The Boy Inside strikes a chord around the world

May 23, 2009 Recently Fiona Hughes, a Vancouver-based  journalist did a story on how 3 years on, The Boy Inside continues to reverberate around the world. Here is her story from the Vancouver Courier weekly newspaper: Documentary about Asperger's still touching, changing lives Fiona Hughes Vancouver Courier Wednesday, May 20, 2009 When I first saw Marianne Kaplan's documentary The Boy Inside three years ago, I remember thinking, "What a brave, strong woman. What a hard life." Kaplan, a local filmmaker, took an unrelentingly honest look at what it's like to be the parent of a child with Asperger's syndrome. The Boy Inside is the story of her son Adam, a highly intelligent and startlingly articulate 12-year-old diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. It's a form of autism that makes social interaction and normal conversation tremendously challenging. For his entire elementary school experience, Adam was virtually friendless. Kaplan's decision to share intensely personal moments of her family's life on film has reverberated around the world. Kaplan has gone on to work on other projects, but she's never let go of The Boy Inside. In fact, she's taken it to the next level, getting it translated into Punjabi and Mandarin and travelling around B.C. to schools and film festivals with Adam by her side for question and answer sessions. That experience has proven invaluable for Adam, whose life has only improved since the film's release. The Vancouver School Board deserves special mention. It purchased 600 copies of the film, likely because it saw the film as a tool for changing attitudes about people who are "different." The film is the ideal starting point to discuss bullying and how the world tends to treat people who are "different." I caught up with Kaplan last week to get an update on the film and Adam, who is now 16 and writing his own rap songs. She looks as energized as when I first met her in 2006 and is thrilled to see her film go global and have such a positive effect. But she's not surprised by the attention. "People are desperate and when they see something that mirrors their experience it comforts them," she said. "It can be a very isolating experience to go through. The film has touched a lot of people and made parents and kids feel they are not alone." A Swedish teen named Mike can attest to that. Here's what he wrote on Adam's blog at . Hello Adam, im not so good in english. I have just seen your movie on the tv. I was just like you when i was on elmentery school. But when i starting high school i got big trouble with the swedish laws. Now i have accept my autism and have start a collage that im really like. Im think you are a brave man ho have show the world from our side off this sick palnet. Your are my hero. Mouth better then all the baseboll player. you are real human Mike From Sweden A heartbreaking posting from a desperate mother in Singapore inspired people in similar situations to post a reply and offer moral support and suggestions. "Dear Marianne, yesterday night, The Boy Inside was shown in Singapore one of the TV Channel. I cried thr' the show because what you have felt is the same as me, however, nobody understand me, include my son's teachers and principle. My 11 yr old son was diagnosed with AS when he was about 4-5 yr old. He was often bullied in the school. School was informed of his condition but they can't do much to stop the bullying. Why can't they educate the others normal kids and their parents about AS? If the normal kids know more about AS, know how my son & me feel, i think the bully will slowly stop.......however, singapore MOE(ministry of education) is not doing anything as what you people doing out there, SAD....(MOE only interested in supporting the bright kids). In 2 years time, my son is going to secondary school(=high school), my fears grow everyday...Adam said before: I feel like dying. Me too. from:a sad mum." Adam no longer travels with his mother to screenings. Kaplan has seen her son blossom with so much self-confidence over the last three years that she wanted other teens with autism or Asperger's to have similar opportunities. Six boys, trained in public speaking by a UBC grad student, now accompany Kaplan to community screenings in the Lower Mainland. They'll be with her when The Boy Inside screens June 7 at Langara College (604-323-5322) and again June 13 at Fifth Avenue Cinemas (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Admission is free or by donation. Call 604-257-6976. "We're giving them a voice, like we did with Adam," Kaplan said. "These boys are really amazing and people seem to be moved and inspired by them." A little understanding can go a long way. It's wonderful to know The Boy Inside is still out there helping change attitudes. © Vancouver Courier 2009

Fantastic screening at Powell River Film Festival

February 16th Adam and I showed The Boy Inside to 650 school kids (grades 5-9) as part of the Powell River Film Festival last Friday. It was our most exciting screening yet- there is something about a room filled with lots of excited kids that creates a real buzz- and the teachers in particular were thrilled to hear that they will soon have access to the film with a study guide through their schools. My favourite moment in the very long Q&A was a question from the back, a little girl asked: "Adam, can you tell me what its like to be bullied?" Adam, paused and then turned it back to the audience asking them: "Lets see, how many of YOU have been bullied" and slowly almost every hand in the audience, including adults, went up. It was a very powerful moment.

