Most helpful critical review
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
starts out a nice documentary; ends as a promotional film for RPM
on May 3, 2013
I was shocked at all the positive reviews of this film, and then read one negative review only to find that that reviewer was mercilessly attacked by a number of people. I realize my review will probably invite such attacks as well, but I am compelled to say this: this is a weird film. It starts out like a documentary and ends like a promotion. Go ahead and get angry at me if you must, but please try to be objective and realize I am not belittling individuals with autism or their parents when I say something negative about this film. I'm a mother of two children on the autism spectrum and I'm also a researcher trying to figure out what interventions work, in what ways, and for what subgroups of children with autism. I know there's not one intervention that works for every individual with autism and parents must try out many different things before deciding on the best course of treatment for their particular child. So, with all that in mind, here's my review of this film: I enjoyed the first half of this documentary very much. The interviews with experts and the families affected by autism were informative, interesting, and touching. And then, they started showing Soma Mukhopadhyay and her controversial Rapid Prompting Method (RPM). The film devotes WAY TOO MUCH TIME to this method; and there's no attempt to be skeptical or unbiased in their portrayal of the method. As far as I know, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that RPM does anything (I'm not saying it did not work for your particular child; I'm just saying it has not proven to be effective in the world of science). I understand proving a method's effectiveness takes much time, but it's been years since researchers have started looking into PRM and there's still nothing. I am guessing that it probably works for a very few individuals, especially those who are non-verbal who tried other methods without much success. However, I don't think this should be a method of choice for most individuals with autism. Note that none of the experts interviewed in this documentary recommended RPM. In fact, Temple Grandin always says she received an intensive ABA-type of intervention from her nanny and mother growing up, Gerry Dawson and Sally Rogers are researchers who designed Early Start Denver Model (which is ABA-based); I'm certain these experts interviewed in this film would never recommend RPM over other evidence-based methods. I thought Soma Mukhopadhyay was very patient and the parents were admirable in their love and willingness to go to great lengths to see their child get what he needs to make progress. However, it was so disturbing and painful for me to watch because what I saw was false hope; I'm sure Keli's parents would give anything to tease out the cognitively/socially/linguistically intact child mysteriously locked away inside Keli's autistic mind. As a parent of children with autism myself, I know what that feels like. That's why this film made me angry. Parents of children with autism are bombarded by hundreds of ineffective and costly treatments all the time. If Soma Mukhopadhyay is really doing this in order to help families, she should first find out if and how what she is doing is effective before charging families money and taking the children away from evidence-based treatments that could actually do something for them. Until then, I advise parents to stick to options with some scientific evidence of effectiveness even if progress is not as dramatic as you would like (e.g., Applied Behavior Analysis, Pivotal Response Treatment, Early Start Denver Model, TEACCH, Floortime, Hanen's More than Words). I have absolutely no intention of criticizing other parents who use RPM, who I'm sure have to deal with all kinds of misconceptions and hurtful remarks from ignorant people all the time. If you've watched this film and read this review, I have no doubt you are a person who cares very much about your child's future and knows him/her more than anyone. If RPM works for your child and/or Soma Mukhopadhyay is your friend, I'm happy for you. All I'm saying is that this film is flawed in its single-minded promotion of RPM and not representing other more evidence-based methods. I understand this documentary is about Keli and his family and they had reasons for picking RPM after their long and careful exploration in the U.S. But then they should've just stuck to Keli's story the whole time instead of interviewing all kinds of experts and other families, which gives the impression that this film is about autism in general. Keli has a very severe form of autism complicated by seizures and sensory issues. He is nonverbal, had limited access to interventions due to living in Iceland, and perhaps his parents thought he was too old to benefit very much from early intervention methods at this point. Perhaps in his case, RPM is the only option left to try. I don't know and the film makers certainly did not explain why they chose RPM. Children with ASD display a huge range of abilities and disabilities and there are a lot of different interventions out there. That's why it's great that this film starts out examining many different cases of autism, possible etiologies, what families go through, and what kids with autism are capable of accomplishing. But the other half of the film just settles on RPM with not much explanation as to why Keli's mother chose that instead of exploring other more mainstream interventions. I am very disappointed because I think this film had potential to make a big difference in the world of autism but did something very weird at the end to ruin it. It has the potential to mislead other parents who are searching for best treatment options for their children.