transcript  Douglas' Story: Father Expectations and Child Development

My name is Douglas. I grew up in El Salvador, during a time of Civil War. When I was five years old, my father was captured and suspected to be murdered. He disappear from my life.

When I found out that my wife was pregnant with our second child, I was so happy to hear that we were having a boy. I couldn't wait to be the father to a son the way that my dad didn't have the chance to.

I pictured teaching my son to drive, teaching him what I learned in life, and being his friend. By 15 months, my son's behavior and development was causing a lot of stress and our family.

I was devastated to think that my dreams for us wouldn't come true. He couldn't play with me like I had expected. I felt like I couldn't make him happy. He only wanted to be with his mom. I felt left out and I didn't know how to help him.

At the same time, I couldn't find work. I felt like a failure. I couldn't provide for my family, my wife always seemed disappointed, and I felt like I wasn't a good dad. I figured maybe I would just disappear too.

Because of our son's delays, our family started receiving services from Early Intervention. Their work was surprisingly personal. it was not just therapy for our son. They saw us as a family, and wanted to see us in a better place. Happier and healthier as a family.

As we learned to be the best ways to communicate with our, son I started to feel connected to him. He started to a smile and laugh with me when our workers gave us ideas for games and activities he might like.

He is even starting to learn a few words now. I come home from work, and he runs to the door, says Papa, and hugs me. Now my kids fight over who gets to sit next to me.  I feel like a dad.

I've heard that couples with children with a special needs separate more often. This doesn't surprise me. The intervention that we were receiving helped to pull us from the some of the darkest stages of our life.

I don't feel any more like I want to disappear. My wife and I are learning how to communicate better and appreciate each other. We are acting like newlyweds now instead to be a stranger living in the same house. Most importantly, I feel hope that my kids would have something a special that I had to offer them as their dad- a friend, a teacher, a coach, a role model, and a guide.