“Autism: The Musical” offers fresh take on baffling disease

By: Kafi Drexel

It’s probably not what most people picture when they think of children with autism. But shattering myths about the disorder is exactly what film director Trisha Regan hopes to do through her documentary “Autism: The Musical.”

“I thought if you make a movie about autism, I’m not going to want to see it,” said Regan. “I’m not going to want to sit there for an hour and a half and kind of be beaten up. I said we need to find a structure where Autism is the obstacle and the subject are the people.”

Taking that to heart, the film weaves through the stories of several children and their families, who over a six month period of time they participate in something called “The Miracle Project,” creating and ultimately performing a live musical on stage. Elaine Hall is one of the parents in the film and also the driving force behind the “The Miracle Project.”

“I was blown away by the evolution of the kids doing the project,” says Hall. “There are some who started out who could not walk into the room, who ended up being front and center the day of the show.”

Take nine-year-old Adam Walden for example, one of the children prominently featured in the film.

“Adam’s only been talking for two years,” says Rosanne Katon of “Autism: The Musical.” “Yes, he was mute, he was talking and then he lost his speech.

And look at Adam now.

Not only does the film show us what these kids can do, you can see and advocates point out, it also aims to show so much more.

“In ‘Autism: The Musical,’ the interplay between husbands and wives, the brothers and sisters, you really get a sense that it’s a whole community that’s dealing with autism,” says Autism Speaks president Mark Roithmayr.
That’s exactly what Regan hopes audiences will walk away with.

“Just from what I’ve heard from viewers, after seeing this film they understand the experience more and they have so much more empathy and they understand that these kids are valuable, they are worthy of our resources,” says Regan. “We have to find a place in our world for this one in a 150 babies that are going to be one in 150 adults in 15 years, 20 years. That’s a significant portion of our population.”

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