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The United States of Autism: The Blog

Director Richard Everts on Autism Radio Show

photo credit: Karen Dawson

Director Richard Everts was on the Next Frontier Radio Show last Thursday, and it was an exciting 30 minutes of conversation about the film and what’s really happening with autism. It’s quite remarkable how Anne Barbano, the host of the show, was able to get to the meat of the matter in so many cases. Topics we covered included God, autism, the ND Movement, Biomedical Therapies, Evidence Based Treatment, and more! Be sure to check out the interview and one of the best reads on what is happening in autism today.

Check out the transcript of the interview.

Stunning Singer Takes Over Music Video Shoot for Autism Film
February 27, 2012

Stunning Singer Takes Over Music Video Shoot for Autism Film

Putting together a music video for a documentary film may seem like it springs from a moment of temporary insanity, but the insanity in this case would have been to deny the world an incredible voice.

When Executive Producer and Director Richard Everts first began pulling together the separate elements of the United States of Autism movie, one of his main concerns was with the music we would use to showcase the kind of momentous trip an 11,000 mile journey can be. Raysa Michelle had done some work with Sugey Cruz-Everts, the other executive producer for the film, before, and had her voice was astonishing. The even more unique thing about her was that she also is fluent in Spanish, which was the icing on the cake for a film recorded in five languages. After a brief conversation, she joined the team.

The two songs she sings in the film are at key emotional moments, including a trip to Washington DC and the ending of the film. Some of those who have screened the film says these are their favorite parts. So, we decided to put together one of her songs into a short music video which we can share with the world. We shot today at Atrium Audio in Lancaster, PA, a top notch recording studio right downtown. After a few short hours, we were able to get all the shots we needed. The next step is a fast turnaround on post-production.

So, as a special treat to all our fans, we will release the music video next Monday as a kick-off to our Kickstarter campaign! We will be raising money to begin distribution of the film, and you can be sure to hear a lot about what’s coming next. We wish we could tell you about all the amazing things happening behind the scenes, but we’ll have to wait for another time.

Let the countdown begin to our special music video release on Monday, March 5th!

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Autism Movie Family Seeks to Help Military Families Pass Autism Legislation

We have today the privilege of sharing with you some thoughts directly from one of the families in the US of Autism movie about healthcare for the military and specifically about a new bill they hope to see passed through Congress soon so that families can get much needed access to coverage.  Enjoy and best of luck to the Huhtanen family and thousands of families out there just like them looking to make this a better world for our loved ones on the autism spectrum! God Bless!

Time for Change: Battles on the Homefront

Shelly L Huhtanen

 There has been a misconception that Tricare, the healthcare provider that provides medical entitlements to the military, covers all or at least the majority of the services for our military children. In fact, what little services that are covered are not even in the Tricare plan. Our families have to go through the ECHO program which is the extended healthcare option. From this program, our children receive a small percentage of care that does not come close to what the American Academy of Pediatrics deems as medically necessary for our children with autism to improve.

Many people may say that we should be grateful for what little services we may receive.  Many of our families who have paid the ultimate price by losing family members overseas or who have had to say goodbye to our spouses not knowing when or if we will see them again, feel that it is not an unreasonable request for our healthcare provider to give our families the resources to care for our children. It is frustrating for military families to learn that civilian insurance companies are providing more medical services for children on the spectrum through current improvements in legislation than what is provided to our military families.

One issue that is not known is the loss of services once our soldiers retire or who are forced into medical retirement due to injuries sustained from the two wars our men and women in uniform have been fighting. Once you are no longer considered active duty, you are dropped from the ECHO program. This, in turn, means their children on the spectrum no longer are able to receive insurance coverage towards ABA services.

I know of soldiers who have served 26 years in the military or who have been severely wounded from combat to only come home and find that their children with autism are no longer covered for ABA services. The first question that comes to my mind is, “What message does this send to our military families who have fought the battles for our children on the home front while our spouses have fought the battles overseas?”

My hope is that this will soon change. HR 2288 is a bill that has already gained momentum through our legislature with several co-sponsors in support of this must needed change. This bill will force Tricare to cover all necessary ABA services for our military children with autism. It will no longer be in the ECHO program meaning soldiers who have retired will still receive services to enable them to care for their children. I ask that you contact your congressmen and urge them to support this bill. It is long overdue and will support military families in their fight for their children with autism.

An organization that my husband and I fully support is ACT Today for military families. Since the hardships with military families can be indescribable, this organization dedicates itself to raising money for our families. Due to the lack of support of Tricare, ACT Today for military families, provides grants to families so they can care for their children on the spectrum.

On April 7, Mark and I will be running for Team Broden to raise money for ACT Today for  military families in San Diego. I encourage you to support this wonderful organization. If you would like to support Team Broden, please click on this link.

http://acttodayformilitaryfamilies.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=996112&lis=1&kntae996112=CC4CCA60ED7F475F9490BC120C1F0223&team=4858810  Whatever you can provide to these children is greatly appreciated.

