Disability Issues

Father says autistic son made him a better person

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A father's love and understanding of his son's autism encouraged him to make sure autistic children around the world have a fulfilling life.

Sports fans may recognize Michael Romano III voice. He's an announcer for the junior amateur hockey team Chicago Steel and a commentator on the website the Daily Coppock.

"I love hockey, I played from when I was a little kid," Romano said. "I was a goalie so I miss playing the game so much that I finally stopped when I was 37, but it's in my blood. " 25:30

Michael is also the father of four, three girls and a boy. Michael is 24 years old.

"Michael is autistic," Romano said. "His specific diagnosis is, I think developmental dysphasia, but he's on the autism spectrum with low functioning and, of course, we did not know that he was disabled until he was about 15 or 16 months old.

"It was devasting. I always had a dream of what I would be able to do with my son and I felt that maybe I was being punished by God for whatever reason. I went through all the stages of grief and then my life changed because of him."

The one thing they are able to share is hockey.

"We go to every Blackhawk game almost and that's the one thing we do together," Romano said. "Otherwise, he doesn't like to leave the house every much, but he loves to be at the Blackhawk games. It's alot of fun."

In 2006, the eldest Romano made a trip to Bosnia.

"I went there on a spiritual pilgrimage and during the pilgrimage, we went to see this clinic for disabled kids and it broke my heart," he said. "They really don't have much resources, the training. They really didn't know what to do and they did not accept autistic children because they didn't know what to do with them.

"I talked to them and I said would you accept autistic kids and they said if they know how to deal with them they said they would and I said what if I brought a team here to train you.

"So I brought a medical team a few years ago, about eight people, to train them and I donated and raised money. Autistic children are now being accepted there for the first time."

Michael has learned more about life thanks to his son.

"My son has made me such a better person," Romano said. "What I learned was that I had to let go of the son that I wanted so that I could love the son I had and that changed my life. It's implacable to anybody."

The younger Romano works at Giant Steps, a school for autism children.

For more information, visit www.chicagosteelhockeyteam.com and www.dailycoppock.com

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