Broad Spectrum Welcoming
I recently attended the Peek Award movie screening at the Utah Film Center. The Peek Award, named after Kim Peek, the inspiration for the 1988 movie Rain Man, honors artists and film subjects who positively impact society’s perception of people with disabilities. Bookmark the link for The Real Rain Man because Peek truly was an incredible man and this short documentary is a must see.https://youtu.be/8Ej5GTIwtbI
The Peek Award winners that night were the producers of the film Autism in Love. Autism in Love is a documentary that follows 4 people (an unmarried couple, a young single man and an older married man) who are all on the autism spectrum as they discuss falling in love, having meaningful romantic relationships and as they deal with life’s big questions about love. This film is both poignant and celebratory and as you watch their experiences with romantic love it will move you to tears of empathy for the universal trials and joys of love.https://youtu.be/TLlCCur_U_o
While the credits rolled before my eyes I thought about what an excellent movie this would be to show and discuss with a youth group because the film highlights the universality of the complexities of falling in love while simultaneously shedding light on the particular difficulties people with autism can face when it comes to romantic love. Whether your youth have friends or family with autism, or have very little experience interacting with people with this neurodevelopmental disorder, watching this film can improve their empathy and understanding for folks with this disorder .
A film screening of Autism in Love could be a next step in living up to the challenge of creating a congregational culture that is inclusive of neuro-atypical youth. Even if there are not youth in your congregation on the autism spectrum now, it is so important to provide education and access before someone with differing abilities shows up.
Autism in Love is also an important film to show and discuss when youth in your congregation are on the autism spectrum. The experience can be a great catalyst for welcoming and bonding in your congregation. Many folks in the crowd the night of the Utah Film Center screening were on the autism spectrum and spoke during the Q&A with the producers and Lindsey and David – two of the people whose stories the documentary featured – about how meaningful it was for them to make this film.
Witnessing the Q&A was a transformational moment for me. It made me wonder how many opportunities folks with autism have to share their experiences and wisdom with neurotypical folks, and to ask advice of other people with autism about living in a world currently not designed with them in mind. I wondered how many opportunities neurotypical folks have to listen deeply to people with autism about their experiences. I wondered how we as Unitarian Universalists can create more opportunities for this kind of sharing and listening.
Showing the documentary Autism in Love in your congregation could be one way to create this space for dialogue. Watch it for yourself on PBS.org until April 10th then visit the Autism in Love website to order a copy. Host a movie night with your youth and the rest of the congregation and use this discussion guide for Autism in Love to start a conversation about what it means to have autism and to be in love. Every chance we get to deepen our understanding of the diversity we have in our congregations, we should take it.
After your movie night, please leave a comment here or contact me at email@example.com. I’d love to know how it went.