The A Word

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September, 2016
DVD Author: 
BBC One

The BBC has recently released a 6-episode drama series (currently in the first season) that focuses on the progression of family dynamics as one son is diagnosed with autism. It was recently announced the show is renewed for a second season (2017).

The drama follows a five-year old boy, Joe, and his family living in England. Joe demonstrates significant difficulties with communication, sensory stimulation, social skills and social interactions. The series not only focuses on the diagnosis process for the parents and the associated emotions/feelings, it also integrates family life and the demands of raising a child with autism. Joe has a sister who inevitably feels unnoticed, his parents struggle with their own relationship difficulties, and his grandfather appears to struggle with his social abilities.

Although some situations portrayed within the show may be perceived as cliché, the series illustrates a family dealing with an ASD diagnosis as they attempt to manage everyday life situations and relationships. When families receive a diagnosis of autism, they may find themselves overwhelmed and sometimes feel isolated from friends and family members.

Although a fictional drama, some of the issues families may face during that time are represented within the show. There have been some critical reviews in regard to how the parents come to terms with their son’s autism. Although there are parents who do not struggle in a similar way, it is important to consider that some may have difficulty with the initial diagnosis period.

While the show may not encompass all realistic aspects of life with a child on the spectrum, it does represent some of the struggles families encounter when a diagnosis appears in an already overwhelmed family.

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Watch Me Learn: Video Modelling

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June, 2016

Research has indicated that children with autism spectrum disorder learn various skills through video modeling. Video modeling is an evidence- based intervention used to teach children with autism effective social skills. The videos include children engaging in socially appropriate interactions and demonstrating effective social skills.

Watch Me Learn is a collection of video models that teachers can use in their classroom to help support students on the spectrum. Since each video teaches a variety of different skills, each one can be used for multiple social skill development. There are three levels of teaching; teaching expressive and receptive vocabulary, direct modeling of the targeted skill, and the application of learned skills in a generalized activity.

According to the Watch Me Learn website, it is important to incorporate teaching lessons during the session. The teacher or adult is encouraged to ask who, when, what, how, why, where questions during one-on-one or small group sessions. This allows children to conceptualize the learned skills and generalization to other areas.

The product list contains a number of different DVDs, including:

  • A New Beginning teaches beginner developmental skills within the context of play (greet and wave, blowing bubbles, building blocks, peek-a-boo, etc.)
  • Let’s Play teaches beginner and advanced beginner developmental skills (puzzles, drawing faces, abc’s, tea party, hide and seek, etc.)
  • School Days teaches children how to proceed through a school day (bus rides, art, listening time, recess, speech, academics, etc.); and Friends that teaches children the skills required to interact and socialize with peers (turn taking, sharing, offering help, conversations, etc.).

There are many other videos and DVDs found on the website. A streaming service is also offered to obtain access to all the videos found on the site.

The site is easy to navigate and there are many helpful tips to implement video models in the classroom or through a one-on-one setting.

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Bluebirds Fly: Love and Hope on the Autism Spectrum

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May, 2016
DVD Author: 
Cherry Arnold

With autism spectrum disorder on the rise, most people know someone diagnosed. Interacting with individuals on the spectrum may present challenges and misunderstandings can occur.

Bluebirds Fly: Love and Hope on the Autism Spectrum follow three different families, each with a child on the spectrum. Through interviews and clips with the families, the film sheds light on the challenges in the community, home, and school. Each family shares personal and raw stories of the initial shock of the diagnosis, and how they managed to find appropriate therapies to function as a family unit. Through resilience, humour, and dedication, the families ultimately arrive at a sense of acceptance. This film not only portrays real life individuals and families dealing with autism, it also paints a picture of what we as a society can do to help individuals feel included.

The film has received Best Documentary and Audience Award from SENE Film, Music, Art Festival.

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My son, Panjak

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April, 2016
DVD Author: 
Nishtha Shailajan

This film is a short documentary that explores the life of a mother and her son, diagnosed with autism in India. Panjak’s mother speaks of the relationship with her son and the pleasures and pain of everyday life. Not only does the documentary address the trying and demanding aspects of taking care of Panjak, it paints a picture of courage, faith, and extreme hope within their family unit. The film also celebrates the extraordinary women in Panjak’s life; his mother and younger sister. The film strives to celebrate women and their unconquerable spirit and their love and affection that help to support children all over the world. Additionally, Panjak’s mother is a source of inspiration to all parents of children with autism.

The subtitled film has received many awards and recognition including the International Film Festival For Films On Autism, Italy; International Documentary And Short Film Festival Of Kerala, Kerala; , International Students Film Festival, New Delhi; and 12th International Film Festival "Seize This Day With Me/ Seize The Film", Novi Sad, Serbia.

