Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lights! Camera!! Action!!!

I am going to deviate from my post this week about the fictional autistic story I have been writing.  Instead, I am going to talk about an extraordinary program offered for children with autism at my own school, Oakland University.

The Oakland University Center for Autism Research and Support (OUCARES) has been hosting a Film Camp designed specially for children on the autism spectrum. For two weeks, autistic kids ages ten to eighteen starred in films that they themselves created.  They wrote, acted, directed, and edited their own films. They had the assistance of a professional film crew, lead by actor/director Joey Travolta.  Joey is the older brother of the well known actor John Travolta.

Joey was courteous and professional when I was introduced to him.  He shook my hand and was interested in my writing about autism.  We couldn't talk for long, because he was busy in the final preparations for the film camp. For about an hour, I walked around to see the different areas of the film camp.  While I was watching the editing process, a young man with autism pointed out to the crew member that they had already seen the clip of film displayed on the screen.  The crew member pointed out that they had to replay the clips to make sure that they cut the scene precisely.  Truly a learning experience for everyone involved.

In another room, a crew member was coaching a group in acting.  There were about two dozen students all sitting in a semi-circle facing the white.  The acting coach was calmly instructing the kids in an activity almost like charades.  He plowed on, regardless of whatever autistic behaviors were taking place.  He would raise his voice slightly if the noise level got too high.  In the activity, one of the kids would get up in the center of the group.  After he took a bow, another member of the group would try to guess what he or she was pretending to be.  One boy pretended to play video games, and another boy mimed hitting a baseball.

It is the dream of many young children to be a part of a movie.  As a child with an exceptional imagination, I always dreamed of being a part of some sort of film.  For many individuals on the autism spectrum, that dream often never leaves their heads as the odds are too great for them to become a part of a real Hollywood production.  This is truly a dream come true for these kids.   I witnessed many bright smiles today.

On Saturday October 15, the films will be "premiered" on campus at Oakland University to celebrate the accomplishments of the participants.  The ticket price is $25.  To purchase tickets for the event, visit the following website

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