Winner of 2013 Sedona Film Festival's, Heart of the Festival Award
Written by Elesia Ashkenazy
Laura Nagle is an self advocate on the autistic spectrum. She has given various presentations on autism over the past five years, particularly on topics related to educating others about autism and promoting the civil rights aspects of neurodiversity.
Elesia: Tell us more about how this film came to be. Were you approached with an idea for this project, or did you envision this project and seek out the necessary folks to make it happen?
Laura: I discovered that I am on the autism spectrum when I was 53. I found the Northern Arizona chapter of Autism Society of America and got involved. Soon I was doing panels and presentations. My mentor, Susan Marks, eventually asked me if I would be interested in doing a documentary. I agreed! Lots of people were involved with the production, and filming took over a year to complete.
Elesia: You did a thorough job of summing up sensory sensitivities in the movie. Please share with us again how clothes can feel like sandpaper or broken bits of glass, yet a gash or a deep cut could go unregistered by someone on the autistic spectrum.
I’ve been trying to write about my marriage for quite a while now, but it is very difficult because there are so many complicated sinews both holding my marriage together and pushing it apart. Which of these are related to autism? And which are the natural give and take marriage calls for? Then there’s the question of which are simply the strains of two different neurologies pushing upon each other?
I’ve been married to my husband, Alex, for 13 years, and we dated for several years beforehand. He is the person I know better than anyone in the world and who understands me better than anyone. We have a happy strong marriage, but we have always struggled with getting into a good sync and with making sure that both of our needs are met.
It is my turn to talk about identity. I want to write about it because I know who I am and I am the one who decides how I identify myself.
And I am Autistic.
Many other Autistics wrote about why they prefer identity-first language. Autism is all-pervasive, it cannot be separated from me; I did not “get” autism and I cannot “lose” it; I am Autistic in the same way I am a white female. I was born with these identities and I was born Autistic. My neurology shapes my interaction with the world.
As it was explained several times, no one can make a neurology go away. It is part of how my way of processing experiences shaped me. It is why I write this. It is why I have the friends I do. It is why I communicate the way I do. It is why I live my life the way I do.
Nobody says I am a person with femaleness. Nobody calls me I person with whiteness.
Like all human beings my unique personal identity is composed of many facets. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am a daughter and a wife, a Democrat, a citizen of the United States, a writer and a former attorney. I am also an Autistic Jew. I am proud to be all of the above. I like who I am. There are times, though, when much to my sadness, it is not easy to be both Autistic and Jewish. While my religion places great value on empathy and inclusiveness, not all those who practice it do. While my people have risked their lives to stand in solidarity with others who have been disenfranchised, there have been times when we have neglected to stand in support of one another.
We have been called “the people of the book” in recognition of the importance we place on learning. How ironic, then, that we have a history of denying our own children access to a Jewish education when they have significant learning differences. This practice is more than unjust. It flies in the face of our most fundamental religious teaching and our proud cultural history.