As my good friend and "sister from another mother," Beth Broderick, wrote in her current blog, we joined forces with a team of talented women, including her own sister Laura, to make a movie: Fly Away. It's an ultra-low budget feature, which we shot in 14 days, for less than what most "low budget indies" spend on catering! Fly Away is a labor of love made with love. Why did we do it? Because we had a story to tell. One that hundreds of thousands of families are facing; what happens when a child with autism becomes an adult? What will sustain them as they outlive their parents and caregivers?
I'm one of those parents. My own son is 17. But we're of the lucky few. He was mildly impacted, and after decades of intense intervention, a miracle did occur. He progressed out of the autism spectrum! But don't get all excited. It doesn't mean he's "cured." He still has massive learning differences and life skill challenges. And I'm actively looking into every "transition to adult living" program and support system out there. Sad to say, there's very little available. But at least my son will one day live independently. Unlike most of the 800,000 Americans currently diagnosed on the Autism spectrum.
Here's the staggering and harrowing fact. There's been a 53 percent increase in diagnosis over the past 10 years. And a new child is diagnosed every 15 minutes. While teams of dedicated scientists around the world search for causes and cures, those kids are becoming adults. FAST. And our society is not prepared to help them.
According to the CDC, the majority of people on the Spectrum are significantly or severely impaired. They are not the gifted minority sometimes described as having Asperger's Syndrome; blessed with intellectual talents, if not genius. That group has been brilliantly dramatized in Hollywood films and TV shows. They're what many people think of as Autism. But they are not the only face of Autism... sadly, not even the major one.
In Fly Away, I chose to depict a person with severe autism. And what it is like to love and live with someone who faces these extreme challenges. The heroism to take on each new day. The commitment and reciprocal bonds of love between parent and child. Between each one of us and our kids -- on the Spectrum, or not. Fly Away is also a universal story, about the love between a mother and a daughter, and how that love lifts us beyond our limits to meet the needs of the beloved.
That's why Beth and I made Fly Away. In the hope that those whose lives have not been touched by autism will grow their hearts a little bigger, to make room for our kids. And, particularly, for our adults. Because we are going to need your help, your advocacy and your compassion to care for them. While we are here, and after we're gone.
You can stream, rent or buy Fly Away on iTunes, Netflix, Amazon or VOD through TIME WARNER/COMCAST. And watch our 2 minute trailer at our website: (And please read the wonderful review Huffington Post gave to Fly Away. It made us all really happy and proud! Thanks, Huff Po!)