Drawing to a Close

After a long and arduous journey, I’ve finally completed my 20 Time project! I must say, it’s very rewarding to be able to look at my movie and think about all the hard work it took to make. Since my last post, I’ve accomplished a lot. I researched Autism Spectrum Disorders (Autistic Disorder, PDD, CDD, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Rett’s Syndrome) on the National Institute of Mental Health’s website. Keeping in mind my target audience of students in intermediate or middle school, I then used that information to write my script. Instead of just listing random facts, I aimed to inform the audience about autism and get rid of the negative attitude and ignorance surrounding the disorder(s). Inspired by the popular “Draw My Life” videos on YouTube, I decided to draw pictures that went with my script. The video would be mainly me drawing pictures. I would speed the footage up, then voice-over the pictures. I had already filmed the entire thing before I figured out that iMovie on the iPads doesn’t let you speed up clips, only slow them down! I panicked, but luckily my family has iMovie on our home computer. I went through the dull process of sorting through the footage and editing it on the computer. From there, things ran smoothly. I am very proud of the finished product. The roadblocks I had on the way only make my accomplishment that much sweeter!

My main point in the video was that viewers should be accepting and compassionate towards those with autism. I hope that anyone who watches my video at least makes a sincere attempt to be more kind to others. If I make just one person happy with my video, I’ll be content. That leads me to the final part of my journey. The only thing left to do now is contact the guidance counselors at the middle school and see if they can use my video with the students there. Hopefully, my video can make a difference in the lives of students, whether they are autistic or not.

The Great Research Epidemic

Finally, we return to 20 Time! After the long Thanksgiving break and the absence of a blog post last week, it’s good to return to the Autism Puzzle. Recently, I have been researching careers that incorporate my passion of helping others. Incidentally, the research that I’m doing could help other people who have the same passion as I do and want to make a career out of it! As anyone who read my last post knows, during the past few weeks, I scoured the Internet for jobs that had to do with helping others. I found two different options that are interesting to me: guidance counselor or wildlife biologist. The guidance counselor deals with helping people socially and emotionally, whereas the wildlife biologist helps animals and the environment. So, if anyone has the same passion I do, they could consider whether they like the emotional or scientific side of helping others. Hopefully my research on jobs that “help others” can help others think about career options!

Speaking of research, the month of November and the very beginning of December have been crucial to finding out what I want to put in my Autism Puzzle movie. I know it’s been a while since I mentioned it, but I’m still hoping to make a video on Autism Spectrum Disorder that I can give to a guidance counselor at the middle school (or to Autism York) so they can show it to kids at the middle school. I am working with one of my teachers who works primarily at the middle school to make this happen. The email to the guidance counselor is still in the works (I can’t help it, I’m a procrastinator!), but even if the project doesn’t get completed before the semester ends, I’m still going to continue with it. Right now, I am in the script-writing and picture-finding stage. It’s kind of difficult, because for my video I will have to cite all of the pictures, which is sleep-inducing to say the least. I plan on filming and doing the voice-over parts over Christmas break. Preferably, I could do it sooner, but the informational paper I’m writing for English is putting up a fight, so the recording will most likely not begin until break. After that, it’s just a matter of a few small editing matters and it will be ready to go!

