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What I Took Away From the Film ‘Po’ as Someone on the Autism Spectrum

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In recent years, more and more films have been released that focus on those on the autism spectrum and with other special needs. This rings true for the recently released movie “Po,” which looks at the story of a widowed engineer struggling to raise his 10-year-old son who is on the autism spectrum.

Last year, I did a Q&A with the director of this film, John Asher, and more recently we had the opportunity to watch a screening of it in its entirety. The film, simple enough to say, did not disappoint.

While watching the film, the father (played by actor Christopher Gorham) seemed to resonate with me the most. Growing up on the autism spectrum, it took an entire village to help me when it came to providing me with supports. Most of the time, this was a financial challenge for my family at a time when services were not provided for children on the spectrum due to a lack of awareness and legislation.

To watch this father fight tooth and nail for those supports made me come to an even deeper appreciation of what my parents have been able to do for me in my life. This dad needed to find a village, and that’s something all parents have to find for themselves regardless of having a child with special needs or not. It also taught me the importance of providing supports for single parents so they never feel alone in our communities.

I’d like to commend Asher’s team for making this film a reality. As someone who has consulted on several films now to bring a realistic portrayal of autism and other special needs to the big screen, I’d also like to commend Julian Feder, who played Po, the boy with autism spectrum disorder in the film. I know several children on the autism spectrum today who remind me of the character Julian portrayed. It was wonderful to see him embrace the role as he did with such a beautiful authenticity.

In addition, I’d like to give big kudos to Kaitlin Doubleday (one of my favorite actresses on television today in her role on FOX’s hit show “Empire”) who played Po’s therapist in the film. Many times, therapists don’t receive the praise they deserve in our community for going above and beyond for their kids. I feel Kaitlin’s understanding of autism really shined. Her interactions and relationship with Po reminded me of my earliest days of receiving early intervention at a children’s hospital near my home. There, I built a relationship with my therapist, who helped me build on my social skills to have my first few conversations with my peers and family. I was reminded a lot about that therapist through her character. Thank you, Kaitlin, for taking the time to be part of this film.

If you are looking to learn more about building your own village out there in your own life, then I believe this film is a must-see. Entertaining, resonating and educational. We need more of these films out there today.

Image via Contributor.

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Originally published: December 5, 2016
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