April is Autism Awareness Month, which makes Tricia Regan's film Autism: The Musical even more of a must-see documentary. Her film follows five autistic children on their journey to create and perform a live musical, but she says it's not a film about the condition itself. It's a film about love.
When I started making Autism: The Musical, it was fall of 2005, right after Katrina hit New Orleans. At that time, the rate of autism in America was one in 150 (Source: Centers for Disease Control). By the time I finished the film, in January of 2007, the rate had risen to one in 144. Now, as we prepare to broadcast the film on OWN, five years later, the rate is one in 88.
What actually causes autism, none of us really knows. But that is not the point of Autism: The Musical. What we do know is that in the late 80s and early 90s parents all over the world were struggling with the medical community to figure out what was wrong with their children. And when they received the diagnosis of autism, there was little help available. Because of the rapidly-increasing numbers, the hard work of organizations like Autism Speaks, the greater visibility afforded by the media, and hopefully also because of Autism: The Musical, there is now much more help and assistance available to parents struggling to raise their children with autism. That said, we are still a long way from being in any kind of satisfactory situation.
But again, that is not what Autism: The Musical is about.
In fact, Autism: The Musical isn't even really about autism -- at its core. At its core it is principally about love, and how love empowers all of us to become more than we are. But it is also about the struggle to grow up in a world that doesn't accept you for who you are, and about who you are when your life takes a hard turn that you never expected.
I've screened this film for audiences around the world, and everyone laughs, and everyone cries -- no matter what their cultural background or whether they've had any association with autism. It is a universal story of people accomplishing what they should never be able to accomplish -- in this case, those people are five amazing kids, and their equally-inspiring parents. And what they accomplish will bring tears to your eyes while you are beaming with a smile across your face.
I thank the Oprah Winfrey Network for recognizing the enduring power of this film and for giving us such a great platform to reintroduce these remarkable people and this mysterious (and sometimes wondrous) disorder, to a whole new audience during Autism Awareness Month 2012.
In honor of Autism Awareness Month, this Sunday OWN will be airing the Emmy Award-winning documentary "Autism: The Musical" on "Super Soul Sunday" at 11 a.m. ET/PT.
For more on Super Soul Sunday, click here.
Flickr photo by BarelyFitz