Melissa Collins-Porter is a film studies professor and the mother of a 14-year-old son with Autism. Her son, Liam, enjoys filling out calendars. He writes out all of his schedules and plans for the future but gets stumped on plans after high school.
This is a common worry for many parents – what happens when our children become adults? Liam is a part of what many collectively refer to as the “autism tsunami,” a growing number of teenagers with Autism who will soon be entering the responsibilities of adulthood with limited education, job skills, and living options. Many parents give up on the traditional ideals for their child: going to college or getting married often never play out due to their disability. However, Collins-Porter is determined to think otherwise.
Liam is on the moderate side of the spectrum. Mostly, he has normal days but when things don’t go as planned they can quickly turn into bad ones. He currently attends the Training Education & Research Institute (TERI) Campus for Life Country School in San Marcos. He says that after he graduates he wants to go to UC Berkeley.
Although these plans seem somewhat unrealistic, this is a common conversation Collins-Porter and her husband have. It is estimated that there are 1.5 million Americans who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and 80% are under the age of 22. So they are not the only parents with the same concerns.
Collins-Porter recently learned about Sweetwater Spectrum, a housing solution for adults with Autism located in Sonoma, CA. According to their website, their mission is “To provide adults with autism an innovative, supportive residential community that challenges each individual to reach his or her highest potential.” The facility was created by a group of families, civic leaders, and professionals who recognize the need for specialized housing.
Inspired by the facility, Collins-Porter has teamed up with local film producer Craig Young to create the documentary film “Aging Out.” She hopes that through this film, she is able to show new ways that adults with Autism can lead meaningful, independent lives. They are set to follow the lives of teenagers who are approaching their 18th birthday.
The film will include interviews from family members, teachers, social workers, and caregivers. Also, the documentary will feature facilities such as the TERI Campus for Life Country School and Sweetwater Spectrum. Unlike other documentaries, Craig and Collins-Porter wish to stray away from the theme of tragedy and triumph; instead they hope to create an accurate yet positive portrayal of autism in adulthood.
If would like to donate to the film please visit their kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/757842605/aging-out-0
For more information about Sweetwater Spectrum, visit their website at http://www.sweetwaterspectrum.org/home0.aspx
Written by Raiza Belarmino