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Autism: The Sequel Puts the Spotlight on Autistic Young Adults and Their Families

A young adult with autism playing the violaUPDATE: Autism: The Sequel will premiere on HBO on April 28, 2020 at 9:00 p.m. ET. 

Los Angeles, California, Sept. 18 – In a world where media focuses almost solely on children with Autism, Autism: The Sequel will focus on what it is like to be an autistic young adult.

When Autism: The Musical was released in 2007, scores of young children were being identified as autistic. The original film followed five autistic children from The Miracle Project as they created and performed a live musical performance. Now, 12 years later, these children have become young adults with autism. Autism: The Sequel reconnects with these individuals and their families. Through their stories, viewers see the ways in which the world has changed to accommodate autistic people as well as the ways in which it still has not.

“12 years ago, we heard parents in the film echo one overwhelming concern – what will happen to my child when they are older? What will happen when my child when they are older? What will their lives look like?” said Sasha Alpert, executive vice president of Bunim/Murray Productions and producer of Autism: The Sequel and Autism: The Musical. “What has happened to these sons and daughters might surprise you.”

Elaine Hall, Founder of The Miracle Project, and now a consultant and on-set acting coach for several major TV/Film studios, says that she is excited and honored to be featured with her son in Autism: The Sequel. She hopes that just as Autism: The Musical opened people’s hearts to children on the spectrum; Autism: The Sequel will open minds to the many abilities within the disability of autism.

Like its predecessor, Autism: The Sequel is produced by Bunim Murray Productions Films. BMP embraces stories that often are left behind by mainstream television. Telling authentic and inclusive stories has worked well for the production company. Autism: The Musical was picked up by HBO and subsequently was nominated for five Emmy awards in 2008 – winning two, for Nonfiction Film Editing and for Outstanding Nonfiction Special.

The success of Autism: The Musical paved the way for BMP to produce Born This Way, a reality TV show which showcases the lives of people with Down Syndrome. The show premiered on A&E in December 2015. It has been nominated for 12 Emmy Awards and won the Emmy Award for “Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program” in 2016, along with Emmy Awards for “Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program” and “Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program” in 2017. Both Autism: The Musical and Born This Way prove that showing positive, accurate portrayals of people with disabilities is not only the right thing to do but also results in programming that finds success in the competitive media landscape.

Autism: The Sequel is an HBO Documentary Films Release. The 40-minute film is premiering at GlobeDocs, a Boston film festival, on Saturday, Oct. 5, and will air on HBO in 2020.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the VP, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so all people with disabilities can fully participate in every aspect of community. As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she works at the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. She regularly conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible for entertainment executives throughout the industry. Appelbaum partners with studios, production companies and writers’ rooms to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. She has consulted on more than 100 TV episodes and films with A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix, ViacomCBS, and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory Council, Disney+ Content Advisory Council, MTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working in development, production and post-production. She is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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