Catlin residents included in documentary about families, autism

"The United States of Autism," a documentary about families living with autism set to premier in New York City on April 5, will include Catlin residents Tim and Cheri Welsh and their son, Tanner.

It will be shown at the Savoy 16 theater at 7 p.m. April 23 and help raise money for three organizations, he said.

The film follows an 11,000-mile, 40-day journey across America to visit with 20 families affected by autism and features interviews with the families.

Welsh said he and his family were interviewed and filmed around the community. Some of the other people who were interviewed were Tanner's teachers, therapists at Carle and grandparents, he said.

Tanner, 15, is a Westville High School student. He is non-verbal and low-functioning on the autism spectrum, his father says.

The film was done by the Tommy Foundation, a Pennsylvania nonprofit organization.

Richