Loving Lampposts

I am always on the lookout for movies, documentaries, or other forms of media that deal with special needs families. I recently discovered the documentary Loving Lampposts [lovinglamppostsmovie.com] by Todd Drezner on my Netflix account and thought about whether or not I should watch it.

It is about the director’s own personal journey trying to understand his son’s diagnosis of autism. As this is a topic that is close to my heart, I was weary to watch. Debates about the origins of autism, how to handle it, and “cures” for Autism tend to stir up strong feelings for me. Would I be offended by what I saw? Emotional? Would it give me hope? My mind began to twist and turn as I debated if it was worth my time. I decided that the worst thing that could happen was that I would disagree, and so I watched it.

It did bring out feelings for me that sometimes I try to ignore, which was probably what I was most afraid of. This documentary was not simply about autism or someone who has autism. It was the perspective of a father making sense of his son and what it means to have a child with autism. It is his personal narrative that brings strength to this film.

I would highly recommend that people who are curious about autism, or have an autistic family member watch this documentary. Mr. Drezner tells a wonderfully poignant story that is integrated with interviews from people all over the autism sphere – doctors, advocates, therapists, people with autism, and parents of autistic children. He is not afraid to confront the hot–button issues, such as cures for autism, the vaccine controversy, and probably what is the crux of every parent’s psyche – can my child be normal?

Mr. Drezner allowed those who are affected by autism speak for themselves, and it was the interviews from those with autism or families who have an autistic member which moved me the most. Those who have special needs children would find comfort in hearing that there are other parents out there who understand what you are facing. It is this shared bond that sometimes gives more comfort than words.

One mother explains that she began to simply accept her son the way he was. She started a routine she called “floor time,” in which she would just play with her son. “I was just able to enjoy him – to just be with him – and I would say that’s when our family began to heal.”

As I work with special needs families, it is this concept that I am helping work towards – healing. Each family handles these challenges differently, but Mr. Drezner makes a good point – “you begin to think less about changing behaviors and more about relationship.” The role that I play is to bring my knowledge of relationships and how they are impacted by special needs to help family members connect with one another. Once we have created or restored those bonds we can then be better equipped to help our loved ones with special needs.

As Stephen Shore, Ed. D, an autistic man, says: “I think the goal of intervention is to help that person lead a fulfilling and productive life with the strengths that they have. The potential of those of us with autism is like the potential of everyone else – it’s unlimited.”