Tag Archives: disability

Special-Needs Screening of Rio at Studio Movie Grill

19 Apr

If you’re the parent of a special-needs child, you’ll love this one.  Studio Movie Grill offers screenings of movies with the lights turned up and the audio turned down.

Kids with special needs and their siblings are free; others are $5.

The next showing is Rio, rated G, on April 23rd at 11 am.

Tickets are available only at the box office.  For more information, visit www.studiomoviegrill.com.

Autism Awareness Month: Disabilities on Film

19 Apr

Even at a time where 1 in 110 kids receives an autism diagnosis—meaning virtually everyone in this country has some kind of contact with a child on the spectrum—I still get this question with fair regularity: “Can your daughter memorize the phone book like the guy in Rain Man?”

I don’t really mind.  Before 2000, when my Paige received her diagnosis, my only point of reference was Dustin Hoffman, too.  Paige (now 15) isn’t a savant and doesn’t talk.  As Dr. Carolyn Garver, director of the Autism Treatment Center in Dallas, puts it: “If you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism.”  They are like snowflakes—each with their own unique strengths and quirks.  (Which might just sum up every kid out there!)

I do appreciate media depictions of kids on the spectrum, if only to raise awareness.  It seems most of these projects see the light of day when a producer or writer has a child on the spectrum.  So much the better:  the “insiders” perspective can only help round-out the depiction in film.

Which brings me to a new movie making the art-house rounds (which I’m hoping comes to the Angelika in Dallas ASAP!): “FLY AWAY”.  Here’s the news release with a link to the trailer:

A powerful film directed by Emmy Award winner Janet Grillo (Autism: The Musical), FLY AWAY narrates the story of Jeanne (Beth Broderick, Bonfire of the Vanities, Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and her autistic teenage daughter, Mandy (Ashley Rickards, One Tree Hill).  Jeanne has cared for Mandy since the day she was born, growing closer every day to a child who is charmingly offbeat one moment and nearly impossible to manage the next.  In the dog park, Jeanne encounters Tom (Greg Germann, Ally McBeal, Friends with Money), an easygoing and accepting neighbor who sparks a romantic interest, but she finds juggling Mandy’s care and her own career leaves little room for a new man.  As the pressures of work and her child’s needs increase, she must decide whether or not to enroll Mandy in a therapeutic residential facility.  Over the course of a few weeks, Jeanne is confronted with the most difficult decision a parent can make: to let go, allowing her child to grow, but also grow apart; or to hold on tight and fall together.

Statement from Director Janet Grillo, who won an Emmy for her film, “AUTISM THE MUSICAL” (which is awesome, BTW):

As the mother of a child with disabilities, I was immediately thrust into the challenge every parent must face at some point: meeting the needs of your child when it is at great cost to yourself.  Perhaps the very measure of love is what and how much we are willing to sacrifice.  Although parenting someone with Autism is particular, the primal drive to do the best for oneʼs child is universal.  FLY AWAY tells this story.

FLY AWAY is a personal film, derived from experience.  As I have journeyed with other parents of children with special needs, Iʼve witnessed great pain and extraordinary passion.  Iʼve also watched parents unable to place their children in full time therapeutic residences, when it was clearly needed.  While such placement is not best for all or even most children on the spectrum, it’s tragic when parents are too plagued with fear and guilt to make the choice when it is.  If FLY AWAY eases the pain of even one parentʼs torturous decision, or if it expands the heart of even one person untouched by Autism to accept our children and appreciate our struggles, it will have been well worth making.  The authenticity of our story can provide insight and hope.  Truth often does.

-Janet Grillo

Check out the trailer: http://flyawaymovie.com/the-film/.

The February Prayer Project – The Dreaded “N-” Word

15 Feb

More than Mothers writer Lisa chronicles her thought-provoking experiment in faith and friendship in “The February Prayer Project.”  Here is Part Three of her four-part story.  Click here for Part Two.

One notion haunted me the first weeks of the February Prayer Project, wherein I challenged Jen, Lori and myself to pray for a whole month to see if it mattered.

What if God was telling me, “no”?

I’d heard the dreaded “n-” in the past. And it hurts. Bad.

My daughter, Paige, was diagnosed with autism in the spring of 2000. Both my husband and I knew she had serious developmental delays. Paige made plenty of sounds but very few words. She made eye contact but couldn’t sustain it like a glancing blow. She rarely looked up when you called her name.

For months, I’d prayed—down on my knees, tears in my eyes—for God to fix whatever was wrong. After all, He’d parted the Red Sea for Moses, sent manna from heaven for the Israelites. Through His son, He’d given sight to the blind and brought Lazarus back from the dead. Couldn’t He—shouldn’t He—intervene on behalf of an innocent little girl?

If He did, I couldn’t see it. In April 2000, a pediatric neurologist with the bedside manner of a third-world despot informed us: a) Paige had autism; b) there was no cure; c) we should start saving now for institutionalized care.

A decade later, those wounds can still feel raw. And in February 2011, as my dearest friends were praying during a project I’d dreamed up, I kept mulling this singular, terrifying idea:

What if God says no?

Like a good parent, He could have plenty of reasons to deny a request. The heroin addict who begs the Almighty to win the lottery? You can see how a huge infusion of cash could lead to the winner’s demise. The freshman who didn’t study for her geometry exam? Giving her an easy A could set a bad precedent, ultimately hindering her growth.

But Paige?

All that’s to say I was gun-shy about asking God for much of anything. I didn’t think He’d ignored me where Paige was concerned. I thought he said, “Sorry, sister,” which somehow felt worse.

