Fathers of Children with Special Needs

When a child has special health care needs, it is often mom who handles the child's care. However, fathers can give comfort and can help calm and soothe a child in a way no one else can. Sometimes the father is the family member others rely for reassurance that, no matter what, things will be okay. Fathers are often the unsung heroes to children with special needs. Fathers give their children a gift that no one else can give, and they can offer strong and caring support for their child.

The Role of Fathers

A father's role in a special needs family is vital. He not only can make the child feel safe, but he can also "hold down the fort" when mom is taking care of the many needs of the child. Many dads take a huge role in the care of the child and make the care part of their daily routine. Each family can share responsibility, finding what works best for their personalities, strengths, and schedules.

One dad says: "We have a daily to-do list for our son’s care—meds, bathing, teaching, toileting, and more. I have my jobs, and my wife has hers, together we get them done so we can relax at the end of the day."

Special Circumstances


When parents are divorced, many dads stay very involved with their children. Children with special needs are touched by divorce just as much as other children, and having their dad's care and presence is still very important to them.

Single Fathers

Some dads are single parents of children with special needs. These fathers are priceless, and most likely very tired. Even if there are days when they feel overwhelmed, they keep on caring for and loving their children.

Adoption and Stepfamilies

There are dads who have chosen to adopt a child with special needs; some have taken on the role of stepdad to a child with special needs.

Support for Fathers of Children with Special Needs

Father holds son with genetic condition as they tightly hug
All fathers who care for children with special needs are amazing. One thing to be kept in mind with these fathers is that they, just like moms, need support. Many fathers might put on a strong front, when deep down they are unsure and afraid, like all of us might be. Moms of kids with special needs tend to talk about their children and join with other parents through support groups or online. Fathers may be more reserved, but still are very involved and interested in their child's care. Some fathers enjoy meeting or chatting with other dads with whom they have things in common.

"It's not that I need support, but it would be nice to know there are other guys who feel the way I do. Having a child with special needs is not something that just comes up when you're talking with a bunch of guys unless they have that in common," says Steve (dad of a son with autism.)

For local parent support groups, talk to your state National Center for Family - Professional Partnerships (F2F HICs).


Information & Support

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: September 2013; last update/revision: September 2019
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Tina Persels
Authoring history
2013: first version: Tina PerselsA; Shena McAuliffe, MFACA; Gina Pola-MoneyCA
AAuthor; CAContributing Author; SASenior Author; RReviewer