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Autism, Courage and Finding yourself
Every now and then we will see a movie that will really touch us because we can relate to the story and we feel sympathetic to the characters because we understand. We truly understand. It is not that often that we have such a connection but when we see what we have come to know and understand through our own personal experiences portrayed in a movie even though it is only a made for TV movie we feel a sense that we are not alone and that we have something in common with more people then we can possibly know. Autism is becoming increasingly more common today and the statistics are real sobering when you realize that approximately 1 in 150 children are diagnosed with a form of autism. We just don't truly understand why the numbers have increased so dramatically but we must put it into the proper perspective and try to deal with it as best we can and be the supportive, loving and caring parent for our child who needs us more than we could ever imagine.
Miracle run is a movie that teaches us about love and triumph. It is a feel good movie because it is about overcoming obstacles and having dreams. There is no greater love than that between a mother and her children. In the movie we can see this bond right from the beginning when Corinne Morgan-Thomas, played by Mary Louise Parker seeks a proper diagnosis for her twin boys, Philip and Stephen played by Bubba Lewis and Zac Efron as teenagers and by Jeremy Shada and Jake Cherry when they were young, who have been seen by many doctors but is not sure what to make of her sons odd behaviors and difficulties in establishing friendships and making progress in school. She is very devoted to her children and wants to help them and it is very heartwarming to see the relationship she has with them as they grow from young children to teenagers. There is a scene in the beginning of the movie that is very poignant because it reminds me of my son and his behaviors as a young boy. A superman cartoon is on the television which the young boy is watching intently and you hear him mimicking what he is watching. Another scene in the movie that made my heart sink was when the mother received the diagnosis of autism for her twin boys and seeing her reaction. I remember the very day my wife and I received the same diagnosis for our son and it is something I will never forget for as long as I live.
Autistic children are prone to having melt downs and the scene in the supermarket after Corinne received the diagnosis was a reality check and something all parents of autistic children have experienced. Unless you're there and living through it you just don't know what it is truly like to experience and not many people are understanding or sympathetic to the children going through it. Most people just think the parents can't control their children and that the children are undisciplined and unruly. This is not true because most autistic children don't seem to have control when they are overwhelmed and are on sensory overload. I could certainly relate to her experience because we have gone through it many times and we are very sympathetic to our son as he goes through it but we have to take control, be firm and make sure our son is protected from hurting himself.
The most important thing in anyone's life is family and you can see the love and strength Corinne has for her two boys. She is a single parent and she has a lot of heart and courage as she faces her life and the challenges she encounters with a spirit that is truly inspirational and very noble. In the beginning of the movie when she reveals the diagnosis to the man she is involved with he decides he does not want to take on the responsibility of the boys needs and he walks out. She is faced with the uncertainties in raising her two boys and finding a place to live and starting a life on her own with many challenges. She has to find work and stability so she can raise her boys and protect them. You really feel for her and you are rooting for her and her two boys to really make it. A scene that really will make you smile and cry is when Stephen says his very first word as they are eating pizza. He says "Pizza" and his mom cries with joy as she shouts you said your very first word, Pizza!
I was touched by the scene when Corinne peeks in on her boys in the classroom and she asks a girl classmate if she knew Philip and Stephen and receives the cold response that they are weird. It seems most autistic children are misunderstood and it is very common that they are considered outcasts and hence they struggle with developing friendships and socializing with others. The school determines that the boys are not being provided the support they need and Corinne trying desperately to find the necessary resources writes a letter to the state that reflects her sentiments and her wishes to find adequate schooling for her children. She also engages a woman to watch her children who she develops a bond and a wonderful friendship with. As a result of the letter she wrote she is provided a teacher to help the boys develop and learn who comes to their house and provides them the necessary speech and language skills to help them transition back to school.
Corinne also finds love and a good role model for her boys in Douglas Thomas, a handyman played by Aidan Quinn who has a daughter in real life who is diagnosed with autism. He develops a bond with the 2 boys and teaches Philip to play the guitar. The boys seem to connect with him and he enjoys spending time with them and their mom. He also provides moral support to the family and is very helpful when the boys need guidance and encouragement. It really warms your heart when you see the boys start to flourish and open up and express themselves and start to make friends and find interests.
A scene in the movie that I have a personal connection to is the obsession the boys have with Rocky and the inspiration they drew from his boxing and his desire to be the best. I remember as a kid being inspired by Rocky which influenced me and provided me the interest in running and pushing myself in sports and school and attracting the girls. When Stephen developed an interest in running and joined the cross country team it really was very real to me because I too was a cross country runner and I felt that was one of the best things I did during my days in school. It helped me to overcome my shyness and to learn to be competitive in a healthy way. I was very happy when Stephen found a connection to running because that was something very important to me also.
I really thought this movie was wonderful and I would love for my son to see it and be inspired by it. Another scene that I thought was touching was when Philip tried to play guitar in front of a panel judging his talent but he was unable to and he broke down and had to leave. Douglas conveyed to the panel that Philip was autistic and they were understanding but they could not evaluate his talent. What really was extraordinary was when Philip called one of the administrator's on the panel to listen to him perform over the phone and he really did remarkable and had been given the approval to perform and showcase his musical talents at school.
The most emotional part of the movie for me was when Stephen won his race setting a course record and in the end making a wonderful speech at a Miracle Run Foundation ceremony praising his mother for her love, devotion and courage in inspiring him and his brother and in founding the organization. It was very touching and it is what makes us appreciate our autistic children because they truly are very special and deserve all the love, support and encouragement we can give them. I highly recommend this movie for all families to see with their children. It will enlighten you and also make you cry and appreciate your kids. We all must teach our children and show them the way.
Dedicated to my son Matty.
Edward D. Iannielli III