A new film tackles the topic of “adult children with autism” and what happens after their parents are gone. The film is called Life, Animated and it centers around the biography of Owen Suskind, a now 25-year old autistic man, his brother Walter, and the challenges that Walter will face having to step into the role of primary caregiver of his brother when their parents pass.
The film begins by showing a boy who suddenly stopped talking and seemed to completely disappear around the age of 3. The family didn’t know what to do until one day Owen was watching a Disney movie and he said “I don’t want to grow up, like Mogli and Peter Pan,” relating his life to the movie. From that point on his parents new that to reach him they would have to use Disney language and work through that to unlock Owen’s voice and help him make sense of the world. The movie shows animated Disney-like characters as well as old home videos and recent footage from the documentary filming.
In todays world, a lot of people are facing the issue of what will be done when a child with autism grows up. There are 50,000 adolescents with autism who are turning 18 this year and, by 2023, there will be an estimated 500,000 entering the adult population. To this day, many still do not understand the nature of autism and our culture still does not have a solid solution for autistic children after their parents die. Many siblings are going to have to step up as primary caretakers and they will need support, however, this isn’t something that has been widely acknowledged as of yet.
So far, there are mobile apps being developed to engage with a child’s intense passion (a feature of autism) to turn it into a pathway for emotional, social, and cognitive growth. There is also a residential community for adults with ASD being developed called First Place.
We can only hope that in the future there will be a better understanding of autism and furthermore, the needs that come with it. Perhaps the power of film that has allowed Owen to speak and develop, will also be able to spread awareness about autism and make changes for the future that will make our world a better place.