But in February 2010, I began seeing a bit more nuance in my daughter’s disability. How God has provided everything she truly needs—great teachers, skilled therapists, compassionate sitters, savvy doctors (minus the aforementioned neurologist, whom we never saw again). God has also used her situation to shape who I am. I listen better because when you have a child with such significant communication problems, you develop a keen ear. I have used her situation to vet my friends, too. If Paige makes them uncomfortable (or if that’s what I perceive), I’m far less interested in the relationship. She and I, in effect, are a package deal. Over the past decade, anytime I have asked God for strength or guidance in solving a Paige-related problem, He has shown me the way.

To that end, I began to feel gratitude for the gifts her autism has given me.

Sometimes a “no” turns out alright in the end.

Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk for Arthritis

29 Nov

On Saturday, December 4, you can burn some calories, support a worthwhile cause, and get in the holiday spirit at the Fort Worth Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis at Trinity Park.

Festivities begin at 2 pm and include a costume contest.  The 1 Mile Reindeer Fun Run starts at 3:45, and the 5K starts at 4:30.

Arthritis is our nation’s most common cause of disability.  Money raised from this event goes to the Arthritis Foundation, to fund arthritis research and programs that help those living with arthritis.

Early Bird online registration can save you a few bucks, but it ends on December 2 so sign up today!

For details or to register, click here.

One Question NOT to Pop!

23 Nov

At a gathering of my in-laws a couple Thanksgivings ago, I was hit with my least favorite question: “What do you think causes autism?”

Then just last week, during a casual conversation while getting a jumpstart on my Christmas shopping, I mentioned to a clerk at a bookstore that my 14-year-old daughter has autism.  I added that Paige is doing great, particularly following a few key changes to her medications plus a new school.

As I watched the little pucker form between the woman’s eyes, I knew precisely what was coming.

“So,” she said.  “What do you think causes autism?”

In the decade since our daughter has been diagnosed with autism, I have heard more theories about the disorder’s origins than I care to count.  Everything from coal production and the fillings in my teeth to what I call The Big Brain Theory (some say the brains of children on the autism spectrum simply grew too fast).

Then there’s the old vaccine debate.  (You practically have to be family before I’ll confide how we handled the childhood vaccines for our 5-year-old son.)  Go on any open Internet forum centered around autism and vaccinations, and you’ll get a taste of “cyber-bullying.”  Parents on both side of the debate post the cruelest comments you have ever read!

So here’s my tip for a merrier holiday season: Don’t ask!  The mom does not know what causes autism.  No one knows.

Chances are, too, that most any mother would rather tell you about her child’s latest developmental milestone than engage in what amounts to scientific speculation.

I most certainly would!

Art Alert! Excellent Opportunity for Special-Needs Kids

9 Nov

The Dallas Museum of Art hosts its third Autism Awareness Day Celebration on Saturday, Nov. 20 from 9-11 a.m.  The event takes place in the DMA’s Center for Creative Connections.  Young Picassos their parents will make art projects, explore different textures in the Young Learners Gallery and create a masterpiece in the Art Studio.

I attended the first event of its kind in the spring and was blown away.  It’s a lovely opportunity for special-needs kids to enjoy an outing with their folks.  Because the Celebration begins before the museum opens, it feels private, too—a plus for parents who fret about how their children with autism behave in a new setting.  Families may tour the rest of the galleries after 11 a.m. so you can make a day of it!

Pre-registration is required due to limited space.  Email your name, phone number and a list of those in your party to ablake@dallasmuseumofart.org or call 214.922.1251.

Special Needs Help in the DFW Area

14 Oct

Autism Treatment Center

10503 Metric Dr.
Dallas, TX 75243


I consider ATC the gold standard in autism treatment and support in the Metroplex.  Help for children and adults with autism.

ARC of Dallas

12700 Hillcrest Rd. #200
Dallas, TX 75230-2063


ARC of Greater Tarrant County

1300 W Lancaster #104
Fort Worth, TX 76102


ARC of Northeast Tarrant County

PO Box 14455
Haltom City, TX 76117


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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

28 Sep

I have many weaknesses.

Chocolate.  Coffee-table books.  The Container Store.

But one flaw that impacts far more than my waistline or wallet is my ongoing reluctance to ask for help.  This summer, though, I didn’t have a choice.  Circumstances compelled me to rally against my introverted instincts on behalf of Paige, my 14-year-old with autism.

I should have suspected we were in for an unusual summer during the last week of the 2009-10 school year.  For the first time ever, Paige refused to board the bus.  At the time, I chalked up her balking to burnout.  After all, she had struggled all year to adapt to junior high.  So, frankly, had I.

Not helping matters was “the biter,” a fellow student with autism in most of Paige’s classes.  After the fourth (and final) chomp on Paige’s leg in early May, I asked for a schedule change so Paige would have very limited contact with that particular child.  While the teachers readily honored my request (making me kick myself for not asking sooner!), plenty of damage had been done.  I interpreted my non-verbal daughter’s shrieks as signaling she had no intention of returning.

I figured everything would right itself during the two-week break before summer school started.


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Moment of Truth

4 Sep

This article was originally published in the Dallas Morning News in 2006.

What’s the greatest challenge of having a daughter with autism? Telling people about it.

That’s an exaggeration, but not by much. Paige, now 10, was diagnosed with a moderate form of the disorder six years ago. She is a happy, loving, active, funny, hardworking, mischievous kid who looks like any other pre-teen and exhibits none of the stereotypical characteristics associated with autism. Paige makes eye contact, doesn’t hurt herself on purpose and gives us an abundance of smiles each day.

It’s when my daughter opens her mouth that her disability becomes apparent. She has a vocabulary of two dozen words, some of which only “Team Paige” (her teachers, therapists and family) can understand.

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