Deon Minor, a former track and field competitor who won two consecutive gold medals in 1997 and 1999, is a genuinely disciplined athlete with a final feat: applying his athletic training skills to becoming a dad.
In 2005, Minor became a first-time father to his son, Bradley. With ‘future athlete’ dreams in mind, Minor was excited and looking forward to coaching and training him. However, he didn’t realize the training would be for both father and son.
At an early age, Minor’s wife, Claudia, noticed their son’s lack of eye contact and speech delays. Minor insisted he was just ‘delayed’ and slightly behind children his age. He ignored observations from friends and family, denying anything could be abnormal within his child.
Claudia was persistent and began having him tested and observed by doctors at a mere three years old. A diagnosis of autism quickly changed Minor’s world. He did not know anything about autism, nor did he know anyone with the diagnosis.
“I went straight into learning mode,” said Minor. “I studied therapies, how it affects families, symptoms, etc., but honestly, I was still in denial.”
It wasn’t until he noticed Bradley’s words were unclear, and his behavior differed from children of similar age, that he began to grow in acceptance. The final straw was while Minor was traveling for work. Immersed in conversation with his wife, he began to listen to and empathize with her on all she was handling. He realized he had to train for a new role.
“I could hear the exhaustion in my wife’s voice,” said Minor. “She was taking Bradley to therapies and adjusting our lifestyle to suit him, all without me. I knew I had to accept his autism diagnosis and do anything necessary to help my family succeed.”
As a professional athlete, Minor had learned from failure before. He knew what was necessary to learn, to try again, and to not give up.
“I accepted that I would live a different life, but a beautiful one,” said Minor. “In athletic training, you don’t wake up running a 400-meter dash in 45.75 seconds; you build up to and learn from your mistakes.”
The married couple also have a daughter, Bayleigh. As a participant with Hope for Three, a Fort Bend County autism advocacy group providing support for loved ones with autism, Minor shares his story with families and uses the organization’s resources to help provide for Bradley.
Through the support of his parents, continuous training, and work, Bradley went from being non-verbal at five years of age, to a recent graduate of Clements High School who is fluent in Spanish and English. Through Minor’s consistent teachings of discipline and practice, Bradley is very independent, works on life skills, and enjoys taking charge and making decisions with his family.
“An autism diagnosis took our whole family through a process of acceptance and awareness and exposed us to a new world,” said Minor. “I’m extremely grateful for Hope for Three and their work to foster acceptance and inclusivity. We could all use more training in what is happening around us.”
For autism resources or to learn more about Hope for Three, please visit www.hopeforthree.org.