Neurotypical Director Adam Larsen, Producer and Autism Therapist Ron Larsen, and autistic film subject Wolf Dunaway took your questions live on Tuesday, July 30th from 2-3:30PM ET (11AM-12:30PM PT).
POV: Hello! Director Adam Larsen, Producer and Autism Therapist Ron Larsen, and autistic film subject Wolf Dunaway, are taking your questions today from 2-3:30PM ET (11AM-12:30PM PT) about the film and filmmaking process! Please send your questions and comments now and we’ll queue them up for the filmmakers and subject…
Wolf Dunaway: I am here now. I am Wolf Dunaway.
POV: Welcome, Wolf! We're very happy to have you.
POV: We look forward to starting the chat at 2PM ET (11AM ET). Viewers, please feel free to post your questions ahead of time.
Wolf Dunaway: Thank you. I am glad you invited me. I look forward to the questions.
POV: We're going to get started now. Welcome, Ron and Wolf. Thank you for joining us.
POV: Adam will be joining the chat after 2:15pm.
Wolf Dunaway: I am glad to be here.
Ron Larsen: Welcome, I am happy to take questions. Ron Larsen, co-producer
Wolf Dunaway: I am Wolf Dunaway. I too am happy to take questions.
POV: Ron, you have decades of experience working as an autistic therapist. What major aspects of your experience and research contributed to the production of the film?
Ron Larsen: Working with the autistic population (all ages) and their families was an enlightening experience for me....
Ron Larsen: I learned much about myself as well as a great appreciation for the perspectives that folks on the spectrum held....
Ron Larsen: I am talking about a range of ability and challenge across the autism spectrum.
Ron Larsen: Stories are a powerful medium and having a son who was in film seemed a good way to show some of what has been so compelling about this population. It was a collaborative effort from the beginning. and each step was predicated on the steps we had taken before.
Comment From Guest: I just watched the documentary. It was amazing. I have never seen something like this and it really is wonderful to see people discussing their experiences in their own words.
Comment From Glaisne: Thank you for making this film, Adam and Ron and thank you to Wolf for being an out-there positive example for those of us with HF Autism!
Comment From vonavar: Thank you all for making this film and a big thank you to Wolf for his positive example!
Wolf Dunaway: I enjoy helping others on the autism spectrum. I enjoy sharing my insight to empower those who care about us.
Ron Larsen: Thank you for these comments. We, as neurotypicals, wanted to be as least influential as possible and allow the autistic individuals to have their say.
POV: Wolf, thank you so much for sharing your powerful life story with us in the film.
POV: Wolf, how did you first meet Adam?
Wolf Dunaway: Paula told Adam about me. Adam contacted me via e-mail and asked if I would be interested in his movie project showcasing people on the spectrum. He let us speak in our own words no prompting or scripting at all. They were awesome.
Comment From Guest: Wolf, thank you so much for your testimony, it was eye opening.
Comment From Guest: Wolf I thought your experiences were so interesting. I am so glad that you had family and a doctor who really understood how to assist you growing up. I think even people who are neurotypical feel the need to not be "on" when they get home from work. So I really liked your explanation of what it was like to come home after work. I can only imagine.
Wolf Dunaway: Now I come home to a luxury condominium in Towson which is an even more exciting experience. My life has gotten much better since the film. I make a lot more money but there is much more stress along with it. I keep trying to do better in hopes I can inspire others with autism.
Ron Larsen: The documentary had over 80 hours of footage that needed to be edited. There was much that was very interesting and of value that just didn't fit into the doc as it developed Wolf had so much to offer and it was hard to leave any of it out.
Ron Larsen: I should add that others in and out of the doc had much that was so compelling but just could not be included.
POV: Wolf, what would you like neurotypical people to better understand about being autistic after watching this film?
Wolf Dunaway: The most important thing is that no film no single vehicle no matter how masterfully crafted will ever convey the entire autism experience. Neurotypical is awesome and groundbreaking because it took a serious sensitive and probing look at people on the spectrum as we experience the world. Neurotypical is a story told by autistics. Neurotypical is the intelligent beginning in what I hope is an ongoing dialogue between our two cultures.
Comment From Robin Birdfeather: Wolf, your candidness feels very familiar to me, as (now I know) for years I had been hiding how I really felt - so much - that I couldn't even access my feelings for myself. You are a shining example of another kind of 'coming out'.