My Passion In The Professional World

Even though I’m only in ninth grade, it’s time to start looking beyond high school. What kinds of professional opportunities are out there in the business world that would relate to my passion of helping others? I’ve identified two options that are both attractive to me. I could become a guidance counselor and help students, or I could become a wildlife biologist and help animals. When I researched these things, I got a lot of information on both topics. It turns out that being a guidance counselor and being a wildlife biologist are very different. So, I have to decide whether I like the emotional or the scientific side of helping others. I liked the fact that guidance counselors were predicted to be in more demand in the upcoming years, because that will give me a better chance to obtain and keep a job. However, I’m not completely sure about the guidance counselor option, because I don’t know if I could stand the stress that it places on you. I am very sensitive, and I know that some kids are, for lack of a better word, disturbed. I’m not sure if I could handle being responsible for a suicidal teen. On the other hand, guidance counselors can save lives. It would be so rewarding to help people through tough times. The other option I thought about was to be a wildlife biologist or possibly a zoologist. This is appealing to be because I love animals and nature and would really enjoy doing things that would help them. A wildlife biologist or a zoologist studies or manages animals and their habitat. I have always had an interest in other wildlife biologists like Jane Goodall and Steve Irwin. In fact, my favorite show when I was younger, The Crocodile Hunter was my favorite show! I always wished I could work with animals, although I’m not sure I would like to work in a zoo. One plus to being a wildlife biologist is that typically, you don’t need a lot of experience to start out. It requires four years of college, but a lot of things are learned on the job. Overall, I’m not sure which option would be a better fit for me: guidance counselor or wildlife biologist. However, I know my interests will change over the years, but my passion of helping people will stay the same.

Keeping An Open Mind

Thus far through the 20 time process, I have learned that I need to keep an open mind, because things almost always end up changing. Up until Pitch Day, I was planning on showing my movie on Autism Spectrum Disorder on CTV, the school’s morning announcement program. However, a teacher who showed up at Pitch Day gave me the interesting idea of showing the movie at the middle school instead. She suggested I talk to the guidance counselor at the middle school and see if he would like to have the movie on hand to show to upcoming seventh graders and even eighth graders. I liked this idea a lot, because one of my friends who is autistic is going to be a seventh grader next year. Also, there is a lot of work done about autism awareness at the lower grade levels, but virtually none in the middle school. At least at the high school we have the Autism Walk. Anyway, returning to what I said earlier, I had to keep an open mind about different directions this project could go in. This lesson will definitely help me through the completion of my project because who knows how it could go from here? The guidance counselor might not need my movie, and I might need to change directions again. This lesson is also applicable in and beyond my high school career. During high school, things will inevitably come up during classes that will require me to be able to adapt. Plus, in the work world, you are constantly trying new things. So, learning to keep an open mind and being flexible about changes is extremely important to success in life overall. It is especially important for my 20 Time project, as it has showed me new directions in which to take The Autism Puzzle!

Also, below I have posted some screenshots from my Pitch Day movie:

(In case you were wondering, I hope to finish the real movie by the beginning of January. Note the word “hope”. That probably means that I’ll have it finished by February.)


Pitch Day

This week, we had our Pitch Day, where parents and administrators came into class and heard about our projects. I thought it was kind of disappointing. For one thing, I had to wear a dress. I now remember why I try to only wear them once a year. Also, I was disappointed in the tiny number of people who came. I heard that first period had a full house, but I literally got to present twice. It wasn’t even a full two people because one was my dad, and he had already seen my iMovie! I was excited all day to present to a bunch of people and share my ideas, but it ended up being really anticlimactic. However, I am happy that the curriculum is going to change, and I actually got a new idea from a teacher to give my movies to the guidance counselor at the middle school to show to the kids there. So, it wasn’t all bad! 

My Experiences So Far Have Taught Me…

So far during this project, I have learned a few things about myself and how I work. I know that I work best when I write myself a list of things to do. My strategy has been to prioritize tasks and steadily work on them throughout the week. I have a hard time getting started with things, but once I dive in, I am fine. This is handy because I can do a lot of work in one sitting when I am truly focused. However, I am really easily distracted! I have had problems researching because I see links or videos and get sidetracked on something that may be interesting, but not necessarily related to ASD. Another problem was when WordPress wouldn’t post my blogs from the iPad. I got held up a few days, until I figured out that I could post from my desktop computer. One thing that was easy for me was making my presentation for pitch day. I love working with the updated version of iMovie, because it has more controls and editing options. I’m very excited to make my autism awareness documentaries!

I also added a little video I found that is really adorable. It is about Light It Up Blue. Visit their website here.


