Tag Archives: autistic

On Tour: Waynesboro, VA

13 Sep

September 7, 2017 | DEEJ | Waynesboro, VA

Not all school systems and not all school administrators, go the second (and third, and fourth) miles to make sure that every child has access to language and to communication. But if energy and enthusiasm is an indication of potential progress, there’s certainly hope!

Thursday, September 7 was the inaugural event in my whirlwind, nine-destination MAAF tour with our film Deej, a film profiling DJ Savarese, a nonspeaking autistic and advocate for himself and others; and it was a terrific way to begin.  Waynesboro, Virginia, is a venerable old town with roots reaching back into the early days of America.  Downtown is undergoing a renaissance, and the Wayne Theater, a real gem dating back to 1926, is the centerpiece of Main Street.

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The local community and the theater’s staff was warm and welcoming, beginning with Tracy Straight, director – and including a wonderful pre-screening dinner at the Green Leaf Grill, just down the street.

What made this screening of Deej especially gratifying was the robust attendance, helped no doubt by the co-sponsorship TASH Virginia, the state affiliate of the national disability awareness organization by the same name.  TASH VA, and local teachers Taylor Flavin and Kristen Brooks, helped the Wayne Theater in assembling a panel of engaging people, who answered questions from a very invested audience.  To start, there was Charlie Taylor, a very young man, nonspeaking, who participated in the discussion with the help of his mother, Patricia.  His first comment, via letter board: “DJ is my hero”.

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And that was just the beginning.  Dr. Leslie Daniel, Associate Professor of Education and Human Development at Radford University and Vikram Jaswal, Associate Professor in the University of Virginia Department of Psychology, joined in as well.  And, Professor Jaswal brought with him two students from UVA, Jaclyn Lund and Hazel Lindahl, who were participants in an eye-opening university seminar in which they engaged on an ongoing basis with 10 college-aged nonspeaking autistic people from northern Virginia who call themselves “The Tribe”.  So many questions, so many insightful answers, so little time!

It was clear that there were both audience members and panelists who looked upon DJ’s experiences of inclusion, especially in middle school and high school, with envy.  Not all school systems and not all school administrators, go the second (and third, and fourth) miles to make sure that every child has access to language and to communication. But if energy and enthusiasm is an indication of potential progress, there’s certainly hope!

Post by On Screen/In Person filmmaker, Robert Rooy

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