This is a collection of 21 first-person accounts written by fathers about their experiences of parenting children with disabilities. First published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in 2007, this remarkable volume has a foreword by the then UK Opposition leader (and now Prime Minister) David Cameron who writes openly about his experiences as a parent of a child (Ivan) with severe disabilities.
In the stories which follow, these 21 ’different dads’ each tell of their experiences of coming to terms with the fact that their child has a disability. For some it came as a complete shock with no indication prior to the birth that anything was ‘different’ at all, while for others the nature of their child’s condition came to light much later, for instance, as developmental milestones were missed and diagnoses made. Some dads speak of struggling with local authorities and medical experts to gain access to appropriate services and support for their children; others speak of the responses of people they encounter in the streets (is the staring a sign of concern, curiosity, criticism?); some dads also talk of how their personal faith has helped them to come to terms with their child’s condition. Each case is unique and each perspective adds something different to the picture which is gradually built up of parents’ daily joys and challenges. It is a complex but important picture.
What is ‘different’ about this book however is that it is the fathers (and not the mothers) who are writing. Too often, they claim, dads are left out of consultation processes, sometimes quite inadvertently, sometime perhaps from an assumption that they are not interested. These dads quite rightly object to this, and argue strongly that they should be included as much as their partners. As one dad explains, a failure to make an appointment due to work commitments does not mean that they do not care. It just means that some things cannot be dropped to make room for all the appointments which parents of children with disabilities have to go along to.
This is a refreshingly honest book, at times very moving, at times very humourous, but always engaging. Each story is only a few pages long (and includes a short explanatory note on the nature of the disability) so it is perfect book for busy dads to read in short bursts. It would also make recommended reading however for (student) teachers, classroom assistants and healthcare professionals to gain a valuable and rarely glimpsed insight into the world of fathers in their daily interaction with the children they love.