“Let Me Be Me:” the extraordinary journey that a family undertake with their autistic son
The brilliantly funny queer comedian Robert White who made it to the finals of Britain’s Got Talent flippantly explained his Asbergers away by claiming he is a genius. He played the line for laughs although, by the time he finished his act, I had totally come to agree.
White’s appearance on TV is part of a visible dialogue about the sheer potential that people on the spectrum can achieve if their parents refuse to accept the traditional medical advice of just writing them off at childhood. Up to very recently once a child had been diagnosed with Aspergers they were actively encouraged to place them in a special residential home and literally walk away knowing that their child could never amount to anything.
Luckily for six-year-old Kyle Westphal when his parents learned he was on the Autism spectrum they went against all medical advice and refused to accept they could never develop a real connection to him. As they watched him withdraw from their world and all that was around him they desperately searched for an alternative means to enable Kyle to start to relate them
They are the real heroes of this heart-string-pulling film that documents the journey the entire family , and a host of volunteers undertook for Kyle to have a real connection with them. They came upon an experimental project which they soon embarked on which immersed them all in an intense one-on-one program with them joining Kyle in his unique behaviors The emphasis was not to punish or forbid him from constantly wrapping himself up in blankets and his favorite piece of fabric but to join him and encourage him and to slowly develop him to adopt other activities that would path a way into some more social behavior.
The documentary tracks this exceptional journey and the sheer patience and commitment to the lengthy process which is a story of extraordinary love the like of which is way too rare.
Now twenty years later and Kyle has achieved his lifetime ambition of becoming a fashion designer in which his tutors acknowledge how very talented he is at. It’s an art form that encourages individuality and uniqueness that so suits a very happy Kyle and gives him a sense of fulfillment none of us could have imagined at the start if his journey
Except maybe his parents as they look back and see how by ignoring the traditional medical advice and let the Kyle who always found comfort in his favorite fabric to making it his real purpose in his life.
We viewed this fascinating and eye-opening documentary by Dan Crane and Kate Taber recently at DOC NY Festival,and the new good news is that Greenwich Entertainment will be giving it a full release in February 2022. Make a note as you really shouldn’t miss it.