PBS series POV; Documentaries With A View
Is autism a dysfunction?
Neurotypical is a rare film among documentaries about autism. It relates the experiences of this neurological condition from the point of view of autistics themselves. Via the worlds of 4-year-old Violet, teenager Nicholas and middle-aged wife and mother Paula, along with provocative interviews with other autistics, the film recounts the challenges they face living among "normal" people--whom many of them call "neurotypicals."
"What is the standard that identifies one person as whole and capable... and another as disabled and broken?"
In this deleted scene, two men discuss the use of the word neurotypical, and question what we perceive as "normal behavior."
Adam Larsen (director/cinematographer/editor)
is an artist, projection designer and filmmaker. He has designed video projections for nearly 100 productions both On and Off-Broadway in the US and abroad. As a cinematographer, Adam has DP’d numerous television pilots (cooking shows to extreme sports), independent films, and commercials. In addition, he produced, shot and edited two short films for TEACCH, North Carolina’s state autism program and two films for OAR, the Organization for Autism Research. He holds a BFA in Cinematography from the North Carolina School of the Arts. Neurotypical is Adam’s first documentary.
"Working closely with autistics of all ages and abilities has given me a profound respect and affection for this culture. Making Neurotypical provided a wonderful opportunity for me to explore more fully the richness of humanity and to bring the concept of neurodiversity into the mainstream."
"Neurotypical originated in the shared experiences of my family and the autistic community in western North Carolina. My father has worked in the field of autism for more than 20 years, initially as a therapist with the North Carolina TEACCH program. My mother is an artist who works in multiple media and across genres. Today, my parents design and manufacture ShoeboxTasks, innovative learning materials for children and adults with special needs.
While I was growing up, our home was a site for “social group” gatherings—opportunities for autistic adults to socialize in a relaxed, supportive environment. I remember these childhood get-togethers vividly. I was initially impressed by what I perceived as differences in mannerisms and sensitivities in autistics. When I became a teenager, I began to notice sameness. Maybe the emotional highs and lows, the pleasures and pains of social interacting weren’t so different between “neurotypicals” and autistics after all."
"Through high school and college, I continued to learn from individuals on the autism spectrum. What began to take shape was a kind of growing rebellion against what I saw as society’s double standard—either a pervasive need to make people into a rendition of something “normal,” or a tendency to sensationalize the extremes of autism. Documentaries at the time were either clinical, focused on cause and cure, or dramatic, looking at the “tragedy” of autism or the brilliance of the savant. A typical documentary followed a child’s journey and never gave a glimpse of autistic adulthood. I grew determined to make a film from the viewpoint of autistics, as storytellers of their own experiences."