For International Autism Awareness Day, we’re sharing a few organizations catering to those with ASD and other mental disabilities who want to study filmmaking, find their artistic voice, or see their stories on the big screen:
Location: Sherman Oaks, CA
Their Mission: “Cultivate the skills of artists on the autism spectrum through customized training and hands-on experience to launch careers in digital arts and animation.”
What Exceptional Minds offers is to help build and grow a future for neurodiverse artists’ perspectives on the autism spectrum. They offer classes for those seeking a career in visual effects, animation, 3D gaming, and other related fields in the entertainment industry. Students who sign up for their full-time three-year program will have training customized to fit their artistic and professional potential needs. There are even part-time summer workshops as well. Thanks to the people at this vocational academy, post-graduate programs are included to help their students find the right job for them in the entertainment industry.
About AutFest Texas: “Films will be about autism or made by autistic filmmakers.”
The Autism Society of Texas understands the importance for people with autism to see themselves and their stories on the big screen in an accurate and honest depiction. AutFest Texas Autism Film Festival aims to raise awareness in a broader community about life with autism. The lineup of short and feature films showcases a variety of ages and abilities, challenges, and triumphs that living with autism can bring.
AutFest has been a staple in the Texas film scene since 2016 and has featured many guest speakers at its events. Last year’s 2021 virtual event was a success, and the Autism Society of Texas is gearing up for its next annual event this fall, with more details coming down the line.
The Art of Autism – Empowering through the Arts
Mission: “Our mission is to provide a forum to connect with those who wish to employ these abilities.”
The Art of Autism is an educational nonprofit international collaboration of talented individuals who work together to encourage the creative abilities of people on the autism spectrum and others who are neurodivergent. One of the organization’s goals is to seek diverse viewpoints from those in the autistic community and their families, therapists, and others to raise awareness among the general public. The Art of Autism accepts many art forms, including blogs, poetry, and videos.
Since the creation of the group, they have received contributions from over 800 autistic artists, poets, and bloggers across the globe. In addition, many artists with autism have had their work showcased on the website, including poems, stories, and even artist profile pieces.
Location: Rockville, MD, and Los Angeles, CA
About Us: “Respectability fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of the community.”
The people over at RespectiAbility are a diverse and disability-led nonprofit organization making strides for a systematic change for the betterment of those with disabilities. The group is always hard at work advancing policies and procedures that empower those to have a better future. Some of the many areas of the organization are as follows:
- Entertainment and News Media – Increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people in media so people with disabilities are seen for what they can do instead of what they cannot.
- Leadership – Enable diverse people with disabilities to participate fully in decision-making.
- Policy – Promote best practices in education, employment, entrepreneurship, civic engagement, and access.
- Faith Inclusion – Ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in faith-based communities.
RespectAbility’s theory of change at its core is to help develop leaders in the disability community, change attitudes by bringing authentic representation, and advance opportunities to promote those in education, employment, entrepreneurship, and civic engagement.
Location: Bakersfield, CA
Statement: “We teach filmmaking to children and adults with developmental disabilities.”
The Inclusion Film is a group of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities with an innovative and one-of-kind teaching course for disabled filmmakers. They want to help those in the community to grow their talents in storytelling and help them realize their dreams in the entertainment industry. The organization was created back in 2007 by filmmaker Joey Travolta and had six dedicated production studios throughout California for those with disabilities ready to learn.
Some education methods include film camps that include two-week sessions with campers working together to create a script, act, and shoot their film with professional support and equipment. Inclusions Films also feature a vocation film workshop with a collaborative and hands-on curriculum to teach adults with developmental disabilities all aspects of film production.
The film school has even gone the mile by becoming the first production to produce a feature film where up to 70% of the crew had a developmental disability.
These organizations and the people involved are just some helping those with autism spectrum disorders and other forms of disabilities. If you want to help, you can do your part in donations or volunteer at a local organization like the many listed above. The neurotypical public must continue to stay educated and uplift underrepresented communities. Never forget that everyone has a place in this civilization that is willing to help those less fortunate and encourage those to achieve their dreams.
Illustration by Seth Chwast