At the Autism Through My Lens screening at the Paramount Center on May 21, are (back row, from left) Yuval Shapira, MFA '16; Jarryd Alfaro, MFA '15; Northeast Arc students Jason, Adam, Nick, and Brendan; (front row, from left) Ryan of Northeast Arc, Carrie Breaux, director of Spotlight Program; Nikola of Northeast Arc; Sharane Connell, Spotlight instructor; Ali Forman, MS '15; Carla Castillo, Spotlight instructor; Kevin Pasternak, MS '15; and Assistant Professor Ruth Grossman.
The documentary film Autism Through My Lens, which was produced by Emerson students, faculty, and the local organization Northeast Arc, was screened to an audience of about 130 people in the Bright Family Screening Room of the Paramount Center on May 21.
The production of the film was a collaboration between Emerson and the Spotlight Program of the Northeast Arc, a local organization that provides social skills training for children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder and other social communication deficits. Assistant Professor Ruth Grossman of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), Spotlight Program director Carrie Breaux, and Emerson students in Visual Media Arts and CSD produced the film.
“The collaboration between Emerson College and the Spotlight Program culminated in a creative, revelatory film that provides much-needed insight into the lives of teens with autism for educators and community members,” said Michaele Whelan, chief academic officer at Emerson.
The film screening marked the conclusion of a yearlong project, in which several teens enrolled in Northeast Arc used improv and theater techniques to explore how they relate to their diagnosis, difficult social experiences, and self-advocacy. The Emerson students worked with Spotlight teens in weekly sessions.
The screening of the hour-long documentary had the audience enthralled, culminating in a standing ovation and repeated rounds of applause as the teens came forward to answer questions from the audience and articulate their very positive impressions of the film and the project.
The project was funded by a grant from the Emerson Consumer Awareness Project, awarded to Grossman, who is also director of the FACE Lab, where she explores issues of social communication in children with autism spectrum disorder.
Carrie Breaux, director of the Spotlight Program at Northeast Arc, and Ruth Grossman, assistant professor in Communication Sciences and Disorders and director of the FACE Lab at Emerson. (Courtesy Photo)