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!
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 (www.neuro-fit.com). 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.