Seth and Melanie Fowler have the blessing and challenge of raising their precious son, William, a child who struggles with autism. Over five years ago, William was born healthy and strong, but in the years that followed his birth, they began to observe behaviors that showed signs of early autism.
Photography by Fotocrew Member Claire McCormack
“Seth and Melanie Fowler have the blessing and challenge of raising their precious son, William, a child who struggles with autism. Over five years ago, William was born healthy and strong, but in the years that followed his birth, they began to observe behaviors that showed signs of early autism.
Seth and Melanie are the first to say they approached this reality very differently. Melanie on one hand, has a masters degree in early childhood development and learning disabilities. Her instincts went into a proactive attitude of striving to help William immediately. Her background and experience told her he needed help. And help now. Seth on the other hand, struggled with grasping and accepting the idea of autism. The idea that his son may not be what he expected. He was defeated as doctors and reports filled their lives. Seth struggled to accept the fact that his son would probably never run, would never throw the football, would never be “normal”. Melanie and Seth grieved this loss of all they hoped and prayed for in William when he was born. Their prayers for success, strength, athletics and character were overcome by their new prayers for focus, patience, eye contact, and hope that William would progress in the face of such a serious diagnosis.
As months turned into years, Melanie and Seth knew in their hearts something had to change. Therapy wasn’t enough. Therapy wasn’t fighting for their son.
The Fowler’s time was often spent in doctor’s offices, therapies, meetings and the occasional conferences on autism. All hoping to bring Seth and Melanie answers and education alike. In one of these conferences, in a small breakout group for fathers, Seth realized in that moment that no one was going to fight for his child like he would. He realized for the first time, that HE had to take William’s progress in his own hands. He was the leader, the father, the role model, but most importantly, he was William’s warrior. This changed everything. He couldn’t rely on what others brought to him, he had to instead seek it out. For William. For his life. For his growth. Seth understood and embraced this new role as a father. He understood that his role might not be to throw the football for his son and walk him through dating one day. But instead, his role as William’s father looked a lot more like fighting for his son, finding hope, and celebrating his son’s small victories. Everyday.
Seth arrived to a place where he and Melanie were able to fight for William, and fight together. Along with their newborn daughter, Margaret, the Fowler’s began to take proactive steps to advance William’s fight. William’s hope. They created the Fowler4Group as an outlet to share their story of the first five years of William’s life and their experiences with early intervention, behavior, and grief, which they hope will inspire parents and caregivers.
To fight for William and other “William’s” out there, Melanie was determined to write a book about autism and all she had learned in those five years. “Look at my Eyes” is an outpouring of Melanie’s heart that she hopes will help others and a reflection of the Fowler’s desire to work tirelessly to educate, inspire, support, listen and make the community aware.
In one review, Dr. Anthony Cammilleri states that, ‘“Look at my Eyes” is the universally recognized plea uttered by so many parents of children with autism. And the book highlights the importance of early autism diagnosis and treatment. Melanie’s message is clear and urgent: Do not wait. If you have a child with autism or you suspect your child has an autism spectrum disorder, the time to act is now. Her advocacy for early diagnosis and treatment is practical and sensible. Moreover, Melanie’s advice will help you avoid the unscrupulous charlatans peddling silver bullet treatments as she leads you straight to the evidence-based interventions that have been scientifically proven to produce meaningful outcomes. You will find yourself enamored by Melanie’s passion, her courage, her conviction, her humility, and her humor.’
Today, the Fowler’s have a healthy son, who with therapy, a supportive family, and much focused support, is running, playing and learning to be as much of a normal child as the next. Margaret has become the best big – little sister William could ever find. And the Fowler4Group is consumed with fighting for William and other children, as well as building a community around early detection autism. Seth and Melanie are encouraged daily by the progress William makes and celebrate his smallest victories.
Their work and their book has gained such celebrated success that “Look at my Eyes” was recently translated into spanish as well. Both translations of the book, as well as contact information and resources can all be found on their website at http://lookatmyeyes.com.” – written by Fotocrew Member Claire McCormack