Executive Manager of Autism Awareness Australia Elizabeth Sarian says dads were often the “neglected parent” when it comes to support services and the film was made to provide advice and support for dads who are new to autism.
“When children are first diagnosed it's often very overwhelming and confusing. We felt it's important to have a resource that's specifically for them, and shine a light on some of the amazing autism dads we know,” she says.
“For the most part, dads new to autism are reluctant to talk about or share their experiences, especially in the early days.
“They expressed they felt uncertain, confused and anxious and tended to keep their feelings private.
“The dads we interviewed for the film were more experienced and familiar with autism and parenting.
“We were pleasantly surprised by how generous they were with sharing their stories. We really weren't expecting it but they all felt so passionate about supporting other dads that it was inspiring!
“We ended up with so much valuable content that aside from the 36-minute documentary, we've also produced 12 segments of bonus footage that take a closer look at some of the topics covered in the film.”
Elizabeth says that while the fathers come from varied backgrounds with very different parenting experiences, they did share one common message - that there is hope.
“What might feel like the most difficult or devastating thing your family has experienced, often turns out to be the thing that gives you the greatest strength.
“Yes, life will be different for your family, but that doesn't mean it can't be wonderful. It takes time and a lot of hard work but in the long run autism is only one part of your family's story.”
Autism Awareness Australia’s aim is to support all Australians on the autism spectrum and the families who love them. It assists them through a range of educational programs, awareness campaigns, media advocacy, free information and resources.
Elizabeth says parents can be overwhelmed at the diagnosis, but support is available.
“We'd say you are about to join the best 'parent group' you never wanted to be a part of.
“The autism community is an incredibly fierce tribe of parents and carers, with experience, knowledge and compassion for what your family is about to go through. Lean in to them, build friendships, and you will have them for life.
“As the saying goes, ‘if you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism’,” Elizabeth says.
“They are all so different in their challenges and their strengths.
“Get to know them for who they are, not who you think they are. Help them build their skills so they can lead as happy and independent lives’ as possible.
“Makes sure you include them, and we mean really include them. Some minor accommodations and flexibility can go a long way.
“Most importantly to those who are outside of the immediate family... Your well-meaning opinions, parenting advice and judgement aren't helpful but your support, understanding and compassion are.”
‘DAD’ is available online at www.dadfilm.com.au.