gallup leadership Institute.
David Hall: Yes.
David Hirsch: And, uh, it was a, like an epiphany for me. Um, I always thought that I was a competitive person and. They said, no, you’re not a competitive person. I said, well, the first 35 years of my life everybody’s told me I’m competitive. So you better go back and check your statistics because you must’ve gotten something wrong.
And they said, well, there’s a difference between being competitive and being achievement oriented.
David Hall: Yes.
David Hirsch: And it was like a light bulb went on for me that. You know, I was totally oblivious to, and I don’t know that it dovetails into this sort of deficit model of thinking, but the Gallup way of thinking about things is that if they have 20 themes that they’re evaluating, most of us are sort of in the middle, like standard deviation of outcomes.
You know, everything’s a one or two standard deviations from the middle, and then you’ve got your tails. You’re just to distributions of the outcomes and what we’re really trying to do. As human beings is, identify what our strengths are and play to those strengths. Right? And if you do have something that is a liability or something, that’s a challenge you could put all your time and effort into whatever that is.
Yeah. And the best you can hope for is to be just average or mediocre. And you just have to compensate for what those weaknesses are, what those deficits are, and then again, play to your strengths. So that’s what I heard you saying sort of loud and
David Hall: clear to me. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And if you’ll recall my conversation about my great uncle, uh, the Codebreaker in world war II gave it don’t, you know, there was somebody.
There was somebody who walked in the door of my great grandfather’s furniture store in Austin, Texas in 1942. I don’t know who that was, but somebody walked in the door and discovered my great uncle and his strength of mathematics and analytical skills and that brilliant mind. And somehow he went from the backroom.
In a furniture store in San Antonio, Texas dusty, a little place too, to England. You know, I think about another, uh, an old pyramid, a little bit of red tuck, retro diagnostics. I think about another autistic man. Uh, this man was nonverbal as a child. He was prone to fits a meltdown and rage. And, uh, in fact, his housekeeper and this is recorded in history.
His housekeeper referred to him as the dumb one, the dumb one. Well guess who that was, that was Albert Einstein.
Some somebody mentored him. Somebody saw strengths instead of just deficit.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I, I love these stories. They’re so inspirational. And I think that as we get older, like we’re middle aged white guys. You know, things look different from this perspective, right? We’re not any smarter than we were before.
I don’t think, but we’re more enlightened. Right. You know, things look a little bit clear, um, from the perspective that we have. So again, thanks for sharing. So let’s switch gears and, um, you know, think about the world of special needs beyond your own family’s experience. You made reference earlier to the work that you’ve been doing the last handful of years.
And I know that, uh, The not-for-profit is referred to as neuro guides. What was the backstory on that? How’d you start that? What does it do?
David Hall: So if you look back about three years ago, I was at a crossroads because I had just left the organization world relief, which was providing humanitarian service worldwide and still does.
And I. I was thinking of starting another division. Well, my position, but something at that time, perhaps apps, it was, you know, working with my own children, working with special needs groups. There was something that just, again, to speak to me about the value of creating additional resources for autistic persons.
And I didn’t know what that looked like. It was just a thought. And so I, uh, I found a business advisor. I put together a business plan and I began doing, uh, an enormous amount of research as to, uh, what would be the viability of some do service for autistic persons. Because I saw their challenges. And I recall in the, in the process of doing my research this moment in time, where I just had tears in my eyes and was overwhelmed at what I was finding out, because the outcomes.
And this is many people don’t understand this, but the outcomes for autistic persons, the outcomes are terrible. Will autistic persons in the United States, uh, face, uh, incredible amounts of anxiety, chronic depression. There have been several studies made about the employment, uh, jobs of autistic persons, and they are profoundly impacted by that.
In fact, it is estimated that a, including what we call soft employment, uh, or under employment, where people go from job to job to job. The unemployment rate for autistic persons is about 80%. In the United States, which is just terrible. And the one that really just pushed me right over into action was probably the discovery and the Johnson family foundation did some research recently on this in the last year and a half the suicide rate.
For autistic adults in the United States is approximately nine times the national average. So I’m sitting here with all this information and I’m thinking to myself, not only are autistic people, depressed, anxiety, disconnected, misunderstood, and unemployed, but now they’re killing themselves. They’re taking their own lives in droves.
And, and I just, I came to a place, David, where I said, I cannot allow this. I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to step into the gap. I thought, how can I be the most impactful? And it began to occur to me to be a personal life coach and mentor and guide to autistic adults who are disconnected dysregulated from the rest of us.
