SPELLERS is here-don't miss it!
Let's change the way the world views and interacts with nonspeakers forever
LAKE OSWEGO, Oregon—Yup, that’s me and my beautiful son Jamie outside the Lake Theater in Lake Oswego, Oregon last night, right before we showed the new movie SPELLERS to our friends and family for the first time. There’s two things I will never forget about the evening:
So many people approaching Jamie after the film to talk directly to him, fully accepting that his inability to respond to their words doesn’t mean he doesn't understand;
The loving embrace of 190 people after the film who all wanted to revel in, and show appreciation for, the miracle they had just witnessed on the screen (and express a little anger about the denialists!)
SPELLERS will be everywhere tomorrow, there are many ways to watch.
It’s hard for me to “review” the film, I’m way too close to it, but I loved this review written by Clinical Psychologist (and father of a Speller) John J. Schaut, Psy.D., and I hope you do, too:
Ever since Soma Mukhopadhyay’s ground-breaking appearance on 60 minutes twenty years ago, documentary films such as “Wretches & Jabberers,” “Deej,” and “The Reason I Jump,” have raised awareness about the potential non-speaking people have on the autism spectrum to communicate through spelling. However, “Spellers,” a documentary film inspired by JB & Jamison Handley’s book Underestimated, represents a true tipping point in the movement by spellers, their families, and practitioners to bring this mode of communication into the mainstream. “Spellers” features the experiences of 8 spellers on the autism spectrum as they emerge from an uninformed society that considers them intellectually disabled and low functioning.
The film blows apart this myth with nods to Stephen Hawking, Helen Keller, and spellers who describe the fine motor function roots of speech, not cognitive deficits wrongly attributed to non-speaking autists. It is noteworthy that “Crip Camp,” a documentary about the roots of ADA, as a 2022 Oscar nominee. In my opinion, “Spellers” deserves that recognition this year.
The film pays appropriate homage to Soma, developer of RPM, Elizabeth Vosseller, Ph.D., originator of S2C and the practitioners of the 8 featured autists worked with to achieve the benefits spelling brought them. As a clinician with academic affiliations, I was particularly struck by the brief comments of a special ed teacher who dismissed spelling to communicate as “not evidence-based.” This misguided and uninformed mantra is typically a reflection of ignorance or political loyalty to a particular model than true scientific inquiry. One technical strength of “Spellers” is the camera-work that leaves no doubt these spellers are authentic in their practice.
There is a quote often misattributed to Gandhi that states, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” The efforts of pioneers in Disability Rights paved the way for these dedicated spellers and advocates. “Spellers” concludes with a moving speech by Rollins College valedictorian Elizabeth Bonker, one of the 8, to make “Communication 4 All” (her organization) a reality. Our son Carlos Schaut is a published author in Leaders Around Me. He describes his major physical barriers as a body at odds with his intentions, but more so an educational system impaired by archaic ideas and policies. My hope and grief is that “Spellers” is a revolutionary step to make his, Elizabeth Bonker’s and all the heroic efforts of this amazing film, a reality.
Let the revolution begin! If you’ve seen the movie, let me know what you thought.
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