What is Dads Group?
Martin, who is a member of the NAS' Surrey Branch, coordinates a Dads Group. The group meets three or four times a year in each other's homes on a Friday night. Martin says, "It is a social occasion – and an opportunity to talk about any concerns, woes, ask for help, or find out how to deal with issues."
Martin first joined because he felt it would be useful to meet up with other dads to find out how they deal with things and learn about the difficulties they encounter.
Most members of the group have children between five years old and university age. People often join Dads Group immediately after their child receives a diagnosis. Martin says that quite a number have had to fight for a school place for their child and they value the support from the group.
How does it work?
They use a Yahoo Group (an emailing group). Members can email the address and then all the dads receive the emails. If any dads have a query or want help, eg with a tribunal, or names of professionals, they can ask there. The Yahoo Group has around 40-50 members and the group continues to grow. The meetings take place in the evening so that working dads can attend and 8-10 people usually go to each meeting.
A social outlet
Martin said that sometimes dads can find it more difficult to talk about their issues than mums. He says it's not always a natural thing to talk about your children's needs or your home situation and that mums can sometimes find it easier to talk about than dads.
Dads may have fewer outlets where they can talk about their children’s needs. Especially outlets in which there are others who understand where they are coming from. People who are outside of or do not understand autism, sometimes think that children will grow out of it. Other parents, who have children with autism, understand where they are at.
It’s a group where people feel comfortable to discuss their own needs. It’s what knits us together as a group. It’s the one common bond that we all have. We can talk about our own situation and our own children. I think some people who have joined the group for the first time it may be the first time they have discussed it in a social setting, away from professionals and the family. From what I can see and gather, they value the opportunity. There’s nothing terribly formal about our gatherings, we talk about our issues and any other things."
Martin has received good feedback from members over the years: they say the social aspect is important. Sometime members of the group share names of solicitors and phone numbers, which has enabled other members to pursue tribunals. They also share different activities that are available, such as other groups and services, and the holiday schemes and activity clubs.
Building a network
For Martin, it’s been useful to have the extra network of friends. He says, "It’s not just a network of acquaintances or people in the same situation, they are friends, people I can call on. I have gained from having that network of people to talk to and share things with.
"Going to a group, you realise your situation is not as bad as it could be. It makes you feel more positive about your own situation. You see the challenges other people are having and the struggles they are going through, and you realise what you do have, the people you have around you. In reality, on a scale of things, it's not so bad. We still have a lot of hope and good things, and a lot of support around us. It’s been good to share this with other dads in the same situation."