Wolf Dunaway: My autism was always so profound that I could never hide it. When I tried to hide my autism what little understanding of how to survive in this strange neurotypical world flew apart at warp speed.
Comment From Glaisne: Hi, Wolf! Thanks so much for making this film. What advice can you give to an adult with HF Autism who is having a difficult/impossible time finding support as an adult?
Ron Larsen: Dialogue is so important and, some have said, that the next civil rights movement has to do with folks with challenges such as autism.
Comment From Guest: Ron I believe that. I also think the neurodiversity could include those with ADD and ADHD as so many kids and adults are dealing with those diagnoses.
Wolf Dunaway: Today there are more programs autistic adults can access than ever before BUT, programs for autistic adults are still painfully rare. I get support by helping my local colleges and universities as a guest speaker. There are no adult programs in my area either. I survive by helping others on the spectrum who lack my wisdom and experience living in neurotypical society.
Comment From Adam Barvenik: Ron, have you thought of profiling adults with an ASD who have had the extreme fortune of traveling outside of the US? I ask because I have noticed there are more programs that offer unique travel experiences specifically for adults with an ASD, and Autism is now a lot more global.
Wolf Dunaway: By helping future Pediatric Occupational Therapists and others in Universities and colleges I share my insight and gain insight into my own coping skills. it is impossible to help autism professionals without learning how to better cope in this neurotypical world yourself.
Ron Larsen: Wolf, are your still writing your book?
Wolf Dunaway: The one book has turned into a set of three volumes each tackling a different aspect of life on the spectrum. I found it difficult to write a book about my life with autism without including insights about neurotypicals. Took some doing but the three book format works much better.
Comment From Glaisne: Thanks, Wolf. Now we have a little more to work with by following your work.
Comment From Guest: Great. Your books sound very interesting. Any idea when they are coming out, or are you still in writing stages?
Wolf Dunaway: I have worked with professionals from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and NIH. I have been guest speaker in many schools, colleges and universities. I am doing all I can to share my llifetime of autism insights with the generations of medical and caring professionals. They are learning they are seeking out the wisdom of older people on the spectrum. More needs to be done. I am just one man one experience among millions.
Ron Larsen: In response to those traveling, we have not thought of that, however, it does sound intriguing and we'll make note of it. We are thinking about a documentary dealing with those on the more challenged end of the spectrum, focusing on their abilities, and also looking at employment opportunities. There is a huge untapped population that is ready and willing to work but needs some modifications in the work environment.
Wolf Dunaway: I want to release the books close to when I plan on retiring from government service. I want to devote all my time to my books once published.
Ron Larsen: That's wonderful, Wolf.
Adam Larsen: Hi all! Adam Larsen here and happy to take questions.
POV: Welcome, Adam, we're very glad to have you for this chat today!
Comment From Glaisne: Super job, Adam! I very much appreciated the sensitivity of your film.
Comment From Robin Birdfeather: Hi Adam, (from already sent email): Do you plan to follow any of these 3 with more documenting every few years?
Adam Larsen: Thanks Glaisne!
Wolf Dunaway: Hello Ron
Adam Larsen: Hi Robin. I would like to follow the folks featured in Neurotypical further.
Ron Larsen: Hey Wolf, I should have said Hi a long time ago but this old dog is learning a new trick with this way of conversing.
Adam Larsen: My father and I are planning on working on a documentary that focuses on work / vocation.
Comment From Guest: Adam I loved your film. Can't wait for more of your documentaries.
Adam Larsen: If the participants in the film are interested in continuing to be filmed, we would include them in this direction.
Wolf Dunaway: Hey Adam I live on the 20th floor of a luxury condo now. Life for me has changed a great deal. Still have an odd space just in a better neighborhood.
Adam Larsen: Hi Wolf!
Wolf Dunaway: Hi Adam.
Adam Larsen: Wolf, I'm so happy you're doing well!
Wolf Dunaway: I think people need to see autistic individuals working everyday so they realize it is not just a pipe dream. It took me 41 years before I got my first lasting job. I started in 2000 making just over $20,000 a year now I make over $100,000 a year. I was told growing up I was retarded and would never make good money. They were wrong. So many autistic people don't think they can make it in the work world. They are wrong. It took me 41 years of learning and trying but I did it.
Comment From Guest: Wolf, can you explain what you meant when you said that touching someone creates pain? As a neurotypical who wants to understand, do you feel physical pain when you touch another person, like touching something hot or sharp, or does it just make you feel uncomfortable?
