Left: Park Library on the campus of Central Michigan University. The auditorium, on the main floor, served as the venue for the pending chapter of Central Michigan Autism Society of America's autism "movie night." The auditorium seats about 250 people, has a large screen perfect for movies, a podium and updated sound system.
The library is also where my husband, a librarian, works. He is the head of reference and carries out most of his duties on the second floor.
Autism Movie Night was held Wednesday, April 16 at 7 p.m. Eleven people watched three 22-minute news features from ABC News. (Perfect evening weather may have kept more than a few people away.) Committee members were Julie Lorenzen, Stephanie Mathson, a reference librarian at Park Library who serves as the library's video bibliographer, and Dr. Patricia Kopetz who oversees the Autism Impairment Certification program at CMU. Attendees included students, parents of children with autism and one special education teacher. Dr. Kopetz introduced the films and led a question and answer session with members of the audience after each feature.
The first feature shown was Measuring Success in Treatment. This program highlighted Applied Behavior Analysis, a therapy method which is considered a controversial by some members of the autism community. The news program followed two boys over a several year period. The program demonstrated that the treatment method was fully beneficial to one boy, who was able to successfully be integrated into his school system, and partially beneficial to another boy, who learned more than 100 words and some life skills, but who still needs a lot of support from parents and the staff at his school.
The second feature was A Place in the World: Adults with Autism Finding Their Way. The program related the stories of Paul de Savino and Jamie Hoppe, two adults with autism who enjoy the support of their parents, life coaches, and others dedicated to their well-being. Psychologist Peter Gerhardt, Jen Hoppe, cofounder of Quest Autism Foundation, and Paul's mother added narrative to the feature while expressing their concerns about long-term quality of life for people with autism. They also emphasized the need for more funding and initiatives to assist adults on the spectrum.
The last feature shown was titled Echoes of Autism. This program featured Paul De Savino, one of the adults who appeared in A Place in the World. At the time he was 36-and amorously drawn to a female acquaintance, who remained anonymous. Interviews with Paul, his mother, and autism expert Dr. Peter Gerhardt helped shed light on the difficulties this individual with faced in terms of love, attachment and heartbreak. An additional segment entitled “My Brother’s Keeper” explored the relationship between two siblings. A young boy discussed his little brother's autism and how the disorder shaped their relationship. He was honest, but loving in what he had to say about his relationship with his brother.
A special thanks goes to Dr. Patricia Kopetz, Stephanie Mathson, Randy Claypool, facility manager of Park Library, and Michael Lorenzen, my very helpful and understanding husband.
Note: These features were chosen from a list that came with performance rights. College students from the Student Council of Exceptional Children and parents of children with autism indicated which films drew their interest. It is a coincidence that all the features were from ABC (Autism Broadcasting Company? No, actually the letters stand for American Broadcasting Company), which covered all the stories with commendable compassion. All three DVD's will be permanently available for students to check out at the media center in Park library. See complete list of films and see previews of clips available at the Film Media Group's website here.
Photo credit: Julie Lorenzen