The Spectrum Experience and Dad's Perspective is an eye opening panel about what its like to be a father raising a child on the autism spectrum. Every parent experiences their child's autism journey uniquely, but there are some common experiences among dad's that we would like to discuss.
Mark Rembert - You make your plans, and you hear God laughing---“Life Changes”, Thomas Rhett
When I think of my biography, I think of this lyric. As a Nashville native and Sewanee graduate, it seemed like I could imagine pretty much what my life would be like. I was living in my hometown, had a job in the golf industry, which was also my passion, and was looking forward to an utterly satisfying life. Then, at age 28, in seemingly perfect health, I developed Type 1 diabetes. Out of nowhere. So I had to change. Weekend beers with my buddies were out, running was in. The way to win at this new challenge was to embrace structure, routine, and predictability. Twelve years later, when our two-year-old son was diagnosed with autism, I came to understand that the life I had taught myself to live as a diabetic had been the best preparation to be Eric’s father that I could have hoped for. Now it’s sixteen years on, and Eric is a rising senior at Hillsboro. His life is full of joy and challenge, and as we begin to come to grips with his adulthood, so is that of his parents.
John Shouse and his wife Janet are parents to three children, including their son Evan, who has autism. John has a strong background in leadership, community development, strategic planning, and team building with a number of local, state, and national nonprofit organizations in the disability community. John served as the president of the Autism Society of Middle Tennessee for 6 years, and for 4 years as a Vice Chair of the national board of the Autism Society of America, where he also served as chair of the national Chapter Development & Advisory Council. He is a past President of The Arc Tennessee, past Chair of the Community Advisory Council for the UCEDD at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, on the External Advisory Board for the IDDRC at Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, and as a member of the Tennessee Autism Summit Team. John is a 2003 graduate of Partners In Policymaking Leadership Institute. He has been an active advocate for inclusive educational practices in schools across Tennessee and nationally. He has been a frequent speaker at national and regional conferences on the special issues faced by fathers of children with autism and other disabilities, and also on the joys and challenges of being a grandparent of a child with disabilities. He also has led or facilitated countless workshops on various aspects of leadership and community engagement within disability communities around the country. John was a finalist in 2008 for the Center for Nonprofit Management’s “Nashville Board Member of the Year” award. He is co-author, with Paula Kluth, of The Autism Checklist: A Practical Reference for Parents and Teachers, John Wiley & Sons, 2009. John blogs at http://theverystuff.com
Dr. Darrell Gwaltney is the Dean & H. Franklin Paschall Chair of Biblical Studies and Preaching, Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; M.A., University of Missouri-Kansas City; M.Div., Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; B.A., Missouri Baptist College; Additional Studies: Regent's Park College, University of Oxford. Dr. Gwaltney came to Belmont to serve as dean for the College of Theology and Christian Ministry in 2004 and was named the H. Franklin Paschall Chair of Biblical Studies and Preaching in 2012. I also serve as the Director of the Moench Center for Church Leadership. He teaches biblical studies, theology, worship and preaching, and church leadership classes whenever he can get away from the administrative duties of his job as dean. He loves students and conversations with people about faith and life as we think deeply and purposefully about how to be best prepared for the work God has called us to do. In addition to his classroom and administrative responsibilities, Dr. Gwaltney has an active ministry working in local churches. He is an avid St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan, a lover of books, an erstwhile programmer, gardener, and big fan of his wife of 36 years, Donna, his daughter Meghan and her husband, Alvaro, his daughter Jordan, and his son Trey.