You can find this video at https://www.viddsee.com/video/my-son-pankaj/jxijt

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Autism in Love

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March, 2016
DVD Author: 
Matt Fuller and Carolina Groppa

Finding love and a maintaining a relationship can be difficult for just about everyone, but those on the autism spectrum are met with additional difficulties. Challenges with social communication and personal interactions in a relationship can be difficult to overcome.

Autism in Love paints a sincere picture of four individuals with autism on their journey to find a meaningful relationship. The film shatters pre-convinced notions and stereotypes of the inability of those with autism to commit to and succeed in romantic relationships. It reveals the vastness of the spectrum and probes the question of how adults with autism enter into and maintain relationships with other people.

One couple, both with autism, learn how to cope with each other’s individual differences and eccentricities and even contemplate taking their relationships to the next level. Another man, who lives with his mother, struggles with his autism and feels that dating women is impossible. He spends the majority of his time playing video games and just trying to “fit in.” The final man, whose autism appears to be more “typical” than the others in the film, faces a heart-wrenching situation when his wife of 20 years is diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Overall, Autism in Love effectively portrays the notion that love happens for all people in different places. While those on the spectrum encounter additional challenges, love and relationships can persevere.

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George

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February, 2016
DVD Author: 
DIrectors: Henry Corra and Grahame Weinbren

One summer a father, Henry Corra, gives his son George a video recorder. The result is an exploration of a boy with high functioning autism and the world and relationships around him.

The film follows George throughout his daily life and defines his sense of “normalcy.” This documentary has been described as “a film within a film”, where George’s inset film uses sweeping camera moves and blurry pictures. Brief sensory images flood the screen and his frantic shooting style accurately depicts the way he perceives and progresses through the world. The viewers recognize the hyper-sensory stimulation and fragmented scenes as a representation of his perceptions.

The film portrays the relationship between George and his father. The camera becomes George’s outlet to express his feelings and thoughts and to connect with his father on a different level. It also depicts how George connects with other adults.

Overall, the film allows viewers to become immersed in a world we have little understanding of. The viewers are taken on a journey and welcomed into his everyday interactions and behaviours. The characteristics associated with autism are cleverly portrayed through George’s lens. Although met with various challenges, his positivity and strength emerges from beginning to end.

The special features section provides an interview with a 17 year-old George.

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Breaking Boundaries: The Art of Alex Masket

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October, 2015
DVD Author: 
Director and Producer: Dennis Connors

Breaking Boundaries is a short biographical documentary featuring Alex Masket, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at a young age. Despite being considered “non-vocal,” Alex is an extraordinary artist who expresses himself through modern, abstract pieces.

As a child, Alex used art creation as a calming method and to acquire sensory stimulation. While he began creating pieces using Lego blocks, it quickly transformed into grand abstract pieces on canvas. The documentary chronicles Alex’s journey into becoming a unique artist and exploring his “language.”

Through interviews with art experts and his supporters, the notion behind artistic communication is explored in people with disabilities. Alex discovers a way to express his creative impulsivity and become respected in the art world.

The documentary won CINE Golden Eagle Film and Video Competition for short documentary.

You can find this video on the Alex Masket website: http://alexmasket.com/page.php

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Autism and Cake

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August, 2015
DVD Author: 
Producer: Stephen V. Alba & Tracey Wren

Autism and Cake is a 12-minute film that follows a grandfather’s difficulty understanding and accepting his grandson’s diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). But when the grandfather is required to spend the day with his grandson, he begins to appreciate the differences and abilities of individuals with ASD. This short may be insightful for any family members that struggle with accepting someone’s diagnosis of ASD. The role of the grandfather is played by Ed Asner.

The full film can be viewed online for free at http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi1972480281/

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Fly Away

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June, 2015
DVD Author: 
Janet Grillo, Director

Fly Away is a story about a mother with a teenage daughter with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The mother is struggling to cope with what her daughter’s options are once she becomes an adult and perhaps leaves home. Fly Away is an independent, low-budget film that was shot in just 14 days. It has received accolades from international film festivals and honourable mentions from sources like The New York Times.

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The Tough Kid: Bully Blocker Shorts

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May, 2015
DVD Author: 
Pacific Northwest Publishing

The Tough Kid: Bully Blocker Shorts include six short videos (ranging from 6 to 10 minutes) that teach students how to prevent bullying. The titles include Learning about Bullying, Bully Blocker Tools, Friendship Builders, Problem Solvers, Respecting Differences, and Confidence Boosters.

The videos show an adult drawing simple but engaging animations to illustrate the concepts along with the narration. After every short, the students are encouraged to discuss the concepts and brainstorm ways to prevent bullying. The shorts were created by a team of educational psychologists with vast experiences in the field of education and social-emotional wellbeing.

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