Wolf Dunaway: No I am hyper sensitive. When touched it is as if I am feeling every sensory and cognitive experience possible compressed in an instant of time. The sheer amount of sensory information fighting to be processed is experienced as pain. It is the pain of feeling as if you are about to be crushed out of existence. I use mental disciplines to manage sensory exposure touch overloads that delicate balance and I shut down in response.
Comment From Guest: That is an inspiring story about never giving up Wolf! May you continue to reach all your goals and fulfill all your dreams.
Comment From Guest: I watched the film last night and really enjoyed it. Very interesting to hear Wolf's perspective.
Comment From Robin Birdfeather: Adam, Have you also considered interviewing Very Late Bloomers such as myself - diagnosed at 71, now 78 - who have a very long look back at demystifying my own life, and sometimes the lives of others?
Adam Larsen: Hi Robin. Absolutely. I would love to interview "late bloomers" as you say.
Wolf Dunaway: To the older newly diagnosed gentleman. I for one would love hearing your story. I thought things were bad when I grew up autistic. I bet your stories make mine look like a walk in the park.
Adam Larsen: I'm sure you have a world of experiences that could help many others.
Comment From ecm: I hope your next film re autism will be a 2 hour program& so you don't have to edit out so much. :)
Adam Larsen: Because autism is a spectrum, I believe that autistics who can advocate for themselves can be a huge resource for those that are more challenged.
Adam Larsen: Feel free to contact us if you'd like to share your story! www.neurotypical.com
Wolf Dunaway: In college the biggest hurdle was managing my interactions with others and attempting to understand what my neurotypical instructors really wanted when they gave instructions for assignments. Neurotypicals seldom say exactly what they mean. Neurotypicals have a common sense secret code book that we autistics are born without. Those like me can't access the neurotypical secret codes so we have to guess what is expected by using other methods of detection..
Comment From ecm: NOw, that's a great idea! & a TV series of how people with autism cope with the world.
Comment From Glaisne: Thanks for the address, Adam! I will also be following up.
Comment From Guest: Thank you Wolf for your explanation of how you experience touch, it does help me understand better.
Comment From Guest: Wolf were you always verbal?
Wolf Dunaway: Nope I was NOT always verbal LOL... There was a time when I was so non-verbal my grandparents had my ears tested hundreds of times. I did not respond to my name. I sat in the corner and rocked. I enjoyed the world I imagined far more than the neurotypical world where I was abused and teased left out of sports and social events called retarded. I only entered this world when it started hurting me. I entered the neurotypical world verbally to defend myself not because I wanted to be social.
Wolf Dunaway: I'd like to be the host of the show. I can make people laugh while learning about autism. People think folk with autism lack a sense of humor. Wrong autistic humor is often difficult to detect and we do not share our humor freely as neurotypicals do. We are more vigilant so access to our sense of humor must be earned in trust.
Adam Larsen: I totally agree, Wolf! You'd make a great host.
Comment From ecm: We are very lucky.. to hear from autistics who are verbal& to that they can help us neurotypicals understand and then try to help.
Comment From Glaisne: Wolf, perhaps you could call the show "The Starving Autists".
Comment From Hope: Thank you answering my question about verbal abilities ...that is helpful and hopeful HMB
Comment From Glaisne: Wolf, your story is all-too-familiar. I do hope the world will start listening. This film and the reaction to it is encouraging.
Comment From ecm: The talk show could include live conversations& as well as film shorts on the many subjects that would be enlightening.
Ron Larsen: I think your story about the story "jungle book" says so much about your experience
Adam Larsen: It looks like we're going to have to make this TV show!
Comment From Glaisne: Tv show... Adam. Yes, please!
Adam Larsen: I agree. Wolf, your connection to Jungle Book is incredibly powerful to me.
Wolf Dunaway: Adam and Ron are to be commended. I cannot say enough about the good they did in the name of helping people on the spectrum. Ron and Adam did not force the stories out of us. Ron and Adam let the stories flow from us. They did not "direct us" They just collected our experiences sharing with you those most compelling tidbits.
Adam Larsen: Thanks, Wolf. We couldn't have made it without you.
Comment From Guest: My tv idea has always been : if you expose our community if all lights then then world would be more accepting. Also show those who help our kids and family. Each season is a new subject or subjects ...non-verbal , IEP struggles, social, everything it's endless ...wolf would be amazing host
Comment From J L Hedrick: I am very appreciative for your involvement with this program, Wolf. Your description of a "chemical straightjacket" provided me a level of insight that I consider invaluable.
