Jon Rubin is a father of three and blogger at Autism Dad in the 603. Through his blog, Jon reflects on his experience raising his son Sawyer, who is on the autism spectrum. Jon's writing provides an honest, unique glimpse at marriage, parenthood, and autism awareness.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Jon Rubin and I'm a 4th grade teacher in Hollis, New Hampshire. I have been teaching since 2005 and have had the great pleasure working with a staff and community that has welcomed me from the moment I arrived. My wife Kellie and I live in town of Bedford, which is another wonderful community in both education and people. It very much mirrors the community I work with.
Kellie and I have been married 13 years and have three children. Evelyn, who is 10, Cobe, age 9, and Sawyer who is 6.
I'm a sarcastic person by trade. One who finds high value in pop culture as I tend to quote movies often. Weightlifting is a big passion of mine as well. It's how I start my mornings 5 days a week. Trust me, I wouldn't wake up at 3:45 in the morning if I didn't love to workout. To be present for the kids, I train before they are awake. In addition to training, I'm a huge sports fan. I'm certainly spoiled with being outside of Boston with all of our sports teams being rich in tradition and highly successful.
What was the journey of Sawyer's autism diagnosis and did you face any challenges along the way?
The journey continues to this day. We knew Sawyer was different from our other two children from the time he was about 6 months old. Developmentally he just wasn't hitting milestones like the other two. The big red flag for us was his low muscle tone. He was mobile but his legs would shake when you held him up, so cruising was an issue. It kind of snowballed from there — he missed milestones like walking, unable to hold things like a bottle to drink out of, the struggle to sip out of a straw, or point using his finger. It just added up to getting him early intervention services.
It led us to a scary place. He was just walking by age 2 and we saw minimal progress. This led us to seek out help and ultimately revealed a diagnosis of Autism after he turned 3. Quite frankly the biggest roadblock in this process were the ones telling us he was fine. We just knew that he had needs that we had to get him. Those needs exist today as we continue to advocate for him. Thankfully we have a team of special people who support and work with him.
What inspired the creation of your blog, Autism Dad in the 603?
The blog was something that I was initially against. I had written a children's book about Sawyer. It was a product that I was proud of and many encouraged me to self publish. I had zero interest to do this due to my desire to reach a larger audience. So I spoke to a local author who has written about her son who has Autism. Her books are an inspiration to me and helped me cope with Autism once my son was diagnosed. Her advice to me was to build an audience and to do so through the vehicle of a blog.
The moniker autismdadinthe603 represents my story of Sawyer from my perspective. It allows me to self-reflect in a way that is raw and from my recollection. It's honesty in what I'm willing to share. Writing this allows me to also practice my craft and connect with people who are connected to people on the spectrum. I do hope to take all of my entries one day and put them into a book but I know that I have a long road to achieve that goal. The collection of entries are something I'm proud to share and hope that there will be a day that all three of my children read it.
In one blog post, published on Sawyer's birthday, you beautifully wrote:
"It’s impossible to not think of how far you have come. Just the fact that you are in a Kindergarten class with other kids makes my heart smile in a way that I never thought it could. From the moment you wake up, you run down your list of questions of the day that though predictable make me always want to answer them in hope that our exchange will only grow. However, our conversations make me feel so proud that you can express yourself the way you do."
What are some of the proudest moments you've had with Sawyer and what are your hopes for his future?
It's difficult to name all of the proud moments due to the volume of milestones. Like my other two children, Sawyer never ceases to amaze me. If I were to narrow it down to one, I'd have to go with the day he finished kindergarten. To see him with his peers on stage singing and just being cheered on was a special moment that I'll cherish forever.
My hopes for his future is developing independence and having the opportunity to build relationships. If he can attain both, a long life of love, support, and success will follow. I just know it.
How has your family's experience with autism transformed you personally, and how has it shaped your marriage?
I'd like to think that I'm evolving on a day to day basis. I am definitely much better of spreading my love around to all three kids rather than being so hyper-focused on Sawyer's needs. It's been a long road to feel this way and being self-reflective is a big part of the transformation in this process. As far as our marriage goes, our relationship has changed. It started off just the two of us and we had two children. At that time, I knew nothing other than thinking our life was invincible. I loved my job, my wife, and my kids. Upon my wife's pregnancy with Sawyer, I had changed and didn't put the time into the family like I should have. So we weren't as strong as I wished we were as a couple once Sawyer arrived. His needs brought us closer together in many ways while I learned what it meant to be a better husband and find my way back to understand my family. So with Sawyer, his diagnosis and the challenges that comes with autism made me want to grow up and be an even better version of myself. I couldn't have gotten here without the love and support of my wife, Kellie. She is the best partner one could ever dream of.
What advice do you have for parents raising a child on the autism spectrum?
Take it one day at a time. Every child on the spectrum is different and it's up to the parent to seek out the support that best fits the child. Don't be afraid to laugh, cry, or be frustrated. The more honest you are with yourself, the more you will be willing to let others help you.