A first kiss, a first dance. These are the rites of passage of American youth that hold the promise of magic, romance, and initiation into adulthood. For youth from all walks of life, these steps toward intimacy are at once exciting and terrifying. For some teenagers and young adults on the autism spectrum, the transition can be nothing less than paralyzing. In "How to Dance in Ohio," director Alexandra Shiva follows a group of young people in Columbus, Ohio, with an array of developmental challenges as they prepare for an iconic event—a spring formal dance.*
Our autism/disAbility community is fortunate to have the attention and passion of creatives to share the autism journey on the silver screen. I attended the first showing of the film on Saturday at the Nashville Film Festival. The second is this Thursday, April 23, at 6:15 PM. As each year, enter the Regal Green Hills Cinema on the bottom parking garage level to the entrance of the Festival, where "Learning to Dance in Ohio" is showing in the documentary competition. Learn more about tickets, etc., at www.NashvilleFilmFestival.org.
This is a funny, tender film that is close to home. Even though I never met any of the youth shown in the film, I knew each one. They are my friends' sons and daughters whom I've seen grow up since their initial diagnoses on the autism spectrum. I cannot stress enough how important the opportunity to see "Learning to Dance in Ohio" is for our community. While it provides needed public autism awareness, it can inspire and inform educators, psychologists and other mental health professionals, social skills group coordinators, parents, and teens and adults living with autism spectrum disorder. It is an honest look at the breadth of challenges for those navigating the real world of social, employment, and residential living.
I went to the film expecting to see a documentary profiling a group of high schoolers learning social skills to prepare for a formal dance. "Learning to Dance in Ohio" was much more. It followed several youth who ranged from high school to transition. Very wholistic. Very real. Very. Right. Now—both with our lives, personally, and with the 50,000 youth who are aging out of their federal public school services PER YEAR during this decade.
Please share this blog post or any notification about it on my Facebook page and all my social media networks (Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Google+. I'm Leisa Hammett on all of them.) If you will not be in Nashville to see the film Thursday, the film is traveling the film festival circuit and will air on HBO sometime in the fall. Help spread the awareness message. www.LearningHowtoDanceinOhio.com