Ron Larsen: Thanks Wolf. You and the others both in the doc and who aren't in it made it easy for us.
Wolf Dunaway: Well I have been the victim of a few chemical straight jackets hence I could speak with authority on the subject.
POV: Adam, what were the biggest challenges making Neurotypical?
Comment From Hope: Chemical straightjacket term was buzzing like crazy in our community last night. People were amazed by description of your experience
Adam Larsen: Wow... Well, the film took 4 years to make.
Adam Larsen: Much longer than expected.
Wolf Dunaway: I think the host should be a constant who presents the autism experience in an upbeat and positive way. That way the show can tackle both upbeat and distressing subject matter with a host who can relate to both while always returning to the message of hope I would like to be the defining element of the show.
Adam Larsen: And we didn't really have a budget.
Comment From Glaisne: Wow, four years! Thank you for not giving up on us, Adam!
Ron Larsen: adam, you're not mentioning the nearly 80 hours of editing that you had to do.
Adam Larsen: My parents were the producers, and I directed, shot, edited...
Adam Larsen: These at first felt like limitations but I realized that our non-existent crew was actually helping us to make the film.
Comment From Glaisne: So nice to hear about a family working together :)
POV: Ron, what was your specific role as a producer? What did you contribute?
Adam Larsen: We were able to take into consideration any sensory challenges each participant might have had - really creating an ideal environment for them to tell their stories.
Wolf Dunaway: The thing I found most impressive about Adam and Ron was despite the fact they had no budget, they descended on my little Pikesville house like a well-oiled machine. They were fast courteous very professional. they put me at ease as they set up lights and camera. Just because they had no budget it did not mean they were not on their game. The film looks great because of professional effort on a shoestring budget.
Comment From ecm: Yes, I would think a huge crew would have made it harder to get people to relax enough to share their experiences. And& to trust enough to share their experiences.
Ron Larsen: some of the interviews were in hotel rooms. Adam was brilliant with location and lighting. Questions were sent ahead of time and neither of us are alpha males so I think that all helped folks to be relaxed and themselves.
Adam Larsen: Exactly. It was most important to me that everyone was comfortable so their stories could shine.
Comment From J L Hedrick: Adam, can you speak on what brought you to consider this subject?
Adam Larsen: Sure. My father worked with the NC TEACCH program when I was young.
Wolf Dunaway: I huge crew would have shut me down. Tons of neurotypicals in my house making all your weird neurotypical demands. Neurotypicals if you get enough of them together eventually start criticizing their surroundings and I would have gotten defensive and asked everyone to leave. I do not open up around lots of neurotypicals its dangerous for me.
Adam Larsen: We would host social group gatherings at our house for adults on the spectrum.
Adam Larsen: So from an early age, I found autism incredibly interesting.
Adam Larsen: I felt a huge "gap" between what the media presented and the people that I knew.
Comment From guest: For Adam, Ron and Wolf, have any of you received surprising feedback on the film? Either supportive or challenging?
Adam Larsen: Yes, definitely.
Wolf Dunaway: The media has autism all wrong in my opinion Neurotypical tries to set the balance right.
Adam Larsen: I think a few people have diagnosed themselves after watching the film.
Wolf Dunaway: People seem to like what I had to say and I am shocked. I really enjoy the trailer it caught my essence perfectly because I am NOT uncomfortable being autistic. I love it!
Adam Larsen: Also some people wish the focus were on the more challenged end of the spectrum.
POV: To all panelists, what do you see as the consequences of the ways that mainstream media portrays or ignores people with autism? How would you like Neurotypical to contribute to this national dialogue?
Wolf Dunaway: No actually social gatherings with people on the spectrum can be very nice because we tend to be extra sensitive to each other’s unique needs. Among certain high functioning groups of autistic people there are unwritten rules, cues and body language that lets us know how to approach each other socially or when not to. High functioning autistics can be very blunt we tend to say the things to each other that neurotypicals would consider too bokl or forward.
Ron Larsen: The harshest criticism has come from families with children who are on the challenged end of the spectrum. I understand their pain as i have tried to help their situations. We made the decision to focus on the milder end. We do however, have in mind, to focus on the other end of the spectrum, specifically focusing on what folks can do who may not have verbal ability, may have obsessions and many sensory issues.
Comment From Glaisne: Thanks for the social gathering explanation, Wolf. I hope to experience that, one day.
