“Today” weatherman Al Roker is getting candid about raising his son with special needs.
Father to Nicholas, 17, Roker says he and wife, ABC News senior correspondent Deborah Roberts, have nothing but pride, love and admiration for their son who is “somewhere on the spectrum and may be obsessive-compulsive.” Admitting he can sometimes get frustrated, Roker says Nick has never let his developmental delays get in the way of living his life and doing what he loves.
“Do I get frustrated with my son sometimes? You bet,” Roker writes in Guideposts magazine. “But then I remember my dad, how understanding he was. And Deborah reminds me that I have to show my son not only that I love him but that I like him as well. More than that, I admire him.”
“We knew right from the beginning that he would be up against a whole different set of challenges,” Roker recalls of Nick’s early days. “He wasn’t developing as fast as he should have, not holding our fingers as tightly, not always meeting our gaze, not as quick to crawl. At three, he hardly talked and could barely walk.”
Getting Nick help from behavioural, speech and occupational therapists as well as encouraging his hobbies which now include going to church, tae kwon do, swimming, chess and basketball, have helped him flourish.
Roker says Nick’s OCD tendencies have helped him find great success in martial arts due to the repetitive nature of the physical drills. “Nick blossomed, far more than Deborah or I could have ever expected, given his original iffy prognosis,” he says. “Where his OCD nature can be a drawback in some situations, it was a strength here. And he proved to be very competitive.”
The weatherman adds that Nick “never got the message” about his “limitations”.
“Nick is a hard worker; he’s got a great sense of humour; he’s outgoing and a good swimmer; he’s developing a pretty good top-of-the-key basketball shot. He takes chess lessons a couple times a week, and he does okay. He’s also very affectionate – like his grandfather – and full of love to share,” he adds.
At the end of the day, Roker is just one extremely proud papa.
“‘You must be proud of your son,’ someone will say. Yes, I am. More than they’ll ever know. The obstacles in this kid’s way were things that might have tripped up many others. Not Nick, not even with the disabilities he was born with,” he concludes.