On November 6, 2011, Maine Public Broadcasting Network premiered an hour long documentary called Making Our Way: Autism. It was directed by Dan Lambert, and starred Dr. Temple Grandin, along with our family. It was produced in part by the Autism Society of Maine. We consider ourselves very lucky and blessed to have been part of it.
It was through the Autism Society of Maine (ASM) that we got involved. The ASM helped put MPBN in contact with families touched by autism in the state, and the rest is history.
Initially, we thought MPBN would be doing a full special on us. This was kind of overwhelming, and we were more at ease when we found out we’d be one of many segments as part of the whole. We were shocked to discover we were featured in nearly a quarter of the project.
It’s hard to explain what it’s like to invite a film crew into your home, and to let them into your life. They filmed A LOT of video, and asked A LOT of questions. It’s not as easy as you’d think to sound smart on camera. I’m not even sure we pulled it off. The tricky part of filming a documentary like this with a kid like Jake is re-takes. We’d pull into the driveway, get out of the van, and then have to film it again. We’d walk into a building, then re-shoot to make sure we got a good angle. To say he was confused is an understatement. At the end of the day, though, it was a lot of fun and a labor of love.
I remember seeing the promo for the video, where they play the clip of Jake in the woods in the camo sweatshirt, where I ask him to say, “I love you Daddy,” but he can’t. I’d seen that video a hundred times before, but had never seen it set to music and slowed down at the end. I’d never realized it was sad, but almost cried when I saw it how Dan Lambert saw it. That’s when the butterflies started fluttering in our tummies.
Remember, we had no idea that we’d be more than a small part of an elaborate whole. After we told all of our friends and family, then gathered around the TV to watch, it was shockingly intimate seeing ourselves out there for the world to watch. I remember how hard it was to discuss “diagnosis day” with the director in front of the camera crew, and how especially vulnerable I felt watching it on television. Beth says that the “drama” queen in her should have relished the moment, but her comfort zone is on stage with a script, pretending to be someone else. Playing herself, and sharing intimate details of her own life, is horrifying. It was the opportunity to get our story out to a large audience that made the whole thing possible for Beth.
The response we got was amazing! People started telling us how awesome we are, which in and of itself is kind of weird. People became interested in our thoughts and opinions. The “fame” we achieved with the documentary afforded us the opportunity to get involved on parent panels and speak to groups of interested parties. It was like a springboard that launched our activism campaign.
Another fantastic opportunity was getting to praise people who were key in Jake’s life, like Leslie Michaud, OTR/L. She is, and always has been, amazingly helpful for Jake.
So, look back with us at the special itself. It’s kind of remarkable how young the kids look, and how far we’ve come since 2011. Thank you Dan Lambert. Thank you ASM. Thank you Cathy Dionne (program director at ASM). Thank you Leslie Michaud. Thank you those who watched and those who continue to seek our opinions. We’re here to serve. If you have any questions at all, please comment below, and I promise to reply. The whole documentary is an hour long, and our family is featured from about minute 14 through to 30-ish.