Shining a light: Autism documentary includes story of Cape native Taylor Crowe

Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Taylor Crowe of Cape Girardeau is a 27-year-old with autism and is featured in a Icelandic documentary about autism. He will be going to Iceland for the premiere of the documentary with his father, David, and stepbrother, Adam.

In the clouded and confusing world of autism, one Icelandic documentary seeks to be a ray of light on the autism spectrum disorders, and Taylor Crowe plays a part in the effort.

"The Sunshine Boy" covers the autism spectrum disorders through the eyes of those affected by them. The film's producer, Margret Dagmar, started the project after being told many times there was nothing doctors could do for her autistic son Keli, now 9.

The film, being released by Frontier Filmworks on Friday in Iceland, shows people of different ages and affected by different disorders across the autism spectrum. Interviews with Taylor Crowe are featured toward the end of the film, according to Alana Odegard, a production assistant on "The Sunshine Boy." She said the latter part of the film addresses regression in autism spectrum disorders.

Taylor, his father Dr. David Crowe and stepbrother Adam Baron, flew to Iceland on Monday for the film's premiere. They will sit on panels and talk to the press about the film and about autism.

Crowe, now 27, was diagnosed with autism as a toddler after he lost his speech abilities and became reclusive. Through organized social interaction, practice and determination, Taylor is now a college graduate about to publish a children's book on autism. He also gives speeches on autism.

ELIZABETH DODD ~ edodd@semissourian.com
David Crowe of Cape Girardeau, left, shows his autistic son, Taylor, 27, and his stepson Adam Baron, 23, places on the map they will be visiting while in Iceland for the premiere of an Icelandic documentary about autism. The film features Taylor as an example of high-functioning autism.

"Everyone was built differently," Crowe said before his trip. "When the movie comes out, it's going to make people understand autism."

A film crew came to California in May 2007 and filmed Crowe while he attended the California Institute of the Arts. They followed him around campus and asked questions about his life and how autism has affected his life.

"It's made it hard for me in many ways," he said. "It makes it hard to interact with people."

Poor social interaction, deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication, poor eye contact and repetitive behaviors can place a person on the autism spectrum.

Crowe is an autistic savant with a few short cartoons and several presentations on autism and others on animation dotting his resume. He is now active in forming and maintaining relationships, something he attributes to his parents not giving up on him.

"A lot of parents, before children are born, don't know how to handle it. This might teach them," he said. "Parents underestimate the children's abilities."

Crews filmed more than 450 hours of interviews with doctors, researchers, scientists and families affected by autism, Odegard said in an e-mail interview. The film's director, Academy Award-nominee Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, started his film career with documentaries, but never any dealing with autism.

Odegard said they wanted the film to spread "the message of hope."

"Since information and education are important keys which are needed to help unlock the mysteries of autism and enrich the lives of those who are touched by the disorder, we hope that this film will help spread information to as many people as possible," she said.

Even the name suggests warm feelings.

Odegard claims that the Icelandic pronunciation of the film's name "Solskindrengurinn" sounds beautiful. Frontier Filmworks has no specific release dates for "The Sunshine Boy" in America. View the trailer and read more about the film at www.thesunshineboythemovie.com.

charris@semissourian.com

388-3641

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