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Autism Movie Plays a Part in 2012 US Presidential Election

United States of Autism LogoThose of you who have been following us for a little while know that our film features a family out of Iowa who are incredibly active in the 2012 US Presidential Elections speaking about autism every time the season comes around. What you may not know is that thanks to them, the only person still currently running for president this year that has not received a t-shirt and heard about our film is President Obama himself!

Thanks to Lin, Mark, and Sam Wessels, nearly all of the 2012 GOP Presidential election candidates heard about the film, including: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, and Tim Pawlenty. Heck, even Mike Huckabee got his picture taken with Sam. Not only that, but videos of Sam Wessels speaking with election candidates about autism and our film this cycle generated over 370,000 hits on YouTube so far. That’s a lot of people hearing about one boy and autism, and good for the autism movement no matter what people say out there.

One of the things that makes the United States of Autism the feature documentary for autism and the 2012 election year and beyond is the strength of our people. Here, the Wessels family are not afraid to state what their views are on the movement and what they believe is necessary to move everyone forward. There are many out there who do not agree with them and we take no stance either way on the content of the message. However, we here for the movie believe that it is far more dangerous to stifle opinions, even if one vehemently disagrees. Long term, some sort of common ground must be built for all of the individuals, whether they be children or adults on the autism spectrum. It doesn’t matter if you’re a parent of a severe child that can not speak and possibly never will, to a fully functioning adult that is either excelling or searching for acceptance and growth in society, to anyone in between, all of these groups have to work together if this thing called “autism” is going to become a movement for those seeking a better life. Ultimately, this is what our film is about, the real America: “E pluribus unum”, which means “out of many, one”.

Thank you to Lin, Mark, and Sam for standing tall for what you believe and making sure the world hears you, especially in shaking hands with nearly every potential leader of the free world for the next 4 years to do so. We at the United States of Autism are proud to have you as one of our featured families, and look forward to sharing your heart with the world.

Now if only someone could help us get the message to President Obama…

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Mitt Romney talking Autism with Sam: (4k views and counting)

Newt Gingrich talking Autism with Sam: (5k views and counting)

Rick Santorum talking Autism with Sam: (6k views and counting)

Ron Paul talking autism with Sam: (62k views and counting)

Michelle Bachman talking autism with Sam: (294k views and counting)

Tim Pawlenty talking autism with Sam: (70 views and counting)

Herman Cain talking autism with Sam: (80 views and counting)

Hollywood Talent Brings Creative Vision to Autism Movie

Rene S. Duran is a documentary filmmaker who works in television post production in Los Angeles. He was co-producer, cinematographer and writer on STREET DOGS OF SOUTH CENTRAL, a documentary picked up for distribution by Lionsgate and scheduled to air on Animal Planet and the Oprah Winfrey network in 2012. Rene has also worked on television shows such as NANNY 911, HELL’S KITCHEN, THE BACHELOR, BIG IDEAS FOR A SMALL PLANET, and most recently with Jennifer Lopez and Marc Antony on Q’VIVA: the chosen. Rene majored in The Studies of Images & Narratives, a special studies major that he designed himself with his advisor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster Pennsylvania.

We wanted you to get a chance to hear more from this talented visionary who shared this film experience as part of the crew as the Director of Photography for The United States of Autism Movie.

Question: Why did you become involved in the US of Autism film project?

Rene:  I became involved with the US of Autism because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to capture the stories of families across America who experience autism on a daily basis & share their courage with the rest of the nation.
Having been friends with Rich & Sugey since the college days I was honored when they asked me to join the US of Autism team. I believe in them and was delighted to contribute in the making of the documentary film.

Question: What was the biggest thing you took away from being involved in the project?

Rene: The biggest thing I came away with from working on this project was being able to see the resilience and strength of the families who live with autism. I was inspired by them. They stand as a testament to what is good in humanity. It was such a wonderful experience to be invited into their homes & share their lives with us.

Question: Did you have any knowledge of autism and related conditions before becoming involved?

Rene: My first hand knowledge of autism came from being friends with Rich & Sugey & knowing their autistic son Tommy. My knowledge of autism came from watching Tommy grow up and knowing his story.

Question: What was a “typical” day like on the road with the crew?

Rene: While filming the US of Autism there were typically two types of days that the crew experienced. The first type was shooting days. On these days the crew would rise early in the morning, get ready, and drive to the location. I always looked forward to spending the day with the families.

The second type of day the crew experienced were driving days. We saw many beautiful and breathtaking sunsets as we drove west from Pennsylvania. At every state border the crew would stop and film themselves dancing in front of the state sign. It didn’t matter the time of day or night. The crew was determined to dance across America.

Question: What projects are you working on currently?

Rene: I am currently working as an editor the show Q’VIVA the chosen & am in preproduction on the first of three short films. I will be making fairy tales. The first is set in South Central Los Angels, the second is a love story in the desert, and the third will be shot in Mexico & explore indigenous folklore.

It was a privilege to work with Rene on this project.  He played an enormous role in cementing the vision for this project–arduously working alongside Director/Producer Rich Everts.  We are excited to share their vision with all of you soon!

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