Contacting an Authority

This post is about the outcome of my email to Mrs. Johnson of Autism York. Here is the email itself. Mrs. Johnson’s replies are in bold and italic.

Mrs. Johnson,

Hello! This is Sara with the information about my English project on autism awareness.

Basically, it is a project that will go from now until the end of the semester, so about mid-January. The project is supposed to use my own passions (of helping others, writing, and making films) to benefit other people. I chose the topic of autism awareness because I feel that the high school environment can be very harsh and stressful, especially to kids with autism. My aim is to tell about how autism can affect people in high school and how teachers and students can help these people have a better experience. The tricky part is that every person on the spectrum is different, so some kids blend in and you’d never know, and others you can see they are different right when you see them.  I plan on doing this by making a series of informational mini-movies to be shown on the morning announcements.

As part of this, I would like to talk about Autism York and the walk. Right now, I just need to find out if it is okay for me to reference Autism York in the film and link it in my school blog.

Yes, you can use our website and any info you find on the website.  

Also, it would be great to hear any suggestions about autism-related topics I should address at the high school level.  I have a powerpoint presentation that we use for middle school/high school groups that I can put on a thumb drive for you to review/use as you wish…just let me know.

Besides that, I may still be in contact with you as a general information source. Of course! Thanks, and any feedback you may have is greatly appreciated! I would see about talking with a guidance counselor at school and ask about the kinds of supports that are in place for kids with ASD. (is there an autism support classroom at the high school?  I don’t know) and maybe talking with a student in high school on the spectrum.



In addition, I would like to start adding videos that I feel are relevant to the topic I am discussing. Today I found a video on ASD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder. It clears up a lot of misconceptions and is great background information.

Seeking Expert Advice

Although I didn’t intend for the Autism Puzzle project to be affiliated with any specific organization, one authority that I have realized could be a big help is Autism York. I contacted the president, Nikki Johnson, over the weekend. It helped that she is one of my neighbors! It was beneficial for me to contact her because I can use Autism York as an additional resource for information, as well as referencing them in my films. I plan on spreading the word about Autism York in the last film about what people can do outside of school to help autistic people.

I have already contacted Mrs. Johnson through email. I have asked for suggestions about what kinds of things I should address about autism at the high school level. I also asked for permission to reference Autism York in my films. This is important because one of my short films is all about things we can do to help autistic people outside of school. Mrs. Johnson is also the parent of an autistic child, so she can give the perspective of a student who has autism. She does a lot of work with autism awareness with the kids in younger grades, so she will be a very valuable resource for ideas!

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 7.47.54 PM

For more info, and to learn how you can support Autism York, check out their website here!

My Mission and My Passion

My project, The Autism Puzzle, will incorporate my passions into a fun, informative presentation to raise awareness about autism for the students of the high school. I plan on writing and filming a series of five short movies about autism. They will show facts about the disorder, real life stories, and suggestions on how to make the lives of autistic kids easier. I hope to show these clips on CTV’s morning announcements. There will be one segment per day over the time period of a week. Even though there are a lot of programs in the elementary schools, there isn’t as much awareness about autism in the older grades. I hope to change this.

I also want to use my passions of writing and helping others to complete this project. Writing is one of my favorite things to do. Although I have only written one movie script before, I liked the experience of movie writing and thought it was interesting. This is because my writing style tends to be based on figurative language. Writing a movie would be fun, as well as challenging, because it would require me to change my style a bit. Also, I love to help other people, especially when they aren’t treated as well as other people. Some autistic kids are bullied or disliked because of their condition. My 11 year old friend and neighbor Ben is autistic, and he is a great kid. I want to help more people like Ben. These are some of my own passions that are motivating me to follow through with The Autism Puzzle.

Did you know…

Autism now affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys

Autism prevalence figures are growing

Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.

Autism costs a family $60,000 a year on average

Autism receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases

Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism

There is no medical detection or cure for autism