Vectors Of Autism: Laura Nagle

Vectors of Autism: Laura Nagle   For those of you who have not yet viewed this powerful documentary, you must.  I cannot urge you enough.  Just do it.  Watch it.  Keep a box of tissue nearby, because if you’re like me, you’ll need it.  I wept throughout the entire film, from joy, from sadness, from relief that such a film has finally been made, from pain that we have so far to go in educating ourselves, the public, the media about autism and what it means to be autistic.  At one point Laura laughs and says, “I figure I was built out of reworked parts.”  It is a poignant example of both her sense of humor, but also how society’s view of her has weighed heavily.

Anything I say about this documentary is inadequate.  So I’m going to give you a couple of fun facts while you click on that link above and purchase the DVD.  I know, it’s $35.00 but think of it as an investment in your child’s future and to the future of this film.  The more people who buy it, the more likely it will make it to film festivals, and to the larger public where this message needs to be seen more than ever.

Laura Nagle wrote the lyrics to the theme song and plays the harmonica on it, she’s also an architect, an artist and Autistic.  It’s hauntingly beautiful, which is kind of perfect because so is she and so is the documentary about her.  The couple in the documentary with two little girls on the spectrum, Jennifer Turrell and Stewart Anderson wrote the music.

*Addendum – I was so tired when I wrote this post late last night, I just didn’t have the energy to write more.  But I need to add, this documentary is everything I and others like me have been saying.  It is imperative Autistics speak out about their experiences and it is vital that we, in the neuromajority, listen.  For those of you who are still uncertain as to why I say this, it is because I know I am not the only parent of an autistic child who went through a hellish period (far too many years) in which I struggled with my daughter’s diagnosis and what that meant to her and to us as her family.  I tried my best to understand, I did what I could with the knowledge I had available to me, but even so, I fell short.  I cannot help but wonder, had I heard Laura Nagle and others speak of their experience, would I have done things differently?  Would my stress and fears have been abated even if only by a little?  Would I have sought the opinions of all those specialists with such tenacity and fervor?  Would I have been able to set aside some of my fears in favor of a more rational and calmer mindset?  And most importantly, would any of this have effected Emma?  I think it would have.  I hope others can learn from some of my mistakes.  I hope that by writing about my journey, others who are closer to the beginning of theirs can avoid some of the traps I so easily and readily fell into.

What I know now is that having operated with a stress level hovering in the red for so many years, I am relieved to see this documentary.  I am grateful to have friends who are autistic and whose lives, opinions and experiences help pave the way for my daughter.  The question is – how do we go about making these kinds of connections available to other families?  Families who do not have blogs, who do not know where to go to find Autistic adults who are interested in speaking to them and sharing their experiences with them.

One of the reasons 12-step programs work as well as they do, is because they provide a model for living through mentorship.  The role of the addict who has cobbled together some time as a sober and abstinent being, who then goes on to offer support to other addicts with less experience and who may be still struggling with their addictions is a powerful model for any community.  A huge component of 12-step programs is the idea of being of service.  Without being of service to a fellow addict we will almost certainly lose our way.  But this idea, this model can be translated to include any community.   Within the autism community, for those self-appointed Autistics who have a desire to extend their hand to families with autistic children, it is a vital lifeline, one that everyone involved can profit from.

If you’re still undecided here’s a preview video:

After you have watched it, I want to hear your thoughts.  What did you think?  What did you learn?  What surprised you?  What made you cry?  What made you laugh?  Laura is very funny, so that one is probably easy!  Laura has not just started a conversation, she is extending her hand.  It is up to us to grab it.

13 responses to “Vectors Of Autism: Laura Nagle

  1. Watched the trailers and ordered the DVD!

    • Jane I really want to hear what you think! Promise me you’ll tell me, okay? I want to know if there was anything that caught you off guard, anything in particular you didn’t know, but learned… etc.

      • I promise!

        Have you ever read Nazeer’s Send in the Idiots? I heard about it on To the best of our knowledge (podcast) and read it and loved it. I loved that insider’s perspective from an autistic adult who went to look for the children he grew up with, and also the portraits of the parents of these children. It contained the best explanation for me on why “casual conversations” are difficult for autistics.

        I also liked the little I saw from Timothy Archibald’s Echolilia but the price was very steep and I did not buy that photoessay book.

