Award winning film This Business of Autism was shown at Francis Lewis High School’s auditorium on February 13 and followed with a Q&A from the directors. Assistant Principal of ISS Ms. Williams partnered with the president of ISS club, senior Manoli Figetakis, to showcase this film and educate students about students with disabilities as part of Respect for All week.
“The reason I did this film or wanted to talk about it is because when I look around Francis Lewis, I want to see more inclusivity,” Ms. Williams said. “They think of the physical, they think of the non-formal, they think of deformity. They don’t see that we have about 30 to 45 kids in there who are autistic who you’ll not know.”
This Business of Autism is a documentary that showcases the benefits of hiring people with autism. Spectrum Design, a screen-printing business, is the focal point of the film as 75 percent of the company’s employees are autistic. In addition, the film also documents other initiatives such as The Autism Job Club, which places individuals on the spectrum in high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley and other industries (www.imdb.com).
“My favorite part of the movie [was when] I saw them actually making the t-shirts [and] having fun with it,” senior Precious Richardson said. “I got to see a smile and they were happy. The product was finished and they did it the way they were supposed to. I got a good feeling that they did a good job.”
The point of this event was to have students understand the reality of autism, and learn that it isn’t just a physical and verbal disability. Many people have a tendency to pick out individuals because they think people with a disability such as autism are different from us, when in reality they’re just like us.
“It was very inspirational,” Richardson said. “It gave me an open mind of how to see people, not to judge [and] accept them for who they [are]. You should interact with them, and talk with them.”
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a developmental disorder that restricts the ability to communicate and interact. Autism affects each individual differently, as some people have learning disabilities, mental health issues, or other conditions. Since autism is a spectrum disorder, people with autism have a specific set of strengths and challenges (https://www.autismspeaks.org).
“I learned how autism isn’t just one thing, it affects people differently,” junior Catherine Rogue said. “I knew that they didn’t have as many opportunities as everyone else, but I didn’t know how much they were suffering because they were being judged.”
The documentary left a long lasting impact on Francis Lewis students in attendance.
“This all connects to Respect for All week because we’re all people,” Richardson added. “We should just respect each other and give a smile or give a hug to someone that you don’t know. Just introduce yourself because you might find similarities you both have, or differences.”