Yesterday afternoon, I got a note from the school psychologist at the Monster’s elementary school, letting us know that they’re setting up a group for parents of children with Autism and Developmental Disabilities at the school. It’ll meet the last Thursday of the month (on the same day as my Dads’ Talk meeting in the evening) at the school.
Problem? I work, and the meetings are planned for 10 AM. I’d skip work to go to the meetings, but at the moment, I have a standing meeting at that time.
As one of the other Autism dads I talked to said on Twitter, when I commented about the matter:
It’s probably geared towards women anyway, most of those groups are, and some of the mothers may not have jobs.
He’s right, honestly. That is probably the assumption that the school made when they set up the group – that the mothers would attend, and not the fathers.
To me, it’s kind of funny still – I hear a lot about how there’s aren’t a lot of Autism Dads on the Internet, so a lot of the ones coming into the ‘situation’ don’t know where to turn for advice. And then I hear from the Autism Moms about how they wish their husbands/boyfriends/whathaveyou would step up, but that they don’t feel like being alone sharing their feelings/failings/frustrations into the ether… and then there’s groups where, when we do show up, we’re massively outnumbered (and almost feel like the enemy for appearing).
But… I also have to admit that it feels very much like we’re also ignored or marginalized when we are active. I see – endlessly – on my Facebook and Google+ groups for Autism parents all sorts of things lauding Autism Moms. I’ve watched the male membership in a great many of the groups I’m in either drop to low levels of passive observation, or dwindle out entirely. (Hell, the main Facebook group I am in was originally “Baltimore Autism Moms” – I only joined after it changed to something more inclusive.) We dads are something of the silent partners in this – we’re the supports and the occasional heavies, and then kind of ignored until we’re needed again.
(And please… I know I’m the heavy/dumb muscle. It’s what I’m good at, and probably one of the only things I’m truly useful for much of the time.)
And that might be part of the problem. There needs to be a change in the community. Things like the parents group should be timed better to accommodate all parents – not just the SAHM’s, but the working mothers and all of the dads as well. More groups – like my Dads Talk group at the Arc of Baltimore already does – should offer child care so both parents can attend meetings. And more of us dads could contribute back by being a voice from the male side of the journey.
One of the major reasons I started blogging is that there aren’t a lot of male voices in the Autism Parent community. (There are a few, but not many.) I get the feeling it’s a chicken-and-the-egg kind of situation… and it’s just perpetuated by the feeling of exclusion a lot of us have.
Here’s one dad trying to start that change.