And so I formulated this and I created designed for a method, methodology, and approach. I share my methodology with everyone because I tell people I don’t believe in competition. I think in this situation with autistic adults, the last thing we need to do is compete with one another. I think, and I’ve told many people this, I wish there were 10,000 of me.
I wish that I could give away my work. I wish that everyone would just simply work in this fashion to help autistic people. So I created a methodology. Um, my volunteers and staff, they call it E three, which E three is this? It is engaged. The first day we engage autistic persons by building bridges for them.
We’re constantly looking for unique approaches, socially occupationally and relationally for autistic persons. So engagement, creative bridge building for autistic persons. The second is, um, equipping. So. Some organizations and working with autistic persons sort of have this cookie cutter approach. You know, we’re going to teach them to tie your shoes, their shoes, and ready to brush their teeth.
And we’re gonna do all these things. And this is sort of a cookie cutter approach. We like to look at it as what are the things that life skills that these autistic persons need to master, or at least make a good try at it that will actually be effectual in their life. Albert Einstein. He had the good fortune of having, uh, uh, housekeepers and cooks, you know, he never learned to tie his shoes.
Did you know that Albert Einstein, who is probably putting us in the stars with his amazing mind couldn’t tie shoes? Well, he had someone to help them with all those things. So are we going to, to help autistic people have enough life skills that they can get through and that they can use their strengths?
That’s equipping. And then thirdly, and this is in some ways my most important process or methodology, if you can even call it, that is just encouragement. I strive to encourage each and every autistic person that we serve, I try and encourage the families, uh, who are often going through incredible strife.
And stress and anxiety. I think that that is one of the most amazing gifts that we can give to one another is the act of encouragement. And often overlooked, you know, we’re quick to answer and say, this is how we fix you. This is what you need to do better and so on, but can we just encourage one another?
So I decided to put that these things together, put them in motion and began to work with autistic persons. At first, it was a slow going. A lot of parents and a lot of autistic persons were very reticent. We’re very suspicious of working with one more person that they saw as a therapist or someone out to fix them.
And over time, Through mostly word of mouth. We built up our folks that we’re serving. And, uh, today I personally worked with about 15 autistic persons each week, one Oh one, and I do it by video, uh, which seems to work well for them because they don’t have to go out and to be exposed to the rest of the world.
They can be in their own sensory safe zones.
David Hirsch: That’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing. So engage. Equip and encourage. And while I didn’t hear you say this, it sort of came through, which is you need to be positive, right? You need to look at the glass, not being half empty, the deficit model, but the glass being half full.
David Hall: Yes.
David Hirsch: And I think that’s the challenge, which is. How do you find that strength? Right. And it’s not like it’s one size fits all because we’re each wired a little bit differently.
David Hall: Absolutely.
David Hirsch: And I think that’s probably the biggest challenge. So I’m wondering along the way, how is it that you discovered that you’re on the spectrum?
David Hall: Well, I, uh, about a year and a half into doing this work with live guides for autistics neuro guides, I remember having a conversation with one of my colleagues, her name is Tara, and she’s a founding editor of neuroplastic.com, a great writer and a, just a great and. I remember having this conversation with Tara and she, she got quiet for a minute and she said, David, I’m going to ask you something.
And she does a psychiatry consult with corporations and things worldwide. She’s she’s an amazing mind. And she said, David, I want to ask you something. And I said, what’s that? She said, well, we’ve all read your articles. We’ve seen your videos and all of us in a. The Euro classic, which is a, a worldwide collective of autistic or researchers, writers, some great minds.
She said, all of us, uh, are perhaps slightly convinced that you’re on the spectrum. And I said, I said, well, I, I try and see eye to eye with people. And I try and understand them. And, and I remember this week answer and, uh, she said, right, She said, well, she said just for fun. What if you took the there’s there’s two or three diagnostic tools that are used to diagnose folks on the autism spectrum and have been used for many years.
And the first one that was, is called the R a D S and so on a bit of a humorous. Approach. I decided to go ahead and take it. And I took it and I remember the baseline score needed to be neuro-typical or a non-autistic was anything below 60 on the baseline score. And I think I scored 145 if I remember.
Right. And so I had no maneuver room. And Tara was far too clever to allow me to just slip away. So I went ahead based on what I was doing in my organization. I went ahead and pursued formal diagnostics that may not be available to some because of cost because of location and other factors. But for me, it was something I decided to do.
And so I remember after I had completed these diagnostics and there’s a, you know, an enormous stack of. Testing and paperwork that you go through. I remember sitting in my car and, and tears welled up. Not, not because I thought something was wrong with me, but because now I understood. This young guy who tried to demonstrate to the rest of the world, that he was just like everybody else, a kid in central Texas, me who played football, who did all the right things and try to be, you know, this, this model.