Wolf Dunaway: People are beginning to see autism as the disease of psychopaths given a few high profile situations where autism was suspected. Autism is just like any other condition. If a person has cerebral palsy they can still be a psychopath. Their cerebral palsy does not make people sociopaths being mentally sick makes you a sociopath. Likewise being autistic does not make you a sociopath but autism can co-exist with a dangerously sick mind.
Ron Larsen: As I see it, the dialogue needs to have autistic folks. Too many decisions and boards dealing with autism do not have autistics included in the decision making process. I would hope neurotypical helps in some small way to change this.
Adam Larsen: Hi all. Sorry, but I have to go. Thanks for your really wonderful comments and questions!
Adam Larsen: Bye!
Wolf Dunaway: By Adam. Thank you again sir.
Comment From Robin Birdfeather: Your excellent work has paved the way for HF Auties who are verbal and happy with ourselves to make more room and create better understanding for those on the rest of the spectrum.
Wolf Dunaway: my email is email@example.com contact me there. I am happy to talk to anyone.
Comment From Guest: thank you for answering questions Adam and everyone, it has been very enlightening. I look forward to your future collaborations.
POV: Thank you for sharing your contact information, Wolf.
Comment From Glaisne: Thank you for the address Wolf. You can count on making many new friend, I am sure.
Wolf Dunaway: Not a problem I give speeches and teach at colleges and all for free. I just like helping wherever I can.
Comment From Robin Birdfeather: Wolf, you are most generous with your opened up inner life and with your time and efforts to expand us all. The more diversity the better. Muchas Gracias.
Ron Larsen: Thanks Robin for your comments. One of our questions had to do with "do you feel a connection with those on the more challenged end of the spectrum?" Many said that there were times when one could not distinguish themselves form that end.
Wolf Dunaway: I enjoy good people and you all are great. I thank you for allowing me to share this time with you.
Wolf Dunaway: In early life my autism was so profound doctors told my parents to put me in a mental institution lucky for me they did not listen or comply.
Comment From Glaisne: Yes, Wolf... Thank you and all for doing this!
Comment From Robin Birdfeather: The spectrum often seems more like a circle, with the two ends meeting on some other plane of understanding.
Wolf Dunaway: Pretending to be normal takes so much concentration and mental discipline it wears me down to nothing. I need to be alone just to recharge.
Comment From Glaisne: I can relate to your early misdiagnosis, Wolf. I was initially told I was "emotionally disturbed".
Comment From ecm: I think.. from this social gathering explanation, that it would be very important for Wolf, or another autistic, to host a TV program.
Comment From ecm: Thank you all for giving us this experience. I hope many people come to watch the film.
Comment From Glaisne: Recharge...Yes.
Ron Larsen: Neurotypical has been a very gratifying experience for us. Never dreamt it would have the effect that it has had. We are grateful to all who participated, well know that for some it was revealing very vulnerable sides to themselves. Neurotypical did show us that for many, being listened to and respected has, in some cases, life changing results. Let’s keep the dialogue happening and great thanks to POV which is such an excellent organization and does such incredible work.
POV: We are going to wrap up our chat now. Wolf and Ron, thank you so much for your time and insightful answers today!
Wolf Dunaway: Schools, and others kept trying to lock me away in my teens. They labeled me a psychopath but my grandparents never let it happen.
POV: We wish we could continue this great chat.
POV: Is there anything else either of you would like to tell our viewers?
Wolf Dunaway: Ok thank you all. Thanks POV you are AWESOME!
POV: Thanks, Wolf, and we think the same of you.
POV: Thanks to everyone who wrote in! Great questions today.
Ron Larsen: Thanks to all the participants and to you, Wolf, who has such a gift for conveying your life's experience. Appreciated by all. I wish the other participants were here so that they could share in how this has affected others both on and off the spectrum.
POV: Continue the conversation about Neurotypical during online screening events with friends and other viewers: http://www.pbs.org/pov/neurotypical/online-screening-schedule.php
POV: We're excited that Neurotypical will be available for full streaming online starting today until August 28, 2013 on the POV website. http://www.pbs.org/pov/neurotypical/full.php
POV: Visit the Neurotypical companion site to learn more about the film! http://www.pbs.org/pov/neurotypical/
Comment From Hope: Thank you for hosting and giving us at least me a parent with a child with autism a chance to ask questions
Comment From Glaisne: ThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyou, All!