Filmmaker Geoff Todd on 7 ON THE SPECTRUM: The Autism Movie Documentary Series Part 1

7Portland, Oregon, 7 ON THE SPECTRUM – is a film documentary in the making. This ambitious, uplifting and thought provoking documentary series aims to share the lives of 7 families, all of whom care for a 7 year old child on the autistic spectrum. A new film about these families will be made every 7 years

Director of the film, Geoff Todd, has two sons, his youngest son Noah, has Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Geoff has recently  set up a Crowdfunding campaign in order  to finance these independent films that will tell the story of seven families from Portland, Oregon who all have a child diagnosed with ASD. The film will detail their lives and routines and recreate for the viewers what life is like living with Autism. Following in the footsteps of Michael Apted’s UP series, a new film with the same seven children will be released every seven years. Speaking at the launch for the Crowdfunding campaign, Todd commented on the reach and stigmas of Autism.

“Despite millions of people around the world waking up each day with an Autism diagnosis, society still has a very narrow view when it comes to the spectrum. They think each child or adult with Autism is like the Dustin Hoffman character in RAIN MAN. Autism impacts each person in a unique way, and we want to highlight that diversity in our Autism community. The best way to do that is to show a lifetime with the diagnosis.”

We got in touch with Geoff as we wanted to learn more about this exciting film project  and  he kindly agreed to answer our questions.

You have 2 boys; did you realize fairly early on that Noah may be on the autistic spectrum?

 When Noah was 7 months old he had a seizure that landed him in the hospital for a few days. Following that event and his Epilepsy diagnosis, we started noticing delays and began to worry about neurological damage and adverse side effects from the medication he was on to control the seizures. As we started pushing for answers, doctors were consistently ruling out Autism because Noah is very affectionate, has great eye contact, and seeks out sensory input instead of avoiding it. My wife and I kept pushing for answers; there was real willingness within the medical community just kind of shrug off Noah’s condition. Doctors and specialists were fine with just saying Noah had Epilepsy and using that as an umbrella diagnosis but we knew there was something else, the delays were just too prominent. We eventually were given an Autism diagnoses but we didn’t realize how severe the Autism was until he was about 3 or 4. Noah is now 8, functionally he’s about 36 months, he is non-verbal but his hand over hand communication and receptive skills are great. We have an amazing life with Noah and our oldest son Owen; it’s just a different life. Our mission with Noah is the same one that it is with Owen, to make both boys the best people they can possibly be.

Geoff recently posted about Noah having an epileptic seizure resulting in the need to be admitted to the Pediatric ICU. This post can be read here.

 http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-autism-concept-image37710441Did you receive help and support during these early years?
In terms of services, Noah was enrolled in early intervention and that was certainly a help, but it seemed that with each passing month, the more we had to fight for services that would assist Noah. We went into debt that we’re still digging out of to find help for Noah and after 6 years, state and federal governments are still critically unprepared to deal with Autism; it’s a social and financial crisis waiting to happen but easily avoided.
On a more personal level, nobody in our family knew how to deal with him, I think both of our parents thought this was something that he was going to just grow out of and he would be fine. Our friends didn’t understand the strict routine we had to be on, the routine Noah thrived on. As a result our world became smaller. We started going out less; we started being okay with not having the option of taking Noah somewhere. I can remember the day it changed though, the day we started to work with Autism. Our library was having an event that my wife thought would be fun for the family, I said I would stay at home with Noah and she said “No, this is his world too.” That changed everything. Noah had a right to be there like every other child. There are still things we can’t do, places we can’t go, but the world is full of things we can do, places we can go, so we do those instead.

7 1What sparked the idea for 7 ON THE SPECTRUM?
I had a conversation with my Mom one day about Noah, I was talking to her about the Navy Seal like planning that goes into any outing with Noah and I started to think that if my own Mom didn’t understand what life was like for us, how did we expect our friends to know? How is Autism Awareness going to thrive if we don’t share our story? How do we tell the world you can have a great life when your son or daughter has Autism? So, I decided to make a film about Noah that would bring viewers into his world, allow them to see how he experiences environments. We were about 6 months into pre-production when I really started thinking about the saying in our Autism community: “If you know one person with Autism, you know one person with Autism.” There was a bigger story to tell. Using Michael Apted’s UP series as a model, I decided to find seven children on the spectrum, each with their own unique place, all 7 years of age, and make a documentary film about them and their families and do a new film with same children every 7 years. This would provide the world with the first lifetime look at Autism documented on film. It’s going to be free of politics and debate; this is simply a documentary series about life itself for 7 people with Autism. Our goal is to show the world that when you walk hand in hand with Autism instead of fighting it, great things happen. It’s a different life, but it’s a happy life.

You can support the film by going to autism-movie.com 
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