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A review of the HBO autism documentary: How To Dance In Ohio

How To Dance In Ohio

How To Dance In Ohio

So you’ve watched all the autism movies and documentaries and found that some were hard to watch, others you could relate to quite well and some were even enlightening but I can guarantee that you’ve never seen one as powerful as How To Dance In Ohio.


How To Dance In Ohio is a documentary by Alexandra Shiva that follows a group of young autistic adults as they prepare for their first formal dance. They must learn how to ask each other out, how to handle rejection, how to hold a conversation, how to dance and in some cases… share that first kiss. More specifically the film focuses in on 3 young woman ranging from 16 years old to 22 years old as they navigate family life, moving on from their family and having a job.

Release Date

October 26, 2015 on HBO


You get a sense that this film is going in all the right directions as soon as the film starts when the first scene opens with actual autistic people talking to you and expressing to you how they feel. There are no actors, there is no narrator, there is no big production made about what we’re about to see. There is simply a young woman, with autism, in front of the camera, saying “We like to socialize, but it’s just, we don’t know how,” and from that moment, you know you are watching the right movie.

As the viewer, you get to sort of ride along with this group of autistic young adults over the course of 12 weeks as they prepare for what is quite literally, one of the scariest events possible… a formal dance. I know that most people would chuckle at that or think it’s silly because the average person tends to look forward to social functions like that. This film not only explains but shows you very clearly why it is as scary as it is for those many people with autism. While other films with actors and writers try to create the perfect situation or accurately portray what may happen, How To Dance In Ohio has only very real people in very real situations dealing with them as best they can.

The real strength that How To Dance In Ohio has is it’s ability to capture very real moments as they happen, as though there was no camera there at all. When you see these people cry, or behave in some awkward way or when they laugh, you feel how genuine that is. You suddenly realize what all those other autism films have been missing all along. The actors in autism movies have incredible talent and did great work in their respective films but no one can ever truly understand or convey what it’s like to be autistic quite like an actual autistic can.

It isn’t until you’re watching a documentary like How To Dance In Ohio that it hits you; you will never know what it’s like to be autistic without talking to an autistic.

I fear that the only downfall for this film and any film or book that does such a great job of depicting the struggles (and triumphs) of autism is that those who do not have autism directly affecting their lives won’t give it a chance until they have to. How To Dance In Ohio is such a great documentary but it’s also a very powerful tool for autism awareness, showing people what autism is really like in a way that not many other films have been able to. In one scene, Marideth, a 16 year old young lady with autism is talking with her family at the dinner table and all seems great until she just gets up and walks away. She’s still a part of the conversation and everyone is still happy but she’s just up and gone. To the average person, that would seem odd or maybe even rude. But to an autistic or someone close to someone with autism, we totally understand that!

There are so many key moments in How To Dance In Ohio where I feel that most people wouldn’t even notice but as an adult with autism myself as well as the parent of a child with autism, I find myself feeling this very strong bond between myself and those on the screen in those moments. They’re so tiny and likely insignificant to anyone else but I just know that those already within the autism community are going to pick up on them in the biggest way and go back and watch them again because they touch them so deeply. Powerful moments likes these can’t be scripted nor prepared for, they are real moments that can only happen spontaneously from someone that is living in that moment and Alexandra Shiva captures them so perfectly in How To Dance In Ohio.

As I watched, I messaged friends that are also parents of children with autism, telling them that this is going to be a hard film for some people to watch. I relayed some of the things that the autistics within the film would say, such as “Cartoons don’t judge you like people do,” and we all felt our hearts sink together. We know that feeling.

As hard as How To Dance In Ohio is though, it’s also incredibly wonderful to watch with so many moments of laughter, triumph and of course, tears. None of it scripted, none of it prepared for or anticipated.

If I could make every person on Earth who has no prior experience with autism sit down and watch any one movie to understand what my own life with autism has been like, How To Dance In Ohio would be that film.

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The Story of Luke – The autism movie you have to see

The Story of Luke is a movie that I’ve been following closely for some time. Even while they were filming, I was already a fan of their Facebook page and eager to see the end result. I’m very pleased to report, I was not disappointed.


