Last night, I sat in a tiny, packed theater filled with nervous, emotional parents of kids with autism, along with three of Isaac's therapists--a lovely surprise. I don't think any of us knew what to expect, from the movie or ourselves. I've been trying to collect my thoughts ever since. In brief, the story goes like this:
Elaine Hall, adoptive mother of an autistic Russian boy, decides to re-enter the workforce and do what she loves and knows best: help children with autism express themselves. She founds the Miracle Project, a program to engage with kids through drama, music and movement. The film chronicles the development of a musical conceived and written by her and the kids, and follows them as they navigate through the process of interacting with each other, writing the musical and, ultimately, performing it in front of an audience of family and friends.
What can I say? It was one of the most moving, honest portrayals of the impact of autism that I've seen. Each child and each family was finely drawn, and allowed to express the full range of their feelings: the fear, the guilt, the anger and resentment, the surreality of it, and ultimately the joy and love. This wasn't Rocky: there were no easy answers, no shortcuts and no cheap moments. And the emotional payoff of seeing all these kids do something creative together--some of whom barely spoke, some of whom had never had a friend before--it was just pure magic.
There were some unforgettable moments: one child talking to his mother about his desire to be mainstreamed, and his fear that he'll be bullied; Elaine Hall holding one boy's face in her hands as she cajoles him to look into her eyes (and he does it! and he smiles!); that same boy beaming as another boy tells him why he likes him; a 14-year-old girl, almost exclusively echolalic, singing with such lovely tone and expression. a tiny smile on her face; her mother's fear that her daughter will outlive her, and end up alone or institutionalized; Elaine's son Neal as he discovers how to express his feelings on the typewriter, giving Mom a run for her money...I can't even begin to express how much is packed into this tiny, extraordinary film.
I came away loving each of these kids, and their families. And I thank the filmmakers and Ms. Hall for showing what I want the world to see every day: how special and beautiful our kids are, how hard they work, how far they can come with the right attention and a lot of love.
If you can get your hands on a copy, or find some way to see this film, don't miss it. It's a thing of beauty. For more information and upcoming screenings, go to the website.