As autism has exploded into the public consciousness over the last 20 years, two opposing questions have been asked about the condition: is it a devastating sickness to be cured? Or is it a variation of the human brain — just a different way to be human?
After his son's diagnosis, filmmaker Todd Drezner visits the front lines of the autism wars. We meet the "recovery movement," which views autism as a tragic epidemic brought on by environmental toxins. Operating outside the boundaries of mainstream medicine, these parents, doctors, and therapists search for unconventional treatments that can "reverse" autism and restore their children to normal lives.
We meet the 'neurodiversity' movement, which argues that autism should be accepted and autistic people supported. This group argues that the focus on treatments and cures causes the wider society to view autistic people as damaged and sick. Acceptance is the better way, but how do you practice acceptance of autism in a world where the very word can terrify parents?
And we meet a too often ignored group: autistic adults. It's these adults who show just how tricky it is to judge an autistic person's life. Is an autistic woman who directs academic research about autism recovered? What if the same woman has trouble speaking and uses text-to-speech software to communicate? Is an autistic man who lives in his own apartment recovered? What if his mother must hire people to do his laundry and take him out in the evenings?
This wide angle view of autism makes clear what's at stake in the autism wars. Will we live in a world dominated by autism conferences where vendors hawk vitamins and hyperbaric chambers to parents desperate for a cure? Or will we provide the support that autistic adults need to lead the best lives they can? And can these two worlds possibly co-exist?
"Loving Lampposts" received the Best Feature Documentary award at the 2011 Peace On Earth Film Festival. Director Todd Drezner accepted the award from festival directors Nick Angotti, Milissa Pacelli and Clayton Monical.
In its February 25th issue, the Chicago Sun Times called "Loving Lampposts" a "revealing documentary with a personal touch." The three star review appeared in the paper in advance of the film's screening at the Peace on Earth Film Festival.
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