Thursday, August 25, 2011

Documentary: Loving Lampposts

Loving Lampposts is a thoughtful and intelligent documentary by Todd Drezner about autism, neurodiversity, society’s viewpoint of the diagnosis and how that impacts the way we treat autistic individuals, both medically and personally. I was excited to see that this balanced and open minded film is available on Netflix instant watch.

Drezner’s son Sam, was diagnosed with PDD-NOS as a toddler. He seems to be an easy-going child, although quirky and not very social. (I won’t say “high functioning”, because the film offers a thought provoking conversation on that term.) The film’s title comes from Sam’s early special interest in and connection to a group of lampposts near his home. Visiting the lampposts is an important ritual for Sam as a child.

But the film is much more than a look at one family’s experience with their special needs child. Drenzer thoughtfully examines the big questions about whether autism is an illness to be cured or a difference to be accepted. In his interview with Steve Silberman of the blog Neurotribes, Drenzer discusses how he views autism as a difference as well as a disability. I appreciate this realistic and still respectful stance. In the documentary, Drenzer manages to interview many of the big names in autism science, such as Simon Baron-Cohen, and Paul Offit. He talks to parents of autistic children, like AutismVox blogger Christina Chew, and author Roy Grinker, and autism Playboy Bunny Jenny McCarthy.

The most exciting group in the film is the widely diverse group of autistic adults represented. So often the focus of research, treatment and policy is on children, leaving autistic adults as the forgotten majority. Drenzer talks to artist Dora Raymaker of AASPIRE, Sharisa Joy Kochmeister of AutCom, author Stephen Shore, as well as others. The film celebrate the gifts these individuals bring, while not ignoring their difficulties.

Loving Lampposts is entertaining and informative, well worth watching.