Interview with Erik Linthorst, Autistic Like: Graham's Story Giveaway

Were you ever confused as to what was going on with your child?  Did you ever feel like your concerns weren’t being heard?  Did you spend hours searching for the right therapy that would help you reach your child?

Then you and my guest Erik Linthorst have something in common.

Erik Linthorst has a number of titles, but I think his most commonly use one is “Graham’s Dad”.

Erik is an award winning film maker who documented his family’s journey in the film Autistic Like: Graham’s Story. Erik captured the ups and downs that we all experience when starting our special needs journey. You get to see firsthand not only his son Graham, but Erik and his wife Jennie through every therapy, meltdown, tear and triumph that comes their way.

I had the honor of watching his film with him last October at the Sensory Showtime event here in WA, which was one of more than a hundred worldwide, all sponsored by the SPD Foundation. With my boys just down the street at my mom’s house, and my husband running the audio/video for the event (yes, geek husbands rule!), I sat with nearly 100 other people mezmorized at the engaging and often emotional story of Erik and Jennie’s journey to find help for their son Graham.

The story will strike a chord with all of the SPD parents out there who have advocated for their child. Erik and Jennie are dedicated advocates for their son on a path that many of us have taken. But with his film, Erik has brought new attention and much needed support for those on the SPD journey (which can be a struggle to say the least!), and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Erik has graciously offered to talk with me here today and to give a copy of his amazing film to one lucky HLW3B reader. Hopefully his story will give you a sense of connection to the greater story of all our children – a story that Erik is working to tell all over the world.

Now grab some popcorn and a box of Junior Mints, the show’s about to start!


Hi Erik, thanks for joining me here on HLW3B! Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your family for those of my readers who haven’t seen your movie?

About me. Hm. Well, I’m a filmmaker, and the dad of a little guy named Graham who has Sensory Processing Disorder. Graham was originally diagnosed with Autism. His sensory disorder caused him to do things that looked “autistic-like”. Later, after we had found a doctor who ‘got it’, we were still encouraged to stick with the label of autism, as an SPD diagnosis wouldn’t qualify Graham for services. Since that time, we have tried ABA therapy, Son Rise, Floortime, OT, PT, Speech, Vision Therapy and now Neuro-fit.

What made you turn your journey into a film?

I thought this whole situation, from the initial misdiagnosis, to the eventual bate-and-switch labels, was crazy. I decided I needed to get to the bottom of it, to figure out what exactly was going on with Graham, and how exactly to address it. I realized that if we were caught in this grey zone, others must be too. So when I felt like I had figured something out, I wanted to share the knowledge with others. Thus, the film.

Autistic-Like has truly struck a chord with parents everywhere, but the one thing I think still has us talking is, “How’s Graham doing now?” – so, how is he?

Well, as every parent of a child with special needs can attest – the saga continues. The leap from preschool to kindergarten this past fall, was, er, lets just say, a tad rocky. While Graham was social and verbal and happy, he was unable to write his name or most of the letters of the alphabet. He didn’t know all the sounds of all the letters. He couldn’t sit at a table and focus for even a millisecond. He would flop around so much during ‘rug’ time that he would disrupt the whole class. It was kind of a disaster. The school was so ‘freaked out’ after the first week, they called an emergency meeting, and eventually offered us an aide. We were grateful for the services, but a little taken aback that he needed that much support. Jennie and I tried to educate the educators about his condition. (No he is not autistic. No he isn’t misbehaving. No, he really can’t sit still. Yes, he actually is very smart.) To their credit, they were quick to ‘get it’. Then we started a new type of therapy, a brain-based exercise program called Neuro-fit ( It’s basically funny looking exercises that help strengthen certain key connections in the brain, and enhance the brain’s ability to process sensory input. And I’ll tell you what: it totally helped. In just a few months, Graham was doing much better in school. As we head towards the end of kindergarten, he’s writing little sentences, and reading ‘Bob’ books by himself. He’s sitting with his class at table time, completing the projects (with a fair amount of prompting still). He still struggles. He struggles everyday. But this year he turned a corner. And the bottom-line is, he conquered kindy! One down, twelve more to go!

Will you tell us what is coming next? Is there a sequel in the works?

