Paul Cimmins: Hope Saves The Day

Kevin P Donaldson talks to Paul Cimins, a renowned personality in the autism advocacy community and the President of Autism Radio.An autism dad and podcast host, Paul has dedicated his life to raising awareness about autism and helping families impacted by autism.

How his Son’s Autism gave him a voice

Throughout our young life, we all truly believe in the deepest recesses of our heart, that we know what the true definition is of worry. As a young person, our anxiety might be relegated to whether that cute boy or girl likes you back. In adolescence, will I make that spot on the sports team that I tried out for or did I study enough for that test? Then, as we are ready to begin the next phase of our life, what school will I be able to get into or will I find a job so that I may support myself throughout life. Worry comes in different forms and fashions as a young adult, and possibly our greatest suffering may come at the hands of losing a family member such as a grandparent. The best advice that was ever given was that until you have children, will you ever truly understand the meaning of the word worry.

Growing up in Wayne, New Jersey, Paul thought he knew what life was all about. In an Italian household in northern New Jersey, family is everything. The biggest worry during these family get-togethers usually comes down to who can be seated next to whom, without a fight breaking out. But being surrounded by love was Paul’s model  for the essentials that every household desires. Gatherings always seemed to revolve around food, which drove Paul to seek a profession in the culinary arts. Bringing this togetherness and facilitating the family atmosphere drove Paul to be the best in his business.

Life appeared to be on cruise control as Paul got married with every intention of having that loving, close family he had become accustomed to as a young man. His daughter Emily was born and outwardly everything appeared that Paul was on his way. Shortly after Emily was born she was diagnosed with a hearing issue that left her classified as legally deaf. Parents only want the best for their children and to have the most fulfilling life they possibly can. The anxiety Paul felt wondering if he was going to be able to provide that fulfilling life to his new baby girl.

The truth about worry seems to hit full force right in the stomach. The love for his daughter was never in question, but rather the obstacles that would inevitably be in the way of this beautiful young baby.  

The worry Paul felt seemed to subside when he found out his daughter would be able to hear with the assistance of hearing aids. It seemed the worst fear was behind him. In late 2002 Paul’s wife became pregnant again and they were set to have their second child. On April 16, 2003 Paul’s beautiful baby boy Jonathan was brought into the world. Everything appeared to be perfect.  But once you have a child, the absence of worry is only a temporary condition.

Jonathan gave every outward appearance to be a child developing as expected. Their pediatrician assured them that all was OK and no issues were evident. Paul and his wife noticed “quirky” behavior coming from their son at a very early age. Jonathan would spin or focus on playing with his hair. Often he would arrange blocks in a very specific pattern that was unlike most children his age. But Jonathan was beginning to speak and develop.  As Jonathan‘s behavior began to become more and more out of the ordinary, the diagnosis finally came down at 18 months, Jonathan has autism. 

Autism was first described by Dr. Leo Kanner in 1943 and is derived from the Greek word “autos” meaning “self” and translating loosely to “alone.”  The National Institute of Mental Health defines Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is described as a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first 2 years of life.

This news devastated Paul. As Stoic as we wish to believe we are in the face of such unbearable news, there is the piece that wishes our child would develop as those around them. To know that you will be forever tethered to this beautiful boy for the rest of your life, knowing that you will be his caregiver and provider can be overwhelming at first.  There is a special bond between a father and son, going out in the yard and throwing a baseball, etc., Paul realized that this was highly unlikely.

Paul fell into a deep depression and buried himself into his work. Trying to run from his pain rather than face it.  Finally, having that epiphany, the best warriors show their worth in the fiercest battles. Paul realized that being a father is about having a relationship with your child. Identifying that his relationship would not be fitting the mold that he had created inside his head when his child was born. It would be something different and different doesn’t mean worse.

Paul began to deal with the chaos and questions of raising a child with autism. Finding hope and support groups where other parents can share their successes and failures that they have had raising their children with special needs. Finding strength in community.

Out of this community Paul began to share his experience on his fledgling podcast, Hope Saves the Day started in 2007. His story resonated with so many that his listenership grew rapidly and now sits at 18 million allowing Paul to further his mission in 2010 by beginning  his non-profit,  Autism Radio.

Sadly, overtime Jonathan lost his ability to speak. Paul describes it as. “ One day the lights just turned off.”   Even though Jonathan is unable to communicate verbally, he truly is the voice of Hope Saves the Day and Autism Radio. Jonathan has inadvertently empowered his father to share his mission and message to the world via the airwaves as a free and open space to communicate, unburden, and lift up one another through mutual experiences.

There is still so much to learn about autism. With each new day strides are being made to figure out each individual’s different way of thinking.  While the mystery surrounding autism is ever present, Paul shows that through community we are stronger and can weather the storms. Paul says, “One of the mysteries of autism is that we really don’t know”. The one thing we do know about autism is that the parents of special-needs children do not love them any less.

Do you want to share your story and inspire our readers ? Know that every story is paving the way for a brighter, happier future.

Kevin P. Donaldson
Kevin P. Donaldson

An accomplished author, seasoned Motivational Speaker and Podcast Host, Kevin P. Donaldson is known for transforming the lives of audiences. His talks are attended by people of all ages and backgrounds. Kevin's approach toward finding success and healing is approached by embracing your pain and running toward it head-on.

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  1. This was the most helpful, insightful article about autism. The Cimins family sounds so wonderful and I love seeing how they are thriving. I learned so much. Thank you!