By: Yarimar Marrero Rodríguez

In the month of June we want to share the story of Nelson Díaz Guevarez, father of three children, including David Díaz Díaz, 12, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. His atypical intra-family dynamic, which includes the unconditional support of his older brother, José Abraham Díaz, 21, is an example that even after divorce, the family can continue to be a team for the good of the children.

Note: From now on the answers to the questions from Nelson Díaz will be preceded by the word father and Joseph Abraham's responses will be preceded by the word brother, in relation to their relationship to David, respectively.

YMR: What is fatherhood for you?

Father: For me, being a father is a commitment. In my case, I have been since I was 18 years old and I am the father of three, Nelson, José Abraham and David, who is the one here at the School of BEING. It's been a bit uphill, but books don't come to be a dad. I have been learning along the way. Everything has been a teaching and God has given me strength. Sometimes you get tired, but when you see them laugh, everything goes away and you say I have to continue. Everything that I did not receive as a child, I decided to give to my children.

YMR: How would you describe your experience being the parent of a child on the autism spectrum?

Father: Strong. At the beginning, when David was diagnosed at the age of three, there were two options: either give up or say, well, let's roll up our sleeves and pants and go ahead. Now that he is 12 years old, I can say that it has been a very enriching experience. We have learned so much with him. There are times when the mother, María Díaz Moronta, the brother or I, are down and he simply sits next to you, holds your arm and you forget everything. Now I understand that there is no reason to have barriers, we are all, one.

YMR: Abraham, how do you describe your experience being the older brother of a child on the autism spectrum?

Brother: When my brother was diagnosed, I had no knowledge of autism, but my parents taught me and I learned about everything from David himself. At first, if I couldn't understand it, I would always ask my parents for help. When he didn't know how to say things, I learned to interpret him. We as brothers share everything. There is no place I go without him. I go out with some friends and David goes with me, I go shopping and he goes with me, it's because if I don't take him he'll get in the car (he comments between laughs). One time I even took it with me to college classes. We love video games, basketball, wrestling, they are things we share. If I show you a photo of me as a child and of David when he was born, you'll see that we are identical. I see myself reflected in him and he in me.

YMR: What have been your biggest challenges and satisfactions as David's father?

Father: At the beginning he had many taboos, I thought, will he learn, will he be able to speak better, will he be functional? I have seen so much progress in it. Thank God, his mom has been very present with him too. Although we divorced, we are still a brutal team. I give my knowledge and she is a teacher and that is why she covers much more, there is also her brother who teaches her and helps us with everything. Seeing him learn every day, the one who can move, can talk, see him read, he overcomes each stage and never ceases to amaze us. The greatest challenges have also been the greatest satisfactions.

Brother: I add about my brother that everything he starts, he finishes it, he is very persevering. David has Taekwondo, basketball and swimming practices and, for example, if he starts at 6:30 and he hasn't finished his assignments yet, he tells you that he won't leave until he finishes his homework.

YMR: What services has David received in our Organization?

Father: David's mother found out about SER through the radio and the press and began to take all the steps. The boy started here from the Expression Project when he was 5 years old and until now he is already in his seventh year. He has also taken speech therapy, occupational therapy and psychological therapy is currently taking it. He is delighted with the School, he has friends, because he is super sociable. david did tremendous click with Miriam, the speech therapist. She always wrote to us, both to her mother and to me, about what she was working on in therapy and we later reinforced that at home.

Brother: I remember that the last thing Miriam gave her was reading comprehension and she offered us examples of how to work on it at home, we played movies and asked her about the plot and if she understood what was happening. My mom also makes him read stories, novels on his own and we ask him questions.

YMR: I understand that you are a single father, share David's upbringing with his mother and that dynamic includes the help of his older brother, tell us a little about your intra-family organization.

Father: Yes I am a single father. David spends a week with his mom and a week with me. Our fight isn't about being free on the weekends, the fight is because we both want more time with him. We always try to handle the same rules in both houses. When he doesn't have homework and he's with his mom that week she makes him read and when he's with me I also give him readings because that makes a difference. Another rule that we share is that when David is with me or with his mother, from Monday to Thursday he does not play. PlayStation, you can play from Friday to Sunday until 6 pm. She is the one who brings it to school every morning and I am the one who picks it up, no matter which house it is in. We all want to be with him, we have a great time, we laugh a lot. The same you can play with him PlayStation, than play chess or board games or watch a series. And what you don't know one teaches you. David learns very quickly.

Brother: I always take my classes at the university after eight in case there is an emergency so I can be with David. I want to clarify that María is David's mother, but she is not my biological mother, anyway, I tell everyone that she is literally my mother because she raised me since I was three years old. When my brother is with her that week, I go there and help on both sides. In the end, the one who spends the most time with David is me.

YMR: What advice would you give to other families of divorced parents raising children with disabilities?

Father: Children go above personal problems. Mom and I may have differences, but when it comes to raising David we have to find a happy medium for his sake. When we go to talk about a situation with David we try not to have him there, because, believe it or not, they are a sponge and if they see mom or dad upset that can make them nervous. The only thing that can be done after divorce to make things work is to be friends. We are both on David's birthdays, we both know the baby's friends. We have a relationship that there are times when I am leaving work and María cooked and she asks me if I have eaten and she tells me —come here so you can eat with us.

YMR: Nelson, tell me about a meaningful moment you shared with your children.

The most recent thing was that we went together, the three of us, to the Choliseo to see wrestling. Since he was little, David liked him and he never expected to see him live. He had a super brutal time and seeing him laugh, shout, clap, live everything, was special. Seeing him enjoy himself in tournaments fills me up. Also, seeing him be so independent. I enjoy even the simple things. The other days I got up and he had already made breakfast, he boiled two eggs and a hot dog he alone, because he saw it for Youtube. If there is one thing that mom and I are clear about, it is that to correct David we have to correct José, because he does not imitate us, he imitates his brother.

YMR: Abraham, tell me about a significant moment that you have lived with your brother.

Brother: I enjoy seeing him so much now in basketball practice and admiring how he has developed, how he unfolds. At first he didn't understand the rules and I had to do all the practices with him, get on the field, sometimes I was tired and didn't even want to stop and now seeing him do it alone is a great achievement. I even remember that David watched a program called "Captain Underpants" and so that he would start to like it, one day I put a towel around my neck and started running around the house in my underpants. I am his role model and that fills me with pride. We cover things up all the time, because that's the connection we have as brothers, (comments between laughs).