The theme of the SFU film festival was Alone Together… and how in the midst of an urban environment people can still feel isolated, solitary, and disconnected. It is interesting that concept can be extended to have meaning the context of social understanding, and in that way the film Vectors of Autism fit into the festival very well.
When I observe adult friends that are on the autism spectrum, I notice that a number of them are isolated and economically marginalized by their social communication differences, among other things. I observe the way that life is so often much more difficult for those who think and process differently, when they are faced with a world that can be pretty rigid in its definition and expectations around the way things ought to be.
And just tonight as I am putting the final touches on this post… I have encountered a tweet from Laura Nagle that reads: “Autism is not a good way to prosper. We tread water at the expense of swimming!”
I sigh in agreement… yes…
However, I believe we can do things differently.
I am convinced we can offer more understanding and greater accommodation so that those who are not a part of the neuromajority can make their way more easily.
Given that social interaction takes at least two participants, it seems strange to me that we often expect those with the social cognitive challenges to be the ones doing most of the work both in our schools and in our adult lives. As a society we seem to expect individuals with autism to change, and learn to hide their autism in order to fit in. This attitude or expectation is in need of a cure of sorts – the paradigm is up-side-down. It seems so obvious that it should be those of us with the social cognitive strength that are doing most of the work – or at the very least, a fair share.
During the Q&A session after the screening, I was asked about how I became involved in the making of the film, and about my personal connection to autism. I explained my motivation as both a special educator and a parent. The rest went something like this:
Through the use of social media, I am part of a growing community of support for those who process and experience the world differently. That is how I came to know Susan Marks, the producer of Vectors of Autism, and Laura Nagle, the amazing woman who is the subject of the film. I am committed to listening to and empowering the voices of adults with autism/autistic adults within the neurodiversity movement, which is a part of the story of how I became involved in the making of this film…
And too… I am supporting my son, H, in developing self-understanding and in becoming a self-advocate… as I realize that he too will be an adult and will be faced with less understanding and fewer services, supports, and accommodations as he matures.
I believe in the message of Vectors of Autism so strongly – because it is the voice of those with autism that is heard in this documentary. We need to be listening to what autistics are telling us about their experience – so we can be more responsive and accepting – and, like Laura says, ‘help the next generation fly a whole lot higher that she has.’
Vectors of Autism is an opportunity to look into the lives of those with autism in a way that encourages us to think differently about those who think differently. The film illuminates that autism can be viewed as a set of differences as opposed to simply a set of deficits. It offers an opportunity to consider the strengths of those on the autism spectrum, and to consider how we can shift the paradigm to make the most of those strengths, and lessen the down-ward push of some of the challenges of autism.
Here are a few shots from our exciting evening:
H is looking pretty sharp here!! Kind of blurry though – because it was hard to capture him being still for a moment. He was so excited and proud to attend – and I loved it when he asked, “When is our film coming on?”
H took this photo of me. I am an alumnus of Simon Fraser University – so I was pretty proud to be participating.
Here is a shot of the (slightly altered) program. This was Vectors of Autism’s first film festival. I know… Awesome! I am expecting it is the first of many!
I am grateful to The Amazing Craig and H and other members of our family for their unending encouragement and support of this site, my speaking engagements, and the many projects with which I seem to become involved. Thank you so much… I couldn’t do this without you!!
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2012)