Today show entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins has opened up about his eldest son Adam, who was born with Down Syndrome.
Wilkins, who was only 19 when he became a father for the first time, told Steller his son’s birth forced him to grow up fast and described the moment he saw Adam.
“I remember going in and looking at Adam, and I hate even repeating these words, but I sensed there was something unusual, different. I went home, and Mum said, ‘How is everything going?’
“I said, ‘He looks a bit funny — I hope he’s not Mongoloid’ [an early, derogatory term for Down syndrome]. I remember saying those words.”
He said he struggled to cope for a long time and eventually he and his partner at the time put Adam into full-time care.
He said he went on tour with his band and sent the money he earned back home to pay for Adam’s care.
After moving to Australia in the 80s he missed a payment and copped a verbal beating from his father.
“My dad wrote me a filthy letter telling me I was a disgrace and needed to honour my obligations,” he says. “I felt so terrible, I never did that again.”
Wilkins, who is a father to five children, says Adam now lives in a home with other handicapped adults in New Zealand, close to his former partner.
“He’s the happiest guy on the planet, that’s my solace in the whole thing,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Starts At 60.
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