We’re still very busy trying to get the film out there. I never dreamed it would be as all-consuming as it has become. Or as difficult. But at the same time, it has been such an amazing experience. I get emails every week from parents all over the world who tell me they felt all alone. Then they found Graham’s Story and felt connected and supported. I get invited to share the film at conferences all over the globe (this month I’ll be in Monterrey Mexico at a neuro-science conference). Jody Becker, my co-filmmaker, has stayed by my side, continuing to pitch the film and the issue to the likes of 60 Minutes, Newsweek and the New York Times. She wrote a front-page article that was published in the Atlantic Online. She’s the invisible force of nature behind me, making me look way more productive than I actually am.

Coming soon: The film will be available with Spanish subtitles by the end of this month. Also later this summer, we will finally complete the 2 DVD set, which will include the extended interviews with Dr. Greenspan, et al, as well as an Educator’s Guide to using the film and the footage for professional education. Also included will be a “mini-sequel” updating Graham’s progress, and introducing audiences to the charming and handsome boy he has become.

We continue to campaign to get the film on television, and feel confident that it will be broadcast somewhere, at some point.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me here today, Erik. And a big thank you for helping to spread awareness and education about Sensory Processing Disorder!

You can find more about Autistic Like, and Erik on Twitter, Facebook and on his website


Now for the free part!

Erik is giving away a copy of his film, Autisic Like: Graham's Story to one lucky HLW3B reader.

Here is how you can win:

1. You will need to follow this blog (publicly through Google located on the top of the right column) and

2. Post a comment for Erik -- anything you like --

3.  Leave your email address so I can contact you.

OK, once you have joined and commented, you are officially entered.

The contest will run from Monday 5/24/10 to Friday 5/28/10 and will end at 7pm PST. The winner will be selected by random drawing, and posted here the next day, 5/29/10. You need to check back to win -- if you do not respond, a new winner will be drawn.

Good luck!


Patty Mullins said...

Hi, Erik! I haven't had the opportunity to see the film or read the book yet, but I am really looking forward to doing so. Thanks for sharing about your journey!

Martianne said...

Thank you for sharing your journey, Erik! I am putting your book and movie on my to-read/watch lists. Blessings!

Martianne said...

Oops. Forgot to leave my address for the contest in my post. You have it already, but to make things easy, it is

Julie said...

Erik - Thank you for documenting your journey! I can't wait to see your movie and I know having it out there will help many other parents.

Hartley said...

Hi Florence -- you commented on a different post - my guess is that this was meant here!

florence said...
What an awsome giveaway!!! I keep looking for it in the library!! I look forward to seeing this educational experience some day.

Beachbrights said...

I am having trouble with google friend connect. It is not allowing me to connect. However, I do follow you on twitter and you are on my RSS feed.

I just bought this video after reading your article. I am in tears. I can't wait to get my copy in the mail and post about it after watching.

If I win a copy, I will donate to my son's preschool. His preschool actually treated his SPD and were instrumental in diagnosing Max with SPD and not autism.

Max will be in 1st grade next year and is doing brilliantly in mainstream education.

There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Thank you Hartley (again) for bringing awareness to our kids.


Mama Pickles said...

Again thank you Erik for this movie. I had the opportunity to meet you last October at the screening during the SPD Foundation conference. This movie and everything you have done for your son is amazing.
1squishypickle at

The Roberto's said...

Graham's Story and the words "autistic-like" really helped me explain to my husband and our families how our son was different. Thank you for sharing!
Sarah Roberto at gmail dot com

Stacey,momof 2 said...

Looks like I need to read this book or see the film !
I think that knoweldge is power and I need me some power! :)

I'd share this with others' after I am done with it!


Kris said...

HI Erik and Hartley,
"Autistic-Like" was a revelation to us! My 6 year old son has been diagnosed with everything under the sun including autism, Asperger's, and ADHD. The diagnosis we finally have (which fits and which has been confirmed several times!) is SPD and mixed expressive/receptive langauge disorder. He is making progress due to OT and speech therapy. (He still has an autism dx at school to get services even though they know and agree that he is not autistic - it's crazy!!) Anyway, your film was a godsend!

Jaimee said...

I first learned of this film through Facebook. I would love to be able to see it! Thank you for all your hard work to share your story!

Heather B said...