95min. A comedy about Luke, a young man with autism who is on a quest for a job and a girlfriend. Starring Lou Taylor Pucci, Seth Green, Cary Elwes and Kristin Bauer.

The Story of LukeReview

The first thing the synopsis tells you is that it’s a comedy about Luke, which while true, is such a very small part of what this movie really is.

First of all, while it will make you actually laugh out loud in a few places, in others it’ll simply have you smiling and thinking “I totally get that.” While in other places, it will make you want to stand up and shout “You tell’em!!” and then shortly after have you crying your eyes out. And I’m a dad. I’m not supposed to cry. I did.

While this is the story of Luke, hense the title,  it’s also the story of those around him. Because in this film, even though almost everyone around him is “normal”, no one around him is really all that normal either. There’s the sometimes crazy, sometimes wise grandfather who even manages to be crazy and wise at the same time in some instances. There’s the depressed aunt, the midlife crisis uncle, the rebel son/cousin and then the doesn’t fit in with society daugther/cousin. There’s many more that Luke meets along the way as well.

I think the closest movie/story you could compare this to is Adam. I don’t know if you’ve seen that but it’s about a lonely man with Aspergers and his relationship with a girl. In Adam, the movie is very much about Adam, he’s always the focus. But it does give you a very real world glimpse into the life of a person with autism/Aspergers.

In The Story of Luke, while Luke is obviously the main focus, there’s so much more going on. His family evolves, his grandfather evolves, the people he starts to work with all evolve. His efforts, his honesty, his quirkiness and his mere presence makes the lives of those around him change. And it all feels very real. You never get the sense of there being a script or that someone had written this. It all feels so natural, as though it’s a true story.

One big difference I’d like to point out, between Adam and The Story of Luke is that, in Adam, it can be quite painful to watch because you envision your own child as Adam, later in life, living these struggles. It quite literally hurts to imagine your child growing up to be Adam and having a difficult life. It’s very well done in that sense. With Luke however, you never quite get that sense of your child being in his place. And it’s not a bad thing!

As a man on the autism spectrum myself and having a son with autism, I never once got the sense Luke was trying to be me or that my child could be Luke some day. I did have a few dozen “that’s just like my son!” moments though.

Luke stands apart and while very perfectly representing life on the spectrum, he never comes off as representing all autistics, only himself. And that’s quite powerful when you think about it. To relate to him, to see so many similarities and yet, seeing him as being his own man and not just a future version of your own child, is a feat not easily accomplished.

The movie is very much in your face with a lot of swear words, which are very cleverly done actually, very in your face boldness and off the wall terminology that will clearly make little sense to Luke but it’s never done to an extent that you feel it’s vulgar. Still though, it’s probably best to not have the little ones sit in to watch with you if you don’t want them hearing that language.

The movie truly is the story of Luke trying to be a man. Not just to “get a girlfriend” as in Adam but to walk out the door, get a job, get a girlfriend and, as his grandfather would say, “get his $hit together”.

I’ve watched The Story of Luke twice in one day and I still want to watch it over and over again because it’s just so well done. Each and every character is so perfectly portrayed and real. Luke is just so lovable, you really can’t help but want to be there, in the movie, to tell him how awesome he really is. Also, not many movies can shock me with what it says and then make me want to stand up and cheer at how the protagonist responds and then make me want to cry just a few scenes later but this movie does all that and more. And it always feels natural. Like I’m watching real life unfold in front of me.

The Story of Luke is not a movie to put in place of other movies about autism but it’s definitely a movie that you absolutely must include in your autism movie list. You’ll relate, you’ll learn, you’ll adore, laugh and cry.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I highly recommend that you see this movie.


  • Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the 2013 Omaha Film Festival
  • Best Film (shared with “Missed Connections“) AND the Audience Award for Best Narrative at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival
  • Best Narrative Feature Award at Festivus Film Festival
  • Audience Award at SF Indie Fest  (The San Francisco Independent Film Festival)
  • People’s Choice Award for Best Film at The Saint Augustine Film Festival
  • Best Film, Best Actor (Lou Taylor Pucci), Best Director (Alonso Mayo) & Best Trailer at the Irvine International Film Festival
  • Audience Award at the Bahamas International Film Festival!
  • “American Indie Audience Award” from Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
  • “Best Film” at the San Diego Film Festival

When/Where to see it

The Story of Luke comes out on April 5th in select theaters but it will also be available on iTunes as well.

