View, copy, download or print the full resource Support for Dads here
- Make sure you make it your business to find out what’s going on regarding your child
- Ask to be included in any correspondence from school
- Sometimes, without prior knowledge of decisions previously made, fathers will have to ‘enter the fray’ which can be very daunting.
- Understand the systems that support your child.
- It is worth spending time getting knowledge together. In other words, do your homework.
- Make sure professionals are clear you are the father and ask for written information about decisions made about your child to be sent to you. Then it will be clear for all how to keep you updated.
- Share the care
- Talk about how you are coping with your partner
- Make time for yourself
- Take any support you can
- Reach out to other dads
- Manage work life balance
We had a fantastic panel of three dads who shared their own experiences.
Nick Dowswell, Dad to LOOK staff member Maria who has Bardet-Biedl Syndrome. Nick shares about being dad to Maria who is “making her way through the world amazingly well.” He talks about his reaction to Maria’s diagnosis, the ups and downs of being Maria’s Dad, and how Maria’s strength and positivity has helped shape his life.
Nick says: “Maria has an amazing sense of humour. She always keeps me laughing. And her ability to try anything amazes me…”
His advice to newer dads is “Don’t wrap your VI kids up in cotton wool. The more you let them do, the more they will engage with you and other people.”
Photo below of Nick and his daughter Maria taken in Wales on her 30th birthday this year, where they celebrated going ziplining together!
Clyde Starritt is Dad to Rachel, who is blind from birth. Rachel is a classical and jazz pianist, and Clyde supports Rachel as she tours across the UK and internationally. Clyde says other health concerns came first, as she was a very premature baby. But later, as she grew, there were hazards to watch out for, and Rachel needed quite intensive parenting and support. Clyde praised Rachel’s school in Pencoed, South Wales, for helping grow her confidence and musical abilities, and groups like UCAN in Cardiff where Rachel was a member from a young age.
Clyde says positivity is key: “Rachel is a very positive person and nothing stands in her way. Disabled kids in general, and especially VI kids – it’s humbling to see what they can achieve. Rachel blows people away. When you take Rachel somewhere and she plays, it’s the impact on people that stands out for me…people end up in tears. She makes people really happy and it’s sometimes overwhelming … she’s like a happiness drug.”
Clyde is pictured here (far right) standing next to Rachel, with LOOK Mentor Sam, LOOK marathon runner Emma, and Ellie, friend of Rachel and former NCW and RNC student – on a trip to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London. Read more about Rachel here
George Holroyd is Theo’s dad. He says: “We all have our own stories and it’s different for all of us.” Theo, 16, goes to a mainstream school and has just been crowned Innovator of the Year by the Duke of Edinburgh’s Charity’s first ever This is Youth celebration. His invention Talking Balance – is a computer programme that he developed with his LOOK mentor Ben – and can be run on any laptop and connects to scientific scales to enable the weight to be read out. Talking Balance will revolutionise science lessons for fellow blind students. Read more about Theo here.
photo below a screenshot of George talking during the webinar. He is wearing glasses and captured smiling as he reflects on his journey as Theo’s dad.
In the webinar, George says: “We knew there was something different about Theo’s eyes in the first two months of his life, but found out he was blind when he was six months old … Theo was the first blind person I had ever met, so I just knew nothing about anything. So I was really shocked. I was working in London at the Cabinet Office at that time. I was very involved with politics and briefings for Ministers, and in and out of number 10. The day I found out about Theo’s blindness was the day Gordon Brown became Prime Minister. I remember sitting on the sofa …watching Gordon Brown being taken in a car to Buckingham Palace to become Prime Minister, and just in a total daze. I was very very shocked.
A week or two later, we thought how do we tell our friends and family?… We didn’t really know what to do, and we found this story called Going to Holland that draws likens the experience of having a disabled child to somebody who thinks they are going to Italy but at the last minute find out they’re going to Holland. And they work out that Holland is not that bad. Holland’s quite good, Holland is quite nice. But you’re just in a different paradigm, a different world to the world you thought you were going into. When the plane takes off you think you’re going one place, and you end up in another.”
“We sent that story to friends, and at the time it seemed really appropriate as that was how we were feeling. But it’s interesting revisiting it, and actually it’s totally wrong. We ended up in Italy, and everyone else is going to Holland. You end up in this crazy world and everyone else is going to the safe, normal, standard world….It’s been incredibly rewarding and I am ridiculously proud of Theo.”
Listen to Going to Holland in the video below
We also heard from two LOOK mentors. LOOK mentor Sean, who is a teacher at RNIB New College Worcester, shared deeply about his experience of being a blind son. Sean spoke about the difficulties of having a dad who he says was not supportive of his disability or sensitive to his needs. After listening to one of the other dads share about grief, Sean reflects on why it might have been tough for his dad.
“A large part of the reason my dad, and my family, didn’t do much with me was grief. I think they felt like they had produced this broken thing, and they didn’t have the education or I suppose the “spoons” we might say nowadays, the stamina to cope with that…..if I peel back the years of being ignored, of not having any support from home, I think what it comes down to is the fear and the grief that they produced something that they couldn’t cope with, something they’d broken.”
Photo below: screenshot of LOOK mentor Sean, captured during the webinar as he shares deeply about the difficult relationship he had with his dad, and how it’s made him a more engaged parent to his sighted daughter.
LOOK mentor Mohammed had a different experience of his dad, and says he got the support he needed to thrive:
“Support from my father really helped me get the right resources and teachers to help me learn braille. He looked for the best schools for me, and looked at how I could develop my independence as well. My dad let me mistakes and try things which was a process of learning and that was the most important lesson he taught me.”
So if you’re a dad whose child has just been diagnosed, or their sight has recently changed, or they are embarking on their teenage years, then this special Parent Support Session is for you. It acknowledges the important role that Dads play in our children’s lives, and how difficult it can be that we can’t fix the issues our children face.
Thanks to all the Dads, and our LOOK mentors for taking part, and do share with anyone you think might benefit.