I am so excited to hear that this film is out there. It sounds like a lot of the same stuggles that we have gone through with my son. I have not heard of Neuro-Fit - I can't wait to do some research and talk with my OT about it. Thanks for sharing your son's story to date.

Alysia said...

Thank you Erik for sharing your story with the public (and thank you Hartley for sharing it with us!) our story is just like yours - we were told by our pediatrician that our son wasn't on the spectrum, but had mannerisms that mimicked being on the spectrum (namely his SPD). Can't get help in school for that, but an eventual PDD-NOS dx got us the help he (and we) needed. I am looking forward to reading your story and seeing your film. Thank you.

Sandi said...

Would love to see this. We just started down the road of finding out what my son is struggling with. Last summer he was dx with ADHD, SPD and ODD al separately. As time has gone on we realize these are not all correct. The SPD is correct but the ODD is really behavioural responses to the sensory issues. And the ADHD goes away with the correct sensory input.he struggles with social anxiety but only in certian places (sensory?) We are going through an autism eval in June because he fits many of those criteria but I don't think he is autistic but if they will call him that and get me help I don't care.
We are so at the beginning of this and really have no clue what we are doing but so want to help our son.

Cheryl Jensen said...

Hi Erik! Our son was diagnosed ASD at age 5, and just 2 months with SPD at age 8. So we have begun the next leg of our journey, learning what to add to our daily routine. I'm looking forward to your story, and thank you for documenting what so many of us face on a daily basis.

Cheryl Jensen

The Gaf said...

Hi Erik-

Looking forward to seeing the movie. It seems to echo a lot of what we've been facing.

Good luck!

bsg AT bryangaffin DOT com

Beki said...

Thank you, Erik, for your dedication to understanding what was really going on for your son. And thanks to you, Hartley, for bringing our attention to such great information. I'll be recommending this film for sure...can't wait to see it! Blessings,

FMA said...

Thank you, Erik for this treasure! With my husband being Costa Rican and both of my children being born there (we moved to the states to find adequate services for my son), we are delighted to hear that Graham's Story will now have Spanish subtitles. We had the priviledge of viewing the film at the SPD event in Seattle, purchased it, and have been circulating it around the NW. Now we can pass it on to our family in Costa Rica - a part of the world that truly needs to be educated on this condition! Thanks again for your efforts and let us know if you ever want to take your story to Costa Rica!

Megan said...

Thank you so much for the video Erik. I think by last October I was so fed up with everything and I just didn't know how to cope with my son, or his SPD. Your video sure did put everything in perspective. It reminded me of things I went througha nd I saw how you solved these problems. Thank you for giving me the courage (and yes it was courage) to move on and deal with SPD head on.


claudine said...

Hi Erik!
Let me just say that
!!!!!YOU ROCK!!!!!! I was lucky enough to be able to see your film at a local film festival last year. My husband however was not able to attend. Hopefully I will win this contest and be able to share your AMAZING story with him as well as both of our families.

Em said...

Hey Erik! Thank you for doing such an awesome documentary. I can't wait to see it! Lately OTs have been saying that my son may be on the spectrum because he has "austistic-like behaviors". I still haven't gotten him diagnosed yet, and am a little apprehensive to do so. I hope your film will help me with that weighing things out and shedding light on different therapies.

Emily Ybarra

Tiffany @ Lattes And Life said...

I'm in the early learning stages of SPD, since I suspect my son may be dealing with this. We're waiting for an appointment with his doctor to get referred for an evaluation. I've heard of this film, and would love to check it out! Anything that normalizes my son's behavior is so comforting at this stage!
My e-mail is in my profile!

Sasha said...

Thanks Erik for an opportunity to see such an important film. My life has been somewhat obsessed with all-things-SPD for the past two years.... having two kids very different kids with the same disorder.. well, it's been an interesting journey.

barelytogether at

missykade said...

Hi Erik, thank you for bringing awareness to so many people! It is a struggle everyday! Ups, downs, and all arounds. I can't wait to read/watch your story. It makes all the difference in the world to know your not alone!

Debbie Kinkade

Mia @ Finding Balance said...

Great interview. Looking forward to the film (and book).

Smith5 said...

I am just dying to watch this film. I tried to convince my library to purchase it without luck because I could not afford it. Hope I am the lucky one, because I know the journey something to share with everyone.