Brendan Fraser Shares His Journey as a Parent of a Child With Autism – and What He’s Learned
Recently, Academy Award-winning actor Brendan Fraser opened up about what it was like learning that his son – Griffin, now 20 – had Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), saying that he was “thunderstruck” by the diagnosis and admitting that he had to fight an “instinct to say, ‘fix it.'”
ASD, a form of neurodivergence, is a developmental disability that can make social communication skills challenging. The disorder is truly a spectrum, so it can present differently in different people. But symptoms can include delayed language skills, inattentive behavior, and unusual emotional reactions. Griffin, for example, had a verbal delay at an early age.
Fraser has spoken about his son’s diagnosis – which came when Griffin was 2 – before, first in GQ in February 2018. He opened up more candidly at the Greenwich International Film Festival’s Inaugural GIFF Inspiration Talk & Award Ceremony on May 3, where he received an award for his work with Abilis, a nonprofit focused on supporting children with special needs.
“I’m no expert on the varieties of spectrum disorders. I’m a dad, and that’s what I can talk about,” Fraser said. “[Griffin] got a diagnosis, and we were thunderstruck, as I imagine many of you in the audience here can comprehend or understand because of the surprise that came with not knowing what to do.”
His frustration stemmed from a lack of resources on how to help as a parent. “No matter which medical text or source you consult, it’s like trying to get a straight answer out of a leprechaun. The answer is for reasons unknown,” he said. Now he feels “lucky” that his son taught him “how to give him everything that he needed.”
“What that let me know and what let his mom know, too, is that there are so many people who are there to help, and it’s up to us, their parents, their families, their loved ones, to just have the courage to ask for it,” he continued. “And we can all do this together. Of all the individuals I’ve met over the years who have so much more experience in working with families and kids, they all say the same thing. We’re all learning concurrently at the same time.”
In 2018, the actor told GQ that Griffin has built a strong connection with their horse, Pecas. “There’s something good that happens between the two of them. And even if he doesn’t ride him, just give him a brush. The horse loves it, the repetitive motion that kids on the spectrum have that they love. And it just works,” he said. “You know, you have to find those tools, strategies. If I ride, too, I just feel better. I just feel better.”