News Column

Film focuses on day-to-day of living with autism

June 9, 2013


June 09--DANVILLE -- Tim Welsh hopes the movie "The United States of Autism" provides insight and a definition to a neural disorder they may not have understood.

"The idea of the film is ... if somebody doesn't know about autism, we want them to see the movie, 'The United States of Autism,' and use it as their definition of autism," said Welsh, whose son Tanner suffers from autism. He added the movie goes beyond medical terms, instead offering "autism in pictures."

The movie, which opened in New York City on April 8, chronicles the 11,000-mile cross-country travels of director Richard Evert as he meets 20 families and individuals living with autism. The film was shown last month in Champaign-Urbana.

It will be shown at 7:30 p.m. June 18 at the AMC Village Mall 6 Theater, 2917 N. Vermilion St.

The documentary is hosted by Autism Friendly Business, LLC with 25 percent of proceeds going toward Vermilion Association for Special Education Foundation and AutismAid Autism Service Support Charity.

Welsh's family is one of the 20 families featured in the film. He said the bottom line of the film is showing how families make it day by day.

"The families in the movie didn't have a choice, they had to fight their way through and had to make it through," he said. "It's really an American dream story in this situation you're handed, how you are going to deal with it."

The movie was funded by a Pepsi Refresh grant awarded to Evert three years ago. Welsh assisted in getting the grant after a first attempt failed.

Tim, his wife, Cheri, and Tanner saw the movie for the first time in April in Champaign-Urbana. It was emotional both the husband and wife.

Cheri said she had to walk out during the segment about their family.

"You power through with what you have to do and a lot of times we forget who its all about," she said. "It's emotional when you're talking about your baby."

Some footage of a local farmer spraying his field had an effect on Tim, who said the young man was in his and Cheri's wedding.

"Just that one flash brings back a whole life that could have been," Tim said, "I saw him grow up, his family grow, get married, have kids and do the things that they do and our whole trajectory had changed."

Comments from relatives interviewed for the movie also struck his heart.

"I think that I could not help but be moved," he said.

Cheri added the movie was the first that Tanner sat through from beginning to end.

"The movie points out all different levels of autism," she said. "It really brings to light how it affects everyone. It doesn't matter religion, ethnicity, social or economic status."

Tim said a lot of different points are represented by the documentary.

"There's things you will learn about life in America, not just autism," he said, ranging from a military family to a black family to a Muslim family. "We try to see all different points on the spectrum."


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