We showed the film to a group of kids today

December 7th Adam and I presented the film to the Grade 6 and 7 classes at a local school today. It was the first time I had presented the film to an audience of kids and the response was phenomenal. The kids were really engaged and had great questions and comments. All directed to Adam. They were genuinely moved and interested in how things are going for him these days. One boy asked: “Have you had your first kiss yet”. And when Adam proudly said yes, the whole group whooped and cheered. Another boy asked if its hard for Adam to watch the film these days, it being so personal and revealing. Adam answered that it is hard, and that the film was sad. The boy agreed and told the whole group that he had cried while watching it. Quite brave I thought for a 13 year old.

Film shown at Adam's school

November 15, 2006 As part of our annual Asperger information presentation to Adam's grade level, last week our behavioral consultant Melanie showed The Boy Inside to all the Grade 9s. The idea was that instead of her usual talk on the subject of AS, she would use the film as a discussion-starter. From all accounts it was an amazing success. The kids were completely engaged in the film and after the screening the discussions were lively, open, and wide-ranging. Adam told me last night that things are going much better for him socially at school and he attributes it to the showing of the film and the discussion.

...Adam at school

Feeling very frustrated with how things are going for Adam at school. He seems to care so little about his schoolwork, and it is a constant slog getting him to do his homework, in fact to take any responsibility at all about academics. If I was not totally on it and on him about it, in constant communication with his aide, battling with him to do homework, he would just let it all go completely and it could totally fall apart. I am determined for him to graduate high school- after that he can decide what or what not to do. I know that socially things are not going great at school, I saw some mean emails posted on his nexopia account, and you just know that as an AS kid he has to be constantly "messing up" in his social interactions with peers. Its a battle to get him to go to school most mornings, and he wants days off all the time, not a good sign.

The Responses...

The responses from across the country continue to pour in. I am surprised at how many people are affected by AS. The Boy Inside seems to have truly struck a nerve. Our dream of an online community growing out of the shared experience of watching the film is starting to become a reality. Parents are starting to share their stories and connect with one another. There seems to be emotional value for people in telling their story and hearing other family's stories. I hope our kids start to find value in connecting with each other online. One of the most moving emails to come my way today was from the ringleader of the group of kids that rejected Adam during Grade 6 and 7. He watched the film on CBC Newsworld last night and apologized to Adam for bullying him and said he wished he would have been able to see things through Adam's eyes. It makes me more determined to get the film into every school, not just in BC, but in all of Canada. With a good study guide to help teachers use the film in the most effective way, we can really have an impact on how kids treat other kids.

My first blog

My first blog- it feels like a rite of passage. Adam and I just returned from 2 days of screenings in the Maritimes- Friday night in Halifax sponsored by the Autism Society of Nova Scotia and the Autism Society of Canada, and a Saturday afternoon screening in Charlottetown sponsored by the Autism Society of PEI and Canada. As usual the response to the film was very emotional, with lots of frank discussion after, many of the questions being directed at Adam.

It seems that government support for Maritime families affected by AS disorders is very inadequate. Luckily the communities themselves seems tight and strong. The Provincial Autism Centre in Halifax runs a fantastic drop in program for small groups of kids with AS, where the kids get together and hang out on a regular basis.

This is something I’d like to explore creating in Vancouver. It is so hard for our kids to get regular opportunities to socialize in a setting where they can just be themselves, without having to fit into neurotypical expectations. I’ve put it on my to-do list.

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