Neuro-typical normal normal person who actually would have, well, nothing better than to build, uh, old universal studios, monster models and, and do all these quirky, strange things that made me perfectly happy. So those tears came to me because I looked back and I realized that I was okay. I was just a neurologically unique person that just saw things differently.
And, uh, and that wasn’t a bad thing. And I think that there’s too many of us, too many men, perhaps you try so hard and exert so much energy into being normal. For whatever that means that we’re not comfortable in her own skin. So, David, what happened to me was I was confronted with the fact that I was unique and, and I am now comfortable in my own skin, a different skin, but I’m comfortable.
David Hirsch: Was it a liberating experience to learn
David Hall: that or not? Yes, it was. Very much liberating and affirming. You mentioned, uh, the StrengthFinders, which I use with all my clients, the Gallup strength finders. Once we know these are our strengths, these are core strengths. This is who we are. We’re strengthened by it.
You know, we, we are affirmed by it because we know these things about ourselves and whether they’re. Operative, whether we’re doing them or not, they’re still a part of us. And so when we discover those kinds of things about ourselves, it should be very affirmational. It should be encouraging to ourselves.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. It’s a very, very enlightening. So I’m sort of curious to know, going back to your educational roots with the divinity degree, what role has spirituality played in your life?
David Hall: I think my, my spirituality, my faith in God has intersected me at every point in my life. And there have been many times of.
Uh, discouragement, anxiety, disillusionment, but my own faith has been, um, a constant support, a constant, constant breadth, fresh air for me, a way to, to see a larger picture, a larger landscape. And I think that I believe personally that, uh, God sees each of us as fully human. Regardless of our, our bodies that may or may not be perfect or normal, or even functional in some ways that God still sees each individual person as unique and fully human.
And so I think that when I try and I can only see it shadow of what God sees. Um, but when I try and see each and every person as unique and fully human, uh, that’s where my faith intersects most fully in my own work. And in my own life,
David Hirsch: you thank you for sharing. So I’m sort of curious to know why is it that you’ve agreed to be a mentor father as part of the special father’s network?
David Hall: I think that this is probably one of the greatest gifts that all of us as dads as men. And I’m going to say just as, as men, because even if you are not. If there’s not a providential way that you can be at a literal thing, father yourself, you can certainly be a father to be a guy, to be a dad in many ways to others.
Even if, again, you don’t have biological children of your own, it doesn’t mean you’re out of the game. It means that you just going to take, take a different approach to the game. And the best thing that we can do is show up for one another, be encouragers and engage. And so that’s, that’s my delight to be a part of this.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, we’re thrilled to have you. Thank you again for being involved. Let’s give a special shout out to hacky Reitman at exploring different brains for helping connect
David Hall: us. Yes. Yes. I admire hae hacky greatly. And if you want to, uh, if you want to get a smile on your face, read his bio. I read the things that he’s done in his life.
And you talk about a sense of inspiration and encouragement. Hacky is one of those people that’s always managed to take, you know, what should be a bad situation and turn it around to give it a fighting chance for doing good in the world. So I admire him greatly dr. Hackey
David Hirsch: underscore fighting.
David Hall: Right, exactly.
David Hirsch: Virgin and boxer all in one. Right?
David Hall: Exactly.
David Hirsch: So is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up.
David Hall: Just that. If you are struggling as a dad, if you feel like you’re a waltzed and you don’t have answers to your own children, And the way their lives are going, I would just encourage you to step back and try and get a different perspective and see them in a new light and, and just to do deeper discovery because that person is there.
Sometimes they just get lost and we are called upon to, uh, to pick up and go further
David Hirsch: with them. That’s fabulous. So if somebody wants to learn about life guides for autistics neuro guides, the work that you do, or just simply contact you, what’s the best way about going to do that.
David Hall: Thank you, David. We are, we’re registered as a 501 c3 nonprofit.
Uh, you can find us on many of the, uh, evaluation services, guidestar.com. You can find us as a foundation. Um, and you can go to, um, euroguides.org to find out what we do and our unique approach to working with and serving autistic persons worldwide.
David Hirsch: Excellent. We’ll put that in the show notes as well.
David, thank you for taking the time and many insights it’s. As a reminder, David is just one of the dads who is 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 him. 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 father’s network, dad 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, not for profit organization, which. Means we need your help to keep our content free. To all concerned, please consider making a tax deductible donation. I would really appreciate your support. Please also post a review on iTunes, share the podcast with family and friends and subscribe. So you’ll get a reminder. When each new episode is produced.
David, thanks again.
David Hall: Thank you, David. And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast 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 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 enjoy 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.