Archive for the ‘DVDs/videos’ Category

I made a few mistakes watching this film. I watched it the day before Archie’s birthday, while alone in the house with a bottle of wine, having not had much to drink for six months. I then decided it would be a really good idea to post a sort of running commentary on Twitter. You know, just to ensure total public humiliation. Oh how I laughed the next morning.

Anyway all that aside this is an incredible film. A documentary narrated by Kate Winslet it tells the story of Margret who travels from Iceland to Europe and America in an attempt to better understand and help her severely autistic son Keli. Along the way she meets  Temple Grandin, Simon  Baron-Cohen and  Catherine Lord as well as families living with non-verbal autism who are using typing and letterboards as a method of communication. Towards the end of the film Keli is introduced to a letterboard and now is able to write poetry.

Kate Winslet was so touched by Margaret’s journey that she started The Golden Hat Foundation   ‘a non-profit organisation dedicated to eliminating barriers for people with autism around the world, and creating an environment that holds these individuals as intellectually capable’. The name for the foundation came from one of Keli’s first poems:

This boy had a golden hat.
The hat was magical. It could talk.
The boy did not have any voice. He had autism.
His hat was always with him.
His hat was lost one day.
Now he had no way of telling them his stories.
His mom and dad became sad.
They taught him spelling on a letterboard.
It was hard.

Keli Thorsteinsson

If you watch one film on autism this year make it this one. Although I howled my way through the diagnosis scenes this is a film that sends a strong message of hope.  It’s not yet known how many non-verbal people with autism have the potential to type as it’s not something that’s really been tried, indeed it has been discouraged.  The prevalent view of severe autism is still that if you can’t talk you have nothing to say. More that that, you are not capable of having anything to say. Films such as this challenge this view while organisations such as The Golden Hat Foundation provide us parents with support as we explore our children’s competencies and potential. Important stuff.

A challenging film, it’s also quite a challenge to view it in the UK. Currently you need a multi- region DVD player.


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I can’t tell you much about this film/documentary except that from the trailer it looks brilliant. It’s narrated by Kate Winslett and shows children with severe autism typing. Judging from chosen clips it shows all sorts of other more typical behaviours that go with severe autism as well. It’s changed its name since I first came across the trailer on YouTube; from ‘The Sunshine Boy” to “A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism”.  I think I preferred the original. Hey ho.

It looks as if it will go straight to DVD (following in the footsteps of The Black Balloon which deserved a general cinema release in my opinion, but didn’t get one). You can register to pre-order a DVD here, although it’s not clear whether that will be for a US or UK version.

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The Specials

Oh this is fab. Absolutely brilliant.

A fly on the wall about a group of young people with SN living together….

The Specials….

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It’s pretty rare to come across a film about the severe or non-verbal end of the autism spectrum. The Black Balloon is such a film and it tackles it’s subject brilliantly. Directed and co-written by Elissa Down who has an autistic brother, the film includes instances from her life and she has used these to show the bizarre and often amusing side of life with severe autism.

The film follows the story of Thomas (Rhys Wakefield) who moves to a new home with his family. This includes his heavily pregnant mother (Toni Collette) and his severely autistic brother Charlie (Luke Ford). When his mother is hospitalised Thomas has to take on more responsibility for Charlie which results in him having to face up to the frustrations he feels about his brother.

The director’s personal experience of autism shows in the details. The film opens with shots of locks everywhere. The family treat bizarre, extraordinary occurrences (such as Charlie using a toilet in a stranger’s house) as entirely normal. And there’s a chase, where Charlie just runs and runs without stopping. I’m sure many of us have been there.  The mother is wonderful, but no martyr. She loses her temper when faced with the worst autism can throw at you and she looks tired and fed up. In short, she’s realistic. 

The acting is excellent with all members of the cast giving very natural performances. Toni Collette learned to use Makaton for this film and she uses it effortlessly. Luke Ford’s performance of Charlie is quite incredible. The extras section of the DVD explores how much effort he put into preparing for the role, and this has paid dividends with a truly excellent and entirely believable performance. 

The Black Balloon is a  warm  film which although funny at times doesn’t shirk from showing the difficult side of family life with autism. Highly recommended. 

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The Transporters

The Transporters is a DVD developed especially for children on the autistic spectrum. It was produced in conjunction with the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge. Thousands of free copies were distributed to autistic children, and whilst that has now closed you can still watch episode 1 on the website. They do say that they are looking at other ways of making the series available to autistic children so it might be worth keeping an eye on the website. I did see a pile of copies in a special school I visited last week so if you’re desperate for a copy it might be worth ringing round some local schools.

 The Transporters describes a world inhabited by imaginary toy vehicles. The aim is to help autistic children understand emotions. I’m not really sure it helped Archie in that way, hard to tell and I believe the series is aimed at higher functioning children, but it was a great success. Archie loved it (as did his brothers) and remained transfixed during the first playing. In fact we had a problem as we couldn’t persuade him to come up for his bath, and he was not happy when we turned the DVD off.

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I uhmmed and ahhed about buying this: the Max and Friend’s DVD set by Launch into Learning. It’s quite pricey, especially as it has to be shipped from the States. I vaguely remember I ended up having to pay customs on top as well, although I could be mistaken.  Was it worth the money? Well, yes it was.  We bought the volume 1 box set, which consists of 3 DVD’s and books, a parents manual and a music CD. Each module and book focuses on a different ABA programme.

Archie was not an ideal user. We bought it about eighteen months ago when he was 6, and before he could imitate. It didn’t teach him to imitate, but he did enjoy it, and liked me playing the music CD in the car. After learning to imitate recently I dug the set out again and played him the imitation DVD. He did try to copy Max. The content now seems a little young for him in some ways, because we’re trying to introduce him to more age appropriate activities, but he is at the correct stage of development now and I do play it to him sometimes.

 This would be ideal for a pre-school/reception aged child who has recently learned to imitate and follow simple instructions. It would definitely suit families who are running ABA programmes, and would provide an aid to generalising table work.   Archie is non-verbal, severely autistic and this did hold his attention from the first playing. That is quite unusual for him, so definitely something worth considering even if your child doesn’t seem quite ready. There are some sample video clips on their website. I played them to Archie a few times to assess his reaction before deciding to order.

 They are currently running a special offer, with up to 35% off.

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