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US Autism & Asperger Association
June 16, 2011

Welcome to USAAA WeeklyNews, an email newsletter that addresses a range of topics on Autism Spectrum Disorders including Asperger's Syndrome.

happy fathers day

Give Dad a special gift - a seat at the US Autism & Asperger Association World Conference where he can discover the newest therapies, find the best support services, learn the tricks to advocacy, and hear exclusive stories of hope and success from the top names in autism. And it all starts with the "Father's of Children with ASD Panel".

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"Autistic Like Me": A Father's Story

robert naseef
by Robert Naseef, PhD,
Alternative Choices

autistic like meFilm Director Charles Jones was speechless with excitement when he held his son for the first time. He put his feelings into words in his YouTube video “Autistic Like Me” , which is the "teaser" for a documentary film in production.

“When he arrived I had a son, a miniature version of me. I had someone to whom I could impart my values. For a father, a son is a mirror in which he sees himself, and I couldn’t wait to watch him grow. I would teach him everything I know in order that one day he would be a better version of me.” As I related to Charles, I reflected how I also wanted to be a better version of my father when I held my son Tariq for the first time 31 years ago.

"When it comes to emotions, there is a male imperative to “suck it up.” Expressing tender feelings is traditionally seen as weak. So men tend to cry on the inside, as my father told me he learned in the orphanage where he grew up."

Two and a half years later, the mirror broke for Charles when Malik Jones was diagnosed with autism. “It was like a rebirth, only this time I was devastated…I felt guilt, shame, hurt, and most of all cheated. Why me? Why Malik?”

For Charles and other fathers, especially those with autistic boys, the “broken mirror” leaves us powerless and shamed. We love our children and don’t want to fail them. This sequence occurs for men generally as described by psychologist David Wexler in “Men in Therapy”. “Autistic Like Me” resonates with the fathers who have watched the video with me in groups at conferences around the country and in my office in Philadelphia. Hearing from Charles has helped open up powerful and liberating conversations.

"I think that it is essential, it's crucial, for men, especially to seek help. It's doubly important for men" - Diana Solomon-Glover, Child Advocate and Mother of Autistic Child (from "Autistic Like Me; The Documentary

Full Story.

Dr. Robert Naseef has practiced for over 20 years as a psychologist. He is a graduate of Temple University. He specializes in families of children with disabilities and has published several articles on the subject, including the book "Special Children, Challenged Parents: The Struggles and Rewards of Raising a Child With a Disability"(1997). Dr. Naseef presented at the Regional USAAA conference in 2009.

Alternative Choices
"Autistic Like Me"

Disabled children: the father’s role
Inside the Portrait of a Family: the importance of fatherhood

by Barry Carpenter Chief Executive, Sunfield Clent, Stourbridge, West Midlands DY9 9PB, UK


fatherhood instituteThe perception and role of fatherhood appeared to change dramatically during the last century, from father as Victorian patriarch to one who acknowledged the need to ‘get in touch with his feminine side’. However, official definitions, and therefore professional practice, rarely confirm the father in his nurturing role. The result is debilitating not only for the father, but the family of which he is a part. Legislation is needed to reinforce the changed role of fatherhood in the context of the modern family. Official documents and procedures should recognise changed expectations of family definition and professional practice, to enable professionals to support real families.

New life

"In families of children with disabilities, the nurturing role – and indeed the need for nurture – of the father often goes unrecognised by professionals.

‘The news that a child has, or is at risk from a developmental disability is often among the most frightening and confusing pieces of information that parents will ever receive.’ (Beckman and Beckman Boyes, 1993) From the point at which families learn that their child has disabilities, what was to have been a limited parent{professional relationship becomes lifelong. Professionals will become intimately involved with the family ƒ{ their guilt, their grief, their joy, as well as with pragmatic health, social and educational issues. Will these families be empowered or disenfranchised in these relationships? Will professionals be sensitive to their expertise, their strengths and their needs, or will these go unrecognised?

"In contrast to mothers, fathers found it difficult to assert their involvement. Grief went unrecognised and unexpressed. Neither health and education professionals nor employers recognised the need of the father for inclusion in the family situation. Fathers were forced by professional structures and societal expectations to fall back on the nineteenth-century stereotyped role of protector, of being ‘competent in a crisis’ (Tolston, 1977), yet emotionally uninvolved.

The dynamics of families are not always transparent. Individual families may not sit comfortably within the stereotyped responsibilities and roles designated by official forms and customary procedures. Limitations which are put on families when they most need the self-support of their own internal structures may impair their ability to meet challenges they will face. Insensitive professional and official intervention can generate conflict and weakness, instead of strength and mutual support. It is the responsibility of professionals to meet families at their point of need. To achieve this, they may need to review the way they are accustomed to work, and perhaps challenge the way in which their institutions function.

"‘Is it the child that remains in each of us that causes us to turn to our own parents in times of despair? Certainly, the unquestioning support of members of our extended family helped greatly with establishing the valued place of our disabled child in our family. Their capacity for support is endless: is it duty? is it love? Whatever the reason, the emotional dialogue we have with our extended family has at times been our salvation.’

Any strategy that empowers families is to be applauded. For it is the family who will bear the main responsibility for the child with disabilities throughout their childhood, their transition into adulthood, and beyond. Professionals, by the very nature of their work, come and go; families do not ƒ{ they remain. Professional intervention should value each family member. In wanting to support and sustain the family as an interactive and holistic unit, it is important to appreciate the dynamics of the role and potential contribution of each family member. Mirfin-Veitch and Bray (1997) highlight the need to value grandparents, while other authors have identified the needs of siblings and their capacity for support to the child with disability (Meyer and Vadasy, 1997). This paper will consider the role of the father.

Full Story.

USAAA 2011 World Conference & Expo

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"On October 27-30, 2011, the US Autism & Asperger Association launches its sixth annual conference in Seattle, Washington. World leading autism experts will discuss new treatment regimes and effective therapies. After four days, you will leave the conference armed with tools of practical protocols, valuable hope, and new resources for support for your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, patient, friend, student, or yourself.

Full Story.

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