Check out the trailer here:

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Children’s book: Ben Has Autism. Ben Is Awesome! [Review]

Books in general that discuss Autism can be tricky since Autism can vary so very widely from person to person. Being the huge spectrum that it is, it’s effects can be completely different from one person to the next.

So writing a book, aimed at children, that attempts to explain some of what Autism is, can either be wonderfully enlightening or it can be a colossal fail.

In the case of “Ben Has Autism. Ben is Awesome!”, we have a wonderfully enlightening book that does a very very good job of explaining the pros and cons of Autism in a way that anyone, regardless of their age, can relate to.

benautismThe Book

Ben is a 5 year old that has Autism and as such, has his difficulties but also has some strengths in some areas. This book explores them all in a way that literally anyone can understand and in many cases, even relate too.

The Story

While not really a story, this book does have a logical progression as the reader explores the weaknesses and the strengths of Ben due to having Autism.

My Review

This book is really great in that it covers enough autistic traits that you really get the feeling that the author could have written about your own child.

I sat down on the couch with Cameron (6 and has Autism) and his little brother Tyler (3 and does not have Autism) and as I read, we would stop and say “who does that?” or “who feels like that sometimes?”

It turned into a bit of a game as the boys would try to figure out which one of them did or felt the way Ben did in the book. Most of the time it was Cameron, since he also has Autism but sometimes it was Tyler… and others it was both of them.

Every page of this book has big, colourful illustrations that are very imaginative and illustrate the words perfectly. The words are big, bold and even though few, are perfectly descriptive.

It’s a great book for the children as it helps them to recognize some of the things they’re feeling and helps them to identify it as a trait of their Autism rather than having them just feel they’re “weird” or “strange”… it is also great for the parents in that it helps to realize that you’re not alone. Other parents wrote this book, other parents relate to this book… other parents think that their children are awesome too.

It’s a big plus for understanding Autism, not just for “people” but also for those that most of us have a hard time explaining it to… children.

Ben Has Autism. Ben Is Awesome! is available in paperback and hard cover. I definitely recommend picking this up and adding it to your child’s library both for your child and yourself.

Order Ben Has Autism. Ben Is Awesome! here.

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The Adventures of One Sock [Review]

When I get books in the mail relating to Autism, they’re usually for me. However, this one wasn’t… it is for my boys.

one sockThe book

The Adventures of One Sock is a fun tale about a child with Autism that gets spooked when he spots, what he thinks is, a lion in a neighbor’s yard while on his walk to school with his dad.

With the help of his family, he’s able to cope and even over come this fear and makes a new friend in the process.

The Story

The story, along with some very cute and fun art work really were easy to relate to for my children because they remember the stroller days, they have an imagination that could conjure up a lion as well and they really like the… well, I don’t want to spoil the ending for you.

I do have to be honest in saying that it’s a little obvious that this is the first children’s book for this author, in that I found myself replacing a few words as I read, since they didn’t feel all that natural to say to a child… but even with those few exceptions, it’s still a wonderful story and very engaging for my boys.


One of the things that they really got right with this book (which most people don’t think about) is the aesthetics. It’s a nice big book with paper covers. It’s not a lot of pages but those pages are quite big, making the art work really stand out and the words are very clear in big letters.

This really lets little hands hold it, explore and even bend it all they want without having to worry about it. Also, as my older boy is just learning to read, I can more easily point to words or even letters since they’re in a nice big type face.


This is a great little book to pick up for your little ones… I’m sure they’ll be able to relate to a lot of parts in it even though, at 24 pages, it’s not a long story. Yes, it is a story about a boy with Autism but that is never really an issue. Whether your children have Autism or not, they’ll relate to this story.

The Adventures of One Sock is now one of the bed time stories that my boys hear before bed… I’m sure one day, when they’re able, they’ll love sitting down to read it themselves.

