4/20/2011

Loving Lampposts

Last night,  I wrote a piece on three documentaries on autism currently circulating, but I wanted to stop and focus here on just one: Loving Lampposts.

Released March 29 on DVD, is a new documentary called Loving Lampposts. The director, Todd Drezner, has  recently written three posts at Huffington Post, "Learning to Embrace Autism," "Reconsidering the Nature of Autism," and "Autism: The Most Popular Disability" to create awareness of his documentary. This film is well-crafted and for folks familiar with the autism community, many of the more well-known autistic adults and activist parents are featured in the film, as are Richard Roy Grinker, Paul Offit, and Simon Baron-Cohen. 


Much like Kathleen's and my Autism Blogs Directory, this documentary is all inclusive, with most points of view represented. Parents who think vaccines are to blame, who use all manner of biomedical and alternative treatments, to parents who support a neurodiverse perspective are represented and treated respectfully, as is a father-daughter duo who have been a part of the facilitated communication movement since its inception in America.


I enjoyed watching this documentary and actually viewed it all the way through three separate times in working on the posts relating to it. It held up very well through all three viewings, and I think, based on my children's reactions as they wandered in on me viewing it, that it is an appealing documentary across the board. The children showcased in this piece are charming and engaging (and again, some of them are known to the community at large). 


Watching Kristina Chew with Charlie was a neat experience, and being able to tell the girlies that there was my friend Kristina with her son was lovely experience; the kids like to listen to the blogposts I share with them (and I try to do that, to give them the chance to connect with other autistic kids, to see others like them so that they know they are a part of a wider community). 


This is a documentary that most of us in the community can watch with our families and walk away with a positive feeling.


What isn't here, though, what must be acknowledged, is that the darker sides of autism are not focused on. Severely disabled autistic individuals are not represented here, nor are the struggles of those families, and I think that will strike those families who live in that reality as an oversight that is unforgivable. However, I think that the reality is that more families deal with mild to moderate disabilities than deal with the severe, and that this documentary represents the perspective of the director and his experiences with autism.


In the end, we see the world from our own vantage point. Drezner worked to widen his perspective and ventured out into the autism community; he met and talked with a pretty good swath of that community, although he avoided the harshest landscapes. But it's because he did so that I can recommend this documentary as something you can safely view with your children, and something that you probably should view with your family. It's a great launching point for more serious discussions.

6 comments:

sharon said...

Kim have you thought about asking Todd for an interview to ask him why he avoided "the harshest landscapes"?

KWombles said...

That's a good question; I have an email into Cinema Libre asking if he'd like to do an interview.

Nightstorm said...

Honestly Kim, isn't the "Dark side" of autism something that is pervasive in documentaries that are not posAUTive? I though the "dark side" stuff is what sells and gets ratings. After all nothing like turning autistic folks with anger issues into freak shows for viewers right?

KWombles said...

That's not what I meant, and I think it's pretty clear I wasn't indicating that a 'freak show' be presented.

The reality is that this documentary, while very good and one I recommend, does not convey the entire autism spectrum; the most severely disabled are not represented in this piece, and that lack deserved to be noted.

Nightstorm said...

So the non-verbals in the documentary are "not severe" enough for you Kim?

Goldilocks Rebuttal really?

That's not what I meant, and I think it's pretty clear I wasn't indicating that a 'freak show' be presented.

But that is what the dark side of autism shit is. It's a freak show. People play clips of families struggling with their severely autistic kid in every documentry, people play the footage of autists headbanging, screaming and throwing things all the time. That's all I see. It gets views Kim. People would rather watch some woman lament on how the goverment is screwing her over with her 29 year old autistic son than watch that same 29 year old autistic son hold a job, and have a somewhat normal life. You want views? Ratings? Turn up the Tragic-o-Meter to 11.

I haven't seen loving lamposts so maybe my rant is premature. But I am sick and FUCKING tired of people throwing the "Goldilock Rhetoric" to autists that use AAC, towards verbal autists, to autists that can hold jobs. That their disability is not severe enough to warrant some sort of pause.

"Well they can talk they are not like MY CHILD"

it's ridic!

You think because I can talk and type I am not struggling that I am not living the dark side of autism? You don't think the families in the documentary don't struggle? Why would voyuering that to the public to satisfy their curiosity would help those people?


You know me Kim, you know how much I hate it when the media shows nothing but sorrow and gloom when it comes to my diagnosis.

KWombles said...

Okay, maybe you've misread my post.

Here's what I actually wrote: "What isn't here, though, what must be acknowledged, is that the darker sides of autism are not focused on. Severely disabled autistic individuals are not represented here, nor are the struggles of those families, and I think that will strike those families who live in that reality as an oversight that is unforgivable."

I didn't write that I thought he should have focused on it. I wrote that it wasn't and that I believed those families dealing with severe disability would feel slighted.I attempted to offer a balanced review that would address the concerns and interests of all individuals in the autism community so that anyone reading the review and interested in the film would have an idea of what it encompassed.

That's a far cry from me using goldilocks rhetoric and the charge that I am slighting the struggles that the more mildly impaired go through. And I think it's unfair if you're directing that charge at me.


The reality is that the autism spectrum is wide and that it ranges from individuals so severely impaired that they require 24/7 care to those who are able to live independently. That spectrum isn't represented here, and I say that even in light of the fact that there are nonverbal autistics represented in the video. Impairment goes far beyond language ability and, in all honesty, beyond self-injurious behaviors, too.

I'm not arguing for ratings and I'm not arguing for sensationalism. But the reality is that people with autism struggle, oftentimes mightily against massive odds. This isn't provided, in even a thoughtful, sensitive way, and people whose loved ones are on the most severe end of the spectrum will feel this is a distorted picture of what the autism spectrum entails.