A new film by Autism Awareness Australia will share the honest and humorous stories of twelve Australian fathers as they navigate parenthood and autism.
The documentary, fittingly titled DAD, will be shown in three premiere film screenings in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane this month, with the fathers sharing their own experience of loving and supporting a child with autism.
Chief Executive Officer of Autism Awareness Australia, Nicole Rogerson says the documentary was created to tell the often underrepresented experience of fathers.
“We often hear the stories of mums and the roles they play in their child's life but rarely do we hear about the experience of fathers,” she says.
“Sometimes the media is quick to jump onto stories of tragedies and domestic violence.”
“Whilst those stories need to be told, I knew of so many wonderful fathers who had contributed and stayed as a very positive force in their child's life.”
Having run Autism Awareness Australia for 11 years, Ms Rogerson says finding the amazing men was the easy part.
“We purposely included dads of various ages, backgrounds and culture to ensure we got a comprehensive look at the issues.”
Ms Rogerson describes human stories with candor and honesty as “the very best.” and hopes all parents and families of children with autism will enjoy the documentary.
“You know the saying...... you'll laugh, you'll cry but mostly I hope it inspires parents everywhere.”
Ms Rogerson says the importance of family support should never be underestimated when it comes to parenting children with autism.
“All of the helpful therapy and intervention for a child falls away and becomes useless if the family aren't coping,” she says.
“Typically 'mums' are seen as the glue that holds the family together, I wanted Australia to meet some of the men who were at their wives side and indeed some who did it all alone.”
Ex-Australian Rugby representative and Titan NRL captain Mat Rogers shares the juggling act of himself and his wife as he fathers four children, including his youngest son Max, who has autism.
Mr Rogers says his family created the 4 ASD Kids charity in 2009 to support other families in a similar situation.
“For me, being a part of the DAD documentary was another way I could help more people understand the struggle and the enormous impact having an autistic child can have.”
He is hoping to raise awareness for the fastest growing developmental disorder in the world.
“I hope the documentary helps to educate people so that perhaps when there is an opportunity for them to help in some way, shape or form, they will,” he says.
Professor Brian Owler, a paediatric and adult neurosurgeon is a strong advocate for public health and childhood injury prevention and shares his story as the father of his daughter Matilda.
“I chose to be a part of this documentary because I want to improve the lives of all Australians on the autism spectrum and their families,” he says.
Ian Rogerson, a media broadcaster and father of his two sons, Jack and Tom says he has been working alongside his wife, Nicole (CEO of Autism Awareness Australia) to educate and increase the awareness and support for children, parents and families impacted by autism.
“I became involved with the DAD documentary because I think the best person to talk to dads about raising an autistic child is someone who has been on the same journey.”
Richard Peake also explains how Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) therapy and the support of family and friends has helped his youngest son, Liam develop into a strong and independent young man and the struggles often faced as a parent.
“Being a dad to an autistic child doesn’t come with instructions. It can often be a lonely place. Not many, if any, of your mates or male family members can relate. There is no one to bounce ideas off,” Mr Peake says.
“I am increasingly hopeful that with initiatives like this documentary and a broader more positive dialogue in society around autism, dads like me realise it doesn’t have to be quite so lonely, and actually talking about “it” can only help you and your child.”
Lai Huynh says he was “more than happy to help” when his son Lachlan’s ABA therapist suggested he get involved in the film.
“Men generally find it hard to talk about their feelings and struggles and I hope my role will increase awareness, support and openness for fathers and families with children on the autism spectrum.”
“I want fathers to know that it’s ok for us blokes to talk about these topics.”
The film has thus far, received positive feedback with more reviews expected after the film premieres.
DAD was produced with the help of Director Peter Cudlipp and funding support from the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
To watch the trailer and for more information on the film premiere times and locations click here.