I’ve only been back from Generation Rescue/AutismOne 2012 for a few days, but I take a look back from a dad’s perspective. This was my fifth year coming to the greatest conference in the history of the world, and in those five years, there’s something I noticed when it came to the dads who were there.
In my very first year at AutismOne, I noticed a distinct difference when it came to the number of moms compared to the number of dads. I had many moms say things to me like, “Oh, it’s so great to see dads at this,” and the egocentric part of me was eating it all up. I thought it was great at first, but then I started asking myself, “Why aren’t there more dads here?” The dads I did meet were great and ranged from dads going to presentations to the doctors/presenters to editorial staff members of the greatest online Autism publication.
But in this fifth year at Generation Rescue/AutismOne, I noticed an increase in the amount of dads, and it was more of a gradual increase over the past five years. I’m not just talking about attendance either. The level of involvement of dads was much greater as well.
The first thing for dads took place last year and was started by a guy who isn’t even an “autism dad” but saw the importance of dads in attendance. When the moms were at the annual Spa Night, this guy started “Dad’s Night Out,” a night of pizza, bowling, and (sometimes) beer. It was absolutely perfect; the attendance was great, so it happened again this year. The attendance was even better.
I mean, sure, we talked about our children, and there were times when a few dads grouped together to talk about their children’s specific needs. It did seem, however, like it was more about a bunch of guys with a common bond just getting together for some fun, and we talked about anything. I learned what zip cars are (Hey, I’m from Iowa, and we only have zip cows), and I also talked to another dad about the futility of overtime periods in playoff hockey. What I took from this night is that there are dads out there who do have their children’s recovery at the forefront of their thoughts and will come together for the sake of their children.
There was even a track of presentations at this year’s conference specifically geared towards dads. There was even a panel of them who took the time to share their thoughts and experiences about being the father of an autistic child. At the end, they took questions from the audience. I was there, and it really made me feel like there are “autism dads” out there who not only care and work for the recovery of their children but also to help guide the newer dads in this as well. It was truly inspiring to see so many men coming together for one common purpose: our children. The one unique thing about Generation Rescue/AutismOne this year was that I didn’t have a single (not one) person say to me, “It’s so great to see dads at this,” and the egocentric part of me didn’t mind this at all. In fact, the absence of compliments is a compliment for all dads who were there. It’s becoming more commonplace, which is definitely a good thing.
What would be really cool to see is the Dad’s Night Out fill to capacity like the Spa Night does. I’d love to see the number of dads there keep growing and growing. I’d love to see even more dads guiding newer dads in this fight and for all dads to spread the word that we need to do it for our children’s sake.
I don’t want to even come close to sounding like I’m taking anything away from all the Autism Moms out there because I’m really not. What I am saying is that you all have carried more than your fair share of the burden for far too long. But things are changing, and I’m offering this as a beacon of hope to all the Autism Moms that there are a growing number of dads who are ready, willing, and able to join all of you in this fight against autism.
Cody Jordan is an Age of Autism Contributor. Please take a look at his post A Proud Report on Autism Recovery from last November.