Buddy and C.J. are in the two-minute trailer for about five seconds, and in the full-length documentary their story is summed up in a little more than three minutes. Still, it’s a movie that Trish Washburn, their mother, put her whole heart and soul into.
“The United States of Autism,” a 90-minute film by Richard Everts, opened in New York City last week, and will enjoy its Capital Region premiere Saturday at noon at Proctors’ GE Theatre.
“We’re hoping people will watch the film and become more knowledgeable about autism,” said Washburn. “Richard Everts went around the U.S. to learn about autism from families that have kids in the autism spectrum, and the wonderful thing about this movie is that it has many different perspectives. It’s a film you can really learn from.”
Buddy Washburn is a 12-year-old at Sand Creek Middle School in the South Colonie Central School District, and his younger sister C.J., 10, goes to Forest Park Elementary School. They will be joining their mother and father, Gary, at the Proctors screening.
“There are people in the movie with severe autism, and there are people in the movie, like my children, who have a higher functioning form of autism,” said Washburn. “They’ll definitely be there with us, and we try to expose them to anything that will make them feel better able to have more of a normal life. I haven’t seen the film yet, but we’re all looking forward to it.”
Everts, who is based in Lancaster, Pa., started the film project soon after learning his own son, Tommy, had autism. He traveled more than 11,000 miles in 40 days, visiting 20 families and individuals living with autism. He showed up in Colonie at the Washburns’ home in the summer of 2010.
“He came and spent the entire day with us,” Trish Washburn said. “He did some filming at the Easter Seals’ Camp Colonie and took a lot of videotape. That’s where my kids go during the summer, and if you see the trailer, my kids are the ones holding the flag.
“We came back to the house, and then we went to see [then-state] Sen. Roy McDonald, who has two grandchildren with autism, and talked about how we had passed the autism insurance bill, and then we came back to our house. We finished the day by going to ‘hippotherapy,’ where my kids go horseback riding. He took plenty of film of them on their horse.”
The interview with McDonald, who was head of the Senate Autism Caucus, is included in the film, as are portions of the Washburn’s trip to Everybody Counts in East Berne for their hippotherapy.
Everts’ visit with the Washburns just happened to be on the final day of his journey across America. In a daily blog he wrote to document the trip, Everts included these thoughts about his visit to the Capital Region:
“What a story there is! It was exciting to hear about Trish’s work on the political level in New York, especially since she’s just an average mom who kind of got drafted for the job. The interview itself had a lot of tears and heartfelt emotion, and was a wonderful example of what has to be overcome for families to move forward in their lives. We were sorry to have to say goodbye to the family, as we had a wonderful time.”
All proceeds from the local screening of “The United States of Autism” will be donated to a Capital Region family, individual or organization affected by autism.