Aging Out is a film that explores a rapidly expanding population, that of young adults with autism who “age out” of the abundant support systems available to them as children, and face being left adrift in society as they reach the critical ages of 18 to 21.
Aging Out is intended as an honest, unflinching appraisal of the paths and choices facing families with autistic young adults.This film will look at the issues that confront these young adults through personal stories, to answer the growing question of how autistic adults can find a place for themselves in a society that may not be prepared for their needs.
Filmed in California, Aging Out will feature in-depth interviews with autistic children and adults, autism advocates, business and government representatives, as well as the teachers, social workers, and caregivers who face this issue every day. The film will examine the implications of the high rate of autism diagnoses in the state, and the challenges state social services have faced with the expanding number of autistic adults needing support.
Key themes in Aging Out include the rights and means of autistic adults to determine their own futures, and how their success is impacted by the role of family, government and social programs, the history of placement for autistic adults, imaginative new solutions, economic environments and disparities, as well as community trends in inclusion, diversity and tolerance.
The film will also cover the history of the Lanterman Act, which is a law unique to California that has provided services to adults with developmental disabilities since 1969—a time when no one could have predicted the current explosion in autism diagnoses. Does this law protect autistic Californians, or has its price tag become too high for a financially beleaguered state government? These issues relate to nationwide trends, as thousands of families in every state must face how to best enable fulfilling lives for their loved ones with autism.
This project will avoid common clichés of portrayals of autism – the simplistic themes of “tragedy and triumph.” Autism in particular has seen a proliferation of two types of presentations that either celebrate a very small segment of the population – that of children who are very media-friendly – or bemoan the “epidemic” of autism in support of fundraising. Aging Out attempts to acknowledge the straightforward fact that autistic children become autistic adults – and to explore what that means for them and their families.
The film’s interviews will be intercut with archival footage and stills, footage of autistic adults at home, school and work, along with voiceover and text. Great care will be taken to include individuals diversely challenged by autism and families with varying levels of economic advantages. Whenever possible, autistic people will speak for themselves.
Timeline: We plan to shoot the trailer funded by this Kickstarter campaign in summer of 2015. We'll use that trailer to raise production funds in Fall of 2015, then shoot the film throughout 2016 with a completion date of May 2017.
Risks and challenges
Making a film is always risky. There are a lot of moving parts that need to come together at the right time to make it happen. But when you have 30 years of experience making films, you develop an ability to plan ahead and avoid most of the pitfalls that can occur. Plus when you work on a project that is close to your heart and has the ability to change people's lives, you are willing to do whatever it takes to get it done.
One challenge we initially anticipated was having credible disability experts to interview. But that challenge has already been overcome when Drs. Krysti DeZonia, Mike Cole, and Brian Goldfarb, three of the foremost disability experts, honored us by agreeing to be involved.
Another challenge comes from our hope to have autistic individuals participate in the film, speaking for themselves whenever possible. There can be behavioral issues associated with autism that could make this difficult. But we feel that with patience, and the experience that comes from having a 14 year old autistic son, we can overcome this obstacle.
The final challenge is one of scope. We have started with a broad canvas of issues that encompass this topic--from the personal issues that affect individuals and their families to the societal issues that relate to the systemic treatment of autism. Our goal is to refine the broad strokes of the issues we have outlined so far into a more finely tuned shooting script that focuses on the most important aspects of this topic. This will be accomplished in the research stage where we plan to explore the existing programs as well as visit some new day and residential programs for autistic adults.
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