When JR Cairns was two years old, doctors diagnosed him as autistic and mentally retarded, and predicted that he would be institutionalized by age 17. But the Cairns family refused to accept this grim life sentence. And against the odds, they won. Now, for the first time ever, JR's family and therapists unite to celebrate his recovery and share their story of hope. Featured by XIVETV.
There are pros and cons to this movie. I am a firm believer in therapy. I am elated that therapy worked for this family's son. But this movie vaguely touches on the wide ranges of children on the spectrum. It seems to imply that if your child is not severe what this Mom did should give you similar results. I say this because there is so much praise on the therapist and friends part towards this Moms hard line of parenting. One friend even going so far as to say it's necessary for a parent to be like this Mom to get those results and another Mom crying saying "if only I could have done as much maybe my son would have done better." What a horrible message to send out to other Moms. I am a Mom with two boys on the spectrum. Both have had extensive therapy and I love them and have given them both everything possible to help them with vastly different outcomes. My oldest is moderate to severe is 8 years old and attends a special school. He still needs a lot of prompting and help to get through his day. He is still learning preschool level skills and guess what? My youngest just started kindergarten with no IEP. So here is the message I want to send other Moms. Do everything you can but don't beat yourself up when your results are different. Your child will either respond to therapy quickly, slowly and for some not at all. The outcome hinges all on how well your child responds to therapy. The only thing that reflects on you as a parent is if your doing the best YOU can. Not the best in comparison to what this women or any other Mom does/or did for their child. Telling your kid not to do something because they look weird or kicking cars because they line them up didn't make this young man recover. It was therapy just like my youngest. Her son was one of the lucky ones that responded well to therapy and that's it. That's the only message you should take away from this movie.
This is a difficult review to write. One the one hand, this mom's love and dedication to her child is evident and on display and no parent has the right to stand in judgment of another parent who is working so hard for her child, especially with the limited information of the time, but... unfortunately this documentary progresses many fallacies in thinking about autistic individuals and even further, promotes counterproductive - even damaging - interventions that are not in keeping with what is known about autism today. As I said already, even a broken clock is right twice a day and there is no question that the early intensive interventions were helpful to her son, but it should also be pointed out that sometimes successes may have come in spite of the techniques that were employed, not because of them. An example of this in my mind is the segment which showed the mom kicking the toy cars which her son had lined up. A modern day version of that may have been a Floortime like "playfully interfering" with the cars as a way of evoking a response - an intentional interaction from her son - thus utilizing it to promote engagement with him by first entering into his world. Of course, that was not the purpose of her kicking the cars. It was instead a refusal on her part to accept any "weird" autistic like behaviors from her son. I wonder, had she ever stopped to ask herself why her son - and many other people with autism - engage in these types of behaviors? They are not random, they serve a purpose from the perspective of the autistic individual and can even be utilized to promote effective interventions when understood. In some ways these behaviors can be viewed as a coping mechanism for the child. We all have our version of them: That morning cup of coffee can be seen as an adult version of a repetitive, ritualistic behavior that helps us survive, and I doubt that any of us would appreciate having it forcibly taken from us when we need it the most. I believe that this mom had the measure of success that she did with her son because of her dedication and consistency. Any intervention implemented with these characteristics will be somewhat successful and better than no intervention at all. But ultimately, I have to give this documentary a low rating because I believe it promotes bad ideas in understanding, interventions, and parenting individuals with autism.