Loving Lampposts is a film by an autism parent. I’m waiting for my copy (disclosure: I have asked for a review copy from the producer). In the meantime, reviews have come out by better prepared writers than I. Steve Silberman at Neurotribes has an interview with the filmaker: “Loving Lampposts,” A Groundbreaking Documentary About Autism, Love, and Acceptance. Shannon Des Roches Rosa at The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism has Loving Lampposts: Accepting and Understanding Neurodiversity. Liz Ditz at I speak of Dreams has A Must-See Movie: Loving Lampposts.
I remember first hearing about this project some time ago when there was just a very sparse website. I had no concept of where the project was going. I was left with a couple of questions then, including: is this going to be a fairly shallow movie about a single quirk in a single autistic? (The idea for the title comes from the fact that the filmaker’s son, well, had a love of lampposts. )
From the reviews (above) and from the materials already available, this looks to be a good movie. A movie which presents some very important questions and gives thoughtful discussion to them. From the Loving Lampposts website:
What would you call a four year old who caresses all the lampposts in the park? Quirky? Unusual? Or sick?
Such labels are at the center of the debate about autism: is it a disease or a different way of being—or both? In Loving Lampposts, we witness this debate and meet the parents, doctors, therapists, and autistic people who are redefining autism at a moment when it’s better known than ever before. Motivated by his son’s diagnosis, filmmaker Todd Drezner explores the changing world of autism and learns the truth of the saying, “if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.”
Here is a video clip made available:
Loving Lampposts Trailer from Loving Lampposts on Vimeo.
In this short clip we see the wonderful boy, Sam, Prof. Richard Grinker (anthropologist, author of the book Unstrange Minds, and autism researcher), I believe that’s Kristina Chew’s voiceover in a clip of her son Charlie riding his bike, Jenny McCarthy, and parents at a National Autism Association meeting.
Press materials for the book do what they should: they make me want to see the movie. Yes there are the excellent photos of Sam and Lampposts:
But there are also photos of Stephen Shore working with a student:
And a photo of Dora Raymaker:
To point out only a few of the photos.
From the Press Kit, here is the list of participants in the film. It’s a very big and rather diverse group of people.
Nadine Antonelli and Noah: A resident of Wilmington, N.C. and a medical doctor, Nadine initially believed that she should try to cure her son Noah’s autism. Over time, though, she came to accept his diagnosis and she now works to provide support to other families with autistic children in Wilmington.
Simon Baron-Cohen: The Director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University and a world-renowned expert on autism.
Kristina Chew, Jim and Charlie Fisher: Professors at St. Peter’s College and Fordham University respectively, Kristina and Jim are raising their autistic son Charlie in Cranford, NJ. Kristina is a popular blogger writing about her experiences with Charlie and advocating for neurodiversity.
Paul and Jackie Colliton and Billy: Residents of New York City, Paul and Jackie adopted their autistic son Billy when he was ten days old. He did not begin to speak until age seven.
Todd and Erika Drezner and Sam: The filmmaker, his wife, and their autistic son.
Roy Richard Grinker: A Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University, Richard is the father of an autistic daughter and the author of Unstrange Minds, a history of autism and an examination of how it is treated around the world.
Lila Howard and Lyndon: The 87 year-old mother of a 60 year-old autistic son, Lila raised Lyndon as a single mother at a time when there was no support for parents of autistic children. Ignoring experts who blamed her son’s condition on her and suggested he be institutionalized, Lila helped Lyndon learn to live independently. Today, he lives in his own apartment in New York City, where he has lived for 13 years. Lila remains his primary caretaker.
Jay Kochmeister: The father of Sharisa (see below).
Sharisa Kochmeister: An autistic adult who does not speak, Sharisa was believed to have an IQ of 30 from the time she was two until she turned 13. Almost by accident, her family discovered she could read, and she now communicates with a computer with text to speech capability. Her IQ is at a genius level, and she is a graduate of Denver University who advocates for autistic people.
Eileen Muniz, Gianna, Marz, and Vincent: The mother of three autistic children in Mohegan Lake, NY, Eileen and her husband recently separated.
Paul Offit: A doctor who is the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He argues strongly against the idea that vaccines cause autism, and is the author of Autism’s False Prophets, which exposes scientifically unsupported treatments for autism.
Dora Raymaker: An autistic adult who communicates using a computer with text to speech capability, Dora is working on her graduate degree in Portland, Oregon. She is the co-director of the Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education.
Johnny and Chris Seitz: An autistic adult and performance artist, Johnny worked with his wife Chris to develop “God Does Not Make Garbage,” a 30 minute show that goes inside the world of autism.
Stephen Shore: Diagnosed with autism in 1964, Stephen was said to be profoundly ill and was recommended for institutionalization. Today, he is a Professor at Adelphi University. He also teaches music to autistic children and lectures about autism all over the world.
Cindy Walsh, Eric, and Robbie: The mother of twin boys with autism in Chantilly, CA, Cindy believes she has “recovered” her children with alternative treatments.
Elizabeth Avery: An autistic adult living in the Boston area.
Kenneth Bock: A doctor who treats patients with autism using alternative therapies.
Nancy Cale: The co-founder of the organization Unlocking Autism.
Paul Collins: The father of an autistic son and the author of Not Even Wrong, a history of autism.
Doreen Granpeesheh: The Executive Director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders.
Kristin Holsworth: The mother of an autistic son, Troy.
Peter Hotez: A doctor who is President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Peter is the father of an autistic doctor. He says that there is no scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism.
Karen Hubert: A sales representative for New Beginnings Nutritionals, Karen markets vitamins and supplements to parents of autistic children.Dan Joyce: A representative of the organization Autism Speaks.
David Kirby: The author of Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic.
Estée Klar: The mother of autistic son Adam, founder of the Autism Acceptance Project, and writer of a blog called “The Joy of Autism.”
Robert Krakow: The father of an autistic son a plaintiffs lawyer in vaccine injury cases.
Jenny McCarthy: The celebrity actress is the mother of an autistic son and a leading proponent of the idea that vaccines cause autism.
Arnold Miller: The Director of the Language and Cognitive Development Center of Boston.
Barbara Moran: An autistic adult with a special interest in steam locomotives and old GE refrigerators.
Bob Morgan: The owner of Heavenly Heat Saunas, Bob believes that saunas can “detoxify” autistic children.
James Neubrander: A doctor who treats patients with autism using alternative therapies.
Christina Nicolaidis: The mother of an autistic son and the co-director of the Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education.
Laura Rose: The mother of a “recovered” autistic son, Jason.
Ralph James Savarese: Ralph and his wife adopted a six year-old profoundly autistic boy who had been severely abused. Today, although Ralph’s son cannot speak, he is a straight A student in an Iowa high school.
Bill Schindler: The director of the Mild Hyperbaric Therapy Center, Bill works with parents who treat their children’s autism by giving them treatments in hyperbaric chambers.
Phil Schwarz: The father of an autistic son and an advocate of neurodiversity.
Kassiane Sibley: An autistic adult and advocate for neurodiversity.
Autumn Terrill: An expert in special education who works with Billy Colliton.
Anju Usman: A doctor who treats patients with autism using alternative therapies.