You can pick up The Adventures of One Sock at ClearSpace for $10.92.

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Loving Lampposts: Living Autistic – This is why you must watch this documentary

If you’ve seen the HBO movie Temple Grandin, based on the woman of the same name, you probably came away quite enlightened. Even “experts” could watch that film and come away feeling like they have a new, or at least enriched, way of looking at Autism.

Any new insight you could gain from that film will seem pale in comparison to what you’ll get from the latest documentary on Autism called Loving Lampposts: Living Autistic.


Loving Lampposts: Living Autistic

Of all the controversies or issues dividing the Autism community, they all boil down to two larger groups. Those that feel that Autism needs to be cured and those that feel that Autism, while a cause for struggle sometimes, is a part of who Autistics are.

Loving Lampposts opens and closes with Sam, an adorable little boy that visits his favourite lampposts in his favourite park every single day. The story in between is a journey taken by Sam’s father, Todd Drezner, in an effort to talk to parents, experts and people with Autism themselves and find out what Autism really is and should it be cured or embraced?

I don’t want to spoil it too much for you but chances are you will enjoy this movie no matter which group you may find yourself in. For the most part, half of the film is talking about curing Autism while the other half is about embracing it but at no point do you ever feel like there’s a break in the flow nor is there anyone trying to convince you to change your opinion.

Curing the Autism Epidemic

In the film, you’ll be introduced to several doctors from Defeat Autism Now (name has recently been changed to the Autism Research Institute) as well as many parents, including Jenny McCarthy, who believe that vaccines and other toxins are responsible for Autism in our children.

Also, along the way, you’ll be introduced to a lot of treatments that they use in treating their children.

Also discussed is the word epidemic and how it’s used in relation to Autism. In this portion of the movie, there’s a really great reference to the FedEx logo, that I feel, is a wonderful eye opener. I’m sure you’ll agree when you see it.

Neurodiversity – Just a Different Way of Being

You’ll also be introduced to several doctors and parents that feel that Autism may or may not be medical, may or may not be psychological… they don’t know.

What they do know is that, and I quote from the movie “I’ve never met one Autistic person I didn’t think was a beautiful person.. just has such a beautiful soul.”

Furthermore, you’ll be introduced to several people with Autism themselves, some are verbal and some are not, they are all different but you will hear from them all. Whether speaking to you or using a device that speaks for them, they share their frustrations and their thoughts on Autism, cures, neurodiversity and more.


If the Temple Grandin movie enlightened you, then Loving Lampposts: Living Autistic will give you far more insight into Autism and the Autism community than you had previously, no matter who you are.

Even the most seasoned Autism advocates may list off all of the things they have already heard before but will still come away from this movie with a broader sense of understanding.

In the end, as the film closes with Sam visiting his favourite lampposts, you get a very real sense of just how much his father has learned from this journey, not just about Autism, but his own son as well.

And with this film, he brings you on that journey so that you too, can learn the same thing for yourself. And you will.

Buy it

Want to buy the movie? Want to get a discount?

From now until May 28, 2011, you can get $3 OFF the Loving Lampposts DVD by entering coupon code: lamppost

Go here to buy the movie now!

Quotes from the Film

Autism is a gift, disguised as a dilemma. – Sharisa Kochmeister (a nonverbal adult with Autism)

They tell me that Sam’s love of lampposts is Autistics behavior and that I should try to get rid of it. I can only say that love is not what makes us sick. It is, we’ve always been told, what makes us human. – Todd Drezner (film maker)

You haven’t got a big enough imagination for what your child could become – Johnny Seitz (adult with Autism)

There is an tremendous amount of emotional power connected with the idea of doing something, of acting. – Roy Richard Grinker (Author of Unstrange Minds)

We’re primed to see Autism more than ever before and despite all the negative hype, this may actually be good news. – Todd Drezner

I think some of the key aspects, what we would today term, as an intensive home based, early intervention program emphasizing music, movement, sensory integration, narration and imitation. They started to imitate me and once they did that, I became aware of them in my environment. – Stephen Shore

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