And I thought I had a hard time at school dances. Pitifully sitting in the corner, no one to dance with, eating chocolate. (True story.)
I didn’t realize how difficult it is for young to old adults with autism to be able to express and socialize the way I’m used to. Going to school dances is awful enough as it is, but for someone with a communicative disorder… Wow. I’m going to start by saying that if you don’t see How to Dance in Ohio at the Milwaukee Film Festival this coming weekend, you are missing one of the most heartwarming stories I have ever seen in film.
Alexandra Shiva tells the incredible story about a group of teenagers and adults on the autism spectrum and how they overcome the social and emotional challenges of adulthood in one of the most iconic ways: a school dance. It isn’t narrated, either verbally or subtitled, but rather told chronologically by several people’s day to day struggles living with autism. With the help of clinical psychologist Dr. Emilio Amigo and other professional staff, the young adults do various exercises that help them combat social challenges in preparation for their spring formal: how to approach someone, how to ask someone to dance, how to dance, and many others.
The story profiles three separate stories of young girls and their unique autistic struggles and strengths. Some are excellent drawers of anime, while some are incredibly knowledgeable about science. They often need social ques to help them get along with others, but most are slowly becoming more independent.
All of the struggles lead up to the spring formal, which puts the crew to the ultimate social test.
The most powerful aspect of this story is the characters in it. It’s incredible the way these young adults overcome struggles that most people deem as normal behavior. It really makes you think twice about communicating with people on the autism spectrum. Chances are, they are trying 100x harder than you to form a conversation.
If I could beg people to watch this doc, I would. It’s that incredible. How to Dance in Ohio is playing Sunday Oct 4 at 10:30 a.m. and Wednesday Oct 7 at 12:30 p.m. at the Downer Theatre.
*If you have children, I encourage them to attend with you. It would be an incredible learning experience for them to see how to communicate with others they may know with autism.