        • Yes, I read Send in the Idiots. I liked it too. It was really interesting. Though I have to say, I prefer the blogs I’ve found written by Autistics as they are so much more immediate and interactive!

  2. Ariane…

    I believe this is the kind of work that is going to support the development of greater understanding for those who process differently. I have really worked to support this project because I believe it is by supporting autistic adults that we will create the kind of world we want for our children. I want my son H and Emma to have an easier path than Laura – and she wants the same thing.

    Laura not only shares and explains her experiences in a way that the neuromajority can understand – but the film is also accessible and speaks to those on the autism spectrum. ‘Vectors of Autism’ is a powerful vehicle to increase understanding, but it also gives the gift of an amazing role model to a child like my son H, and supports his understanding of his own experience.

    My 13-year-old boy says, “It’s a good film! Everybody should see it!”

    The film is absolutely spectacular. Laura is such a good ambassador for neurodiversity, the effects are top-notch, the music is beautiful, and the message is eloquent, and realistically powerful.

    I suspect your heart will not be the only one to be won over by this fabulous and much-needed documentary.

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post!


  3. John Schaffer

    As director of Vectors of Autism, I want to thank you for your kind words and support of the movie. As obvious in the movie, Laura is a star: in the way she shares her experiences, her sense of humor, and her honesty to let her warts show, so others might not have the same challenges. Laura’s participation in this project was always predicated on the idea that we make a movie about autism and not Laura Nagle, but how could we ignore Laura Nagle?
    Seeing and hearing the reactions from people who have seen the movie has been a wonderful experience. I knew people would laugh (how can you not?) but I have been surprised by how many people have cried. We purposefully didn’t want to make a pity-the-autistic movie, but I guess the emotional impact of Laura’s life is hard to ignore. It has been interesting to see the variety of opinions on viewer’s favorite parts. My four year old’s favorite line is “Does anyone else like the smell of tires?” (he actually cried when I removed the line from a preview for technical reasons). I, too, have some favorite bits but I’ll share those at another time.
    We believe the movie has a strong and positive message and we are glad that people are hearing it. Thank you for sharing it.
    John Schaffer

    • John! So pleased you commented. You most certainly did NOT make a “pity-the-autistic” movie. Laura is paving the way for my own daughter and for all like her. My tears are as much from gratitude and for the beauty in what she and all of you are doing and have done by making this documentary as they are tears of joy and yes, sadness too. Not because Laura is in any way sad, but because of the way society views and treats those who are different. The threat of being institutionalized, the abuse as a child, Laura’s brilliance or as she stated when she spoke of how quickly she can read, “I’m good at that. I’m not good at life.”
      I would love to know what your favorite parts are.
      Wishing you wild success and I’ll keep doing all I can to get the word out!

  4. John Schaffer

    I have been intimately involved in this project for over a year and taking on so many different roles has meant that I have had to view the movie through a critical lens: technically, artistically and contently (I mean that as content and not as happily, but it’s late….). It is with the response from viewers that I am able to see that that the big picture, Laura’s message of acceptance and appreciation, the support and goodness of the people around her, and the possibilities for the future, is being heard.
    My favorite scenes have some to do with what Laura says, some to do with the cinematography, some to do with my own involvement either as director, editor or cameraman, and mostly the marvelous convergence of art, craftsmanship and message. I will say I thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon with David the astronomer, and also the shoot at the table outside the coffeehouse, where Laura’s voice came from a wonderfully thoughtful, humorous, and insightful place and I was in focus to film it! The line “I’m not good a life” was one of those brilliant moments where it all just happened, Laura’s sentiments and Matt’s camera perfectly in synch.
    The music, especially Jen Turrell’s voice and words, (and also Stewart’s and Doug’s contributions) took this movie to another level and we are thankful for their generosity and musical gifts. Although this is primarily Laura’s story, the movie was a collaboration of lots of people (can’t forget Susan and Jocelyn) all committed to the same goal of improving the quality of life for people with autism.

  5. I am at a loss of words, I can’t wait to see it.

    I do have a big smile though. 😀

    My heart feels blossomy – that is the best way I can articulate what I was thinking and feeling when watching the trailer. Blossomy.

  6. Pingback: Vectors Of Autism: Laura Nagle | ABA & Children's Advocate |

  7. Pingback: Laura Nagle – Paving the Way | Emma's Hope Book

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