By Nicole Hegewald
“The Time I Realized My Brother was Different” is a two minute segment featured on The Disney Channel. It stars Melody Igafo-Te’o, 13, and her brother, Michael, 15, who has autism. The clip started airing on November 23, 2009 and airs regularly during commercial breaks.
“Some people just think autism is a weird problem.”
Melody wrote a book when she was 8 describing living with her older brother, My Brother has Autism, which he illustrated. Jackie Igafo-Te’o, their mother, explains that the book chronicles Melody’s personal tales of playing games and eating pizza with her brother. (http://www.bridges4kids.org/MyBrotherHasAutism.pdf)
The family was contacted by United Front Design, a production company out of Los Angeles, after they discovered the book. The family was hesitant to put their life on television. Melody was afraid the millions of people that make up the Disney Channel audience would judge her.
“Sometimes he can go a little overboard with things,” but Melody hopes the short film brings awareness to the disease and its symptoms.
“Some people just think autism is a weird problem,’‘ she continues. “They stare at autistic people. I hope that they won’t think that as much — that it’s like having a regular sibling and just a little different.”
“It’s amazing. People have e-mailed us and are telling people the kids did a great job,” Jackie (mom) said. “I’m just really proud of my kids.”
The Igafo-Te’o family decided that getting out their message and spreading awareness was worth it. The short was filmed in Jackson, Michigan last July. It took five hours to film. The siblings can be seen in a behind the scenes look at the filming process, located on YouTube.