Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Review of Autism: the Musical

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Autism: the Musical which debuted tonight. I can say that this documentary generated excitement in my little community alone. Today I received a mass email and an individual call from two different people telling me about the documentary debuting tonight. I already knew, but the communications were a good indicator of the excitement that is surrounding this debut.

I did watch the entire ninety-minute documentary and found it to be a little too abrasive for my tastes (but honest all the same.) I squirmed a little when footage was shown of a naked boy. The editors blurred the image a bit and I think the clip was shown to demonstrate extreme behavior. What bothered me a little was that the boy did not probably choose to have that scene shown. Someone chose for him and it just didn't seem fair. It's a privacy/ethics issue rather than a decency one.

Another scene that bothered me was when one of the boys talked about being bullied. I'm glad that the issue of bullying was covered, but I was uncomfortable with the language coming from the child while recreating a scene in which he was bullied. The boy must have said d##k five times in two minutes or less.

Another scene of the same boy talking about bullying with his mom was shown and I think that would have been sufficient coverage of the issue. I realize, however, other viewers may have liked the edginess of this scene. I'm just an old fashioned writer from the Midwest who doesn't like hearing bad language coming from minors (0r majors for that matter.)

That said, this documentary really did capture the gamut of issues and topics surrounding autism. The strain that having a special needs child puts on a couple was quite evident. Relationships amongst people on the spectrum was another topic. There was a buddy relationship featured and also a puppy-love romance. Other issues covered: mainstreaming versus special education; limiting kids in special education with the prevalence of "life skills" courses; dating and single parenthood; and using facilitated communication to decrease frustration and to increase the social skills of nonverbal individuals.

I also liked that the documentary and musical featured abilities rather than disabilities. Also, the five children featured covered the range of the ASD spectrum--from nonverbal to Asperger's Syndrome. If you get a chance to see the documentary again, listen to the songs that the kids sing. The songs are positive. I'm a strong believer that people on the spectrum can, with some help, go beyond the expectations of the general society.

What the autism community needs are more people like Elaine Hall who created The Miracle Project, a theater arts program for children on the spectrum. She also directed the musical featured on the documentary. I'm not at all surprised that she is a parent of someone with ASD. Her son, who is nonverbal, was one of the stars of the documentary.

It would be great if this Autism: the Musical inspired more people to find funding for and to direct musicals or variety shows that star individuals with ASD. I have seen tonight that with the support and dedication of everyone involved, these projects can be quite successful.


Anonymous said...

It was a tantrum scene, filmed from a distance. No egregious nudity that I saw... I thought it was a very effective way of showing what a lot of parents deal with. The film didn't sugarcoat very much.

As for the boy's choice in the matter, The New York Times reported on Sunday that Neal, the boy in question, was consulted about whether he wanted certain scenes to appear in the film (particularly the one in which he pulls the toddler in the park). He typed on his device, "I'm OK with it. We are messengers."

I like that the movie had so many strong moments, that it didn't flinch. The kids were great!

Casdok said...

It was nice to read a post about this in a bit more depth than just saying how wonderful the musical is.
Good to hear it is honest.

Anonymous said...

I just found out you can watch this online. I put a link to it on my side bar and hope to watch it as soon as little miss M gives me some time alone!;)

Anonymous said...

I just watched the musical tonight. It did portray some things that were questionable as far as ethics, but I felt covered the issue well. The whole show was not quite what I expected. Would I watch it again, probably. It does make you reflect about what is to come and what has passed though doesn't it? If I took something away from it, it was that no matter where you go, it seems like it is going to be a struggle.

Jen R.