Autism and Fatherhood: raising a child with a developmental delay
Autism doesn’t announce itself in the delivery room. You can’t detect it from a blood test or any type of prenatal screening. In fact, children with autism are typically born as healthy, bouncing babies with 10 fingers and 10 toes. Their parents take them home from the hospital and all is as it should be. A happy family.
Sometime around 18 months to 2 years later, parents might start to notice signs that their development is not like that of children of a similar age. It could be a delay in language, it could present as a child who lives in their own little world, or it could be a child with limited communication and challenging behaviour. Either way, parents tend to start down a well worn track to work out what is affecting their child’s development.
Autism…the word once said is now your new truth. ‘He has autism’. Good luck with that!
This was my family experience in 1999 when our son Jack was diagnosed with autism. At the time, the shock was enormous. What did this diagnosis mean? What would his future hold? What did we as his parents need to do to help him? So many questions needing answers at a time when you are not emotionally capable of clear thinking.
Funnily enough, 19 years later, this is still the same experience parents of newly diagnosed children on the autism spectrum go through – with the exception of Google!
Helping and supporting parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has always been a huge passion of mine, which is also the reason why I co-founded Rockmelon. The Rockmelon Parent Edition is designed to give parents all the tools and evidence-based knowledge they will need to raise a child with a developmental delay. Everything will be centralised in one place so that you are never unsure of what step you need to take next.
In my experience, mums and dads generally have two very different approaches to a new diagnosis. I may be wildly over generalising here, but typically women tend to be better ‘sharers’ of their emotions. I mean, we just are! From the beginning, there are constant formal and informal structures that allow women to access support as a new parent, from mother’s groups, the early childhood centres, to pre-schools. If we need support, we seek it out and it’s easy to find. But what about the dads? How can we reach them? How do we ensure they too are supported and have good information and advice?
Well, apparently…they will watch YouTube!
So, Autism Awareness Australia set out to produce a documentary film especially for dad’s who are new to this world and would like to expand their understanding of autism.
We brought together twelve gorgeous dads of children with autism, who share their stories and bring a raw and brutally honest account of this type of graduate-level parenting. Sharing their successes, feelings and struggles, the film is full of wonderful advice and will hopefully be an invaluable gift to Dads who are newer to the world of autism - and any parent who might need a little reminder of all the support that is out there if you know where to look.
DAD - a film about autism and fatherhood has just been released and is available to watch online around Australia and for free at www.dadfilm.com.au.
In addition to this, the Rockmelon Parent Edition will also be launching soon. I hope that in the very near future, parents of newly diagnosed children will feel more prepared and able to take on their new reality. That they will feel empowered knowing they have all the best tools and information to help their child reach their best outcome!
Nicole Rogerson is Rockmelon's CEO and the founder of Autism Awareness Australia. She has two sons, the eldest of whom has autism.