March 15, 2010 – Margret, whose ten-year-old son Keli is severely autistic, has tried a number of treatments to help her son. Consumed by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge about this mysterious and complex condition, she travels from her home in Iceland to the United States and Europe, meeting scientists and other experts, as well as other families touched by autism. The stakes could not be higher: One in 150 children is diagnosed with autism every year, with boys outnumbering girls four to one.
Narrated by Oscar winner Kate Winslet and directed by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson (the Oscar nominee “Children of Nature”), this film follows one woman’s quest to understand autism, a neural developmental disorder. While she holds no unrealistic expectations for her son Keli, Margret worries that he may never be self-sufficient or express himself normally. Traveling from Iceland to the United States and Europe, she learns how the brains of autistic children differ from “normal” children and discovers new techniques that could offer a promising future for children with autism, including her son.
Along the way, Margret connects with families of autistic children, who share stories of their efforts to help their kids interact with the world around them. Many of their accounts echo her own struggles, including the endless doctor visits and experiments with different treatments, the complication of doing everyday tasks, and the inability to communicate with their children, perhaps the most painful and frustrating aspect of autism for them. However, many families detail innovative new therapies that might break down the wall of autism, comforting Margret with a glimmer of hope that her son may be able to communicate on a level she didn’t previously expect.
After the family returns home, Margret says, “Before, we used to talk about Keli in front of him, but now we talk to him.” With new hope for the future, she adds, “I can start to get to know my own child.”
Among the experts and advocates Margret encounters in A MOTHER’S COURAGE: TALKING BACK TO AUTISM are: Dr. David G. Amaral, research director, MIND (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute; Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen, director, Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge; Dr. Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer, Autism Speaks; Dr. Temple Grandin, best-selling author, animal scientist and autism advocate, who was recently the subject of an HBO Films biographical drama; Joseph E. Morrow, co-founder and president of ABC, Inc., a school that provides applied behavioral techniques for children with special needs; Soma Mukhopadhyay, who developed the Rapid Prompting Method to teach her autistic son Tito, now a published author; and Portia Iverson and Jonathan Shestack, parents of an autistic child and founders of Cure Autism Now.
A MOTHER’S COURAGE: TALKING BACK TO AUTISM was directed by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson; executive producer, Kristin Olafsdottir; producer, Margret Dagmar Ericsdottir; narrated by Kate Winslet; director of photography, Jon Karl Helgason; editor, Thuridur Einarsdottir; music by Sigur Rós and Björk.