Filmmaker Stephen W. Mackey discusses the inception of the film “This Business Of Autism” as well as its key themes including the demonstrated economic viability of businesses with a social mission, corporate responsibility, and the challenges of unsustainable government support programs.
I was drawn to this project through my personal observations of the impeccable quality of work that the Autistic employees of Spectrum Designs produce on a daily basis. However, as I began to research the facts and themes surrounding the realities of employment opportunities for young adults on the spectrum, I realized that this story has huge implications not only for those on the spectrum and their families, but the neurotypical population as well. From re-thinking unsustainable government programs, to understanding emerging economic development models, to fostering entrepreneurism, to the understanding the role of the community and non-profits, we all have a part to play in seeing this population succeed in their efforts to achieve meaningful employment.
Producing and directing this project has been life changing on so many levels, and I know it will have a similar impact on everyone who sees the film. Having open access to the families of Spectrum’s autistic employees, hearing their stories and learning of the challenges they have had to overcome has been both humbling and inspiring. Learning the stories of the company’s founders has reinforced my belief that a driven entrepreneur can achieve anything. Meeting practitioners from across the country has shown us that there is a sea change happening, and even though Autism has moved from the shadows and into the forefront of our culture there is still so much more to do in terms of educating the general public on the capabilities of these individuals. True there are some individuals who will always need care, however there are an incredible number of people who are underutilized and perfectly capable of performing a job role well above the expectations of an employer, and in many cases performing that job better than a neurotypical employee due to their Autism.
It has been a joy to film this project, to sit with these autistic young men and women and hear their hopes and dreams in their own words. It has been a privilege to interview the families, founders, staff, practitioners and lawmakers who live in this world each and every day. I laughed with them, I cried with them, and I learned from them. I know that the heartfelt words and pure emotions that we captured on film will touch, educate and inspire everyone who sees this film and open their eyes to a new social reality.