a great dad

Brendan Fraser Shares The Biggest Lesson He's Learned From His Son's Autism Diagnosis

The actor recently accepted an award for his work with disability nonprofit Abilis.

Actor Brendan Fraser attends the 2023 Greenwich International Film Festival's Inspiration Talk & Awa...
Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Brendan Fraser has been winning all of the awards this year for his starring performance in The Whale. But this week he was recognized for something that he says is just as important to him. On Wednesday, May 3, at the Greenwich International Film Festival's Inaugural GIFF Inspiration Talk & Award Ceremony, he received an award for his work with nonprofit Abilis, which offers services and support for those with disabilities.

While accepting the award, Fraser talked about his 20-year-old son Griffin, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was 2. Specifically, he spoke about how shocking it was to get a diagnosis at the time and then about how his son, along with the support of the community, taught him everything he needed to know to take care of him.

"I'm no expert on the varieties of spectrum disorders. I'm a dad, and that's what I can talk about," Fraser said. "[Griffin] got a diagnosis, and we were thunderstruck, as I imagine many of you in the audience here can comprehend or understand because of the surprise that came with not knowing what to do. No matter which medical text or source you consult, it's like trying to get a straight answer out of a leprechaun.”

He then said he feels “lucky” that his son taught him "how to give him everything that he needed."

"What that let me know and what let his mom know, too, is that there are so many people who are there to help, and it's up to us, their parents, their families, their loved ones, to just have the courage to ask for it," he continued. "And we can all do this together. Of all the individuals I've met over the years who have so much more experience in working with families and kids, they all say the same thing. We're all learning concurrently at the same time."

Fraser first spoke about Griffin’s autism diagnosis in a 2018 cover story for GQ.

"Griffin's rated on the autism spectrum,” he said at the time. “He needs extra love in the world, and he gets it.”

"[He is] a curative on everyone who meets him, I noticed," he continued. "People have some rough edges to them. Or he just makes them, I don't know…put things into sharper relief and maybe find a way to have a little bit more compassion. They don't put themselves first so much around him."

In a conversation with Howard Stern earlier this year, he went into more depth speaking about raising a kid with autism, and getting them everything they need.

"What can we do other than give ourselves a break and muddle our way through it together and do what works and do what works until it doesn't work anymore, and then find something new," Fraser said.

"You will have to fight with school boards,” he added. “Yes, there will be weird people that you meet along the way that have a completely different agenda compared to what the purpose of sending a kid to a special needs school is."

Fraser shares Griffin with ex-wife Afton Smith, whom he met in 1993 and married in 1998. They also share sons Holden, 18, and Leland, 16. The couple divorced in 2007.

When Fraser won his Academy Award earlier this year, all three kids got a shoutout in his speech, though Griffin got just a little extra love.

"It's been like I've been on a diving expedition to the bottom of the ocean, and the air on the line [has come from] some people in my life like my sons Holden and Leland and Griffin — I love you, Griffey," he said.