BMWK: How did the other dads respond to making this film? What was the most challenging? What was easy?
Charles: The dads initially were apprehensive. I think the hardest part was getting them there. I think we had booked maybe 22 dads. We chartered a bus and didn’t really need it because a bunch got cold feet. We ended up with 14 dads including myself and Dr. Naseef. Once we got things going, it was as natural as rain for everybody. Here were 14 complete strangers bonding over this issue. We’re talking Black, White, Latin, Christian, Muslim, Jew – Navy Pilot, Police Officers, Attorney…the most diverse group you could imagine and it worked! We could not have written it any better.
BMWK: What do you want society to take away from this film?
Charles: That men hurt. This thing is hard to swallow. There needs to be more awareness of the condition and the effect that it has. We need, as a society, to understand the difficulty and challenges that these families are going through. Not for pity’s sake, just empathy. I may need you to just simply move out of my way – no judgment – just understanding.
BMWK: The mother’s voice is very dominant in the autism community. What do you want mothers to know about the emotions dads experience when their child is diagnosed with autism?
Charles: That we want to help. We just need you to understand what we are going through. We know you shoulder most of the work – we’ll get there – just be patient with us. Men are not accustomed to dealing with these kinds of feelings.
BMWK: When can we expect this film to hit theaters and where can readers go to learn more about it?
Charles: Well, I would love to say right now that we have a theatrical release, but not yet. We just won Best Documentary Feature at a really nice festival in Atlanta, The Urban Mediamakers Film Festival. We’re in consideration at a couple more festivals and we’re doing our NYC premiere the first week in December. That should be confirmed any day now. We’re working with Fordham University and the Kiwanis organization to make that happen. The website is being redone as we speak and you can follow us on Twitter and get the day to day stuff from our Facebook page.
BMWK: During our conversation you mentioned that this has grown into a movement. Please elaborate.
Charles: We just established a non-profit (501c3) organization – ALM Outreach. As the film lives its life, we will eventually start a campaign and travel to different cities and use the film (and a short version of it) to empower fathers to meet to discuss the issues that we are confronted with. There are very few men’s groups or father forums that deal with the challenges that a special needs dad is dealing with. We won’t fill that void necessarily but our plan is to be the catalyst to inspire these forums/groups to begin and/or grow. Most men, like me suffer in silence. That has such a negative effect on the family – it’s unhealthy. We want to demonstrate to other men that there is nothing to fear and nothing to be ashamed of. When watching this film, there is someone in the film that you will be able to relate to. We have a plan put together, which was actually done before the film was even completed. As the film makes its rounds you will start hearing more about the outreach. We have to first make a mark with the film.
BMWK: Is there anything else that you will like others to know about Autistic
Charles: Please support it. It’s powerful – it’s meaningful and I promise you will learn something from it.
BMWK: A special thank you goes out to Charles for taking the time to tell us about Autistic Like Me and for sharing some unique insight on what it is like for fathers raising children with autism. Please check out the trailer for Autistic Like Me and stay tuned for the 2014 premiere date.
BMWK: What are your thoughts on raising a child with autism?