On Disability Advocacy, With Michael Atwal-Brice
Dadditude Newsletter #19
Dadditude interviews dads (and mums) from different backgrounds, professional fields and ethnicities to get their insights on what it means to be a parent in the current moment.
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Michael and Paul have been foster parents to more than 20 kids and are very active Disability Advocates in the UK. They document their journey with their two sets of adopted twins on Instagram, and plan the most exciting outings and holidays with their kids.
We spoke with Michael recently about their disability advocacy work, parenting children with autism, and visiting the world as a family.
Tell us a little about yourself.
We are Michael and Paul, a family of 6 with 2 sets of twin boys: Levi, Lucas, Lotan and Lance. We have been together 20 years. We met when Paul was performing on stage and I was watching the show with family. Since adopting Levi and Lucas, we have been on a real rollercoaster, both boys were diagnosed with autism and epilepsy at aged 3. We currently work for social care. We are both charity ambassadors of major U.K. children’s charities. We work Alongside charities like Fostering Network Adoption U.K., Caudwell Children’s Charity and My AFK to name a few. We are award winning disability advocates. We love being dads and raising awareness of different types of families.
Tell us about your kids.
Levi is quieter and likes his own space. He enjoys playing on his iPad, doing peg puzzles and going to theme parks. All the boys love theme parks and rides.
Lucas enjoys bike rides. He’s really happy and loves playing with his bouncy ball. He loves the trampoline and swimming.
Lotan is very bubbly. He does not sit still and loves playing outside, going on his go kart, painting and arts & crafts.
Lanson loves trains and the BBC Children’s program Night Garden. He enjoys playing with train sets and reading books. The younger twins start school in September.
Can you tell us about your Disability Advocacy work?
Yes, we encourage inclusion and accessible play. We work hard with many charities across the U.K. raising awareness of autism and epilepsy. Last year, we fronted a campaign for more accessible play equipment across the U.K. We give speeches and talks for the charities we work with, and have helped raise thousands of pounds over the years. Paul was awarded a British Citizen Award at the Palace of Westminster for charity work and two decades of support to social care promoting same sex marriage, fostering and adoption within the LGBTQ+ community.
How do you manage to mix work and family?
Being fathers has changed a lot for our family. We work around the needs of the children. We are lucky that our role in social care allows us more time as a family, and the chance to do other exciting things like working with other companies, organisations and charities.
What do you think is your biggest strength as a parent?
Being able to laugh about situations. We sometimes have to face very challenging situations. The older twins were once put on life support to deal with their seizures. Being light hearted helps us get through these tough times.
What stresses you out the most these days as a parent?
We get stressed when things don’t go right, like unexpected traffic or making sure you have everything for a day out. Looking after six children, four of our own and two we currently foster, can be full-on, so everything has to run as smoothly as possible.
What side of parenthood do you wish you had invested more time and energy in the past?
We are pleased we did as much as we could with Levi and Lucas when they were younger. We took them to Aruba aged 3, despite our doctor saying it wouldn’t be fair on other passengers, ie the boys would be too loud in the plane with their autism. Nowadays, we want to be able to continue to invest that same amount of time in all the boys. We intend to visit every corner of the U.K., as there are so many beautiful places. We have never even been to Scotland or Cornwall so there’s so much still to see. We want our children to explore all the world has to offer.
Can you tell us about an especially favorite/special moment with your kid recently?
We have many special moments: seeing them all enjoying themselves at the theme park is amazing, but sometimes, just dancing around the house and having fun is just as much fun.
Thank you Michael!
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Throwback: Dadditude Newsletter #8: On Responsibilities and Fatherless Daughters, with Earnest James
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