Movie Review: Loving Lampposts: Living Autistic
I expected charming, sad. This film is so much more.
Posted Sep 21, 2011
I'd like to recommend this documentary by Todd Drezner called "Loving Lampposts: Living Autistic."
At the beginning of the film, Drezner introduces his son, Sam, who has autism, and also has a strong attachment to several specific lampposts in his neighborhood. He's a sweet-faced little kid, and the lamppost theme, with echoes of Narnia, set me up to expect a charming, though perhaps sad family story.
"Loving Lampposts" is so much more than charming, and it isn't sad; it's inspiring.
Sam has recently been diagnosed, so Drezner sets out to understand what autism is. Using a series of autism experts, parents of children with austism, adults with autism, and some autism experts who are also parents, Drezner offers a broader look than we are used to getting about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
For one thing, he almost immediately introduces an invisible population - adults with ASD. So often children are the focus of stories about autism. Being the sister of a woman with autism, I try to bring up the realities of adult life whenever possible. It is wonderful to see this father of a young boy already looking down the road.
Drezner also looks at the "Defeat Autism Now" movement, which, with high profile spokespeople like Jenny McCarthy, promises "recovery" from autism through things like vitamins, supplements, dietary changes and oxygen therapies. Drezner offers a dispassionate critique of the movement by simply letting it speak for itself, which is very valuable, I think.
He also offers some insight into the rise in numbers of children with ASD. While one in 100 are now thought to be affected (up from 1 in 10,000 in the 1960s), Drezner's sources point to other possible reasons for the rise - early detection, increased diagnoses, a broadening of the definition to include Asperger's Disorder, and PDDNOS, and categorizing children who would have once been seen as having childhood schizophrenia with ASD. This is all good news to be heard over the clamor of fear mongering about an epidemic.
He consideres the vaccine controversy as well showing, very simply, that Dr. Wakefield's study was the only one to ever find a link between vaccines and autism, and that one study has been retracted and completely and utterly refuted.
My favorite part of this film is Drezner focus on the neuro-diversity movement, the idea that instead of trying so hard to normalize behavior and mainstream people with autism, we can simply appreciate it as part of who they are. Once you give up on assimilation, "You begin to think less about changing behaviors and more about developing relationships," as one father puts it.
Several parents talked about acceptance - not as giving up or being passive, but as being compassionate and finding joy in the relationship they can have with their kids. That really rang true to me, and is something I have certainly found in my own family as I strive to accept my sister for who she is rather than who I wish she could be.
You can buy the DVD or sponsor a screening of the film. Details are available at "Loving Lampposts'" website.
I recommend this film for parents, siblings, professionals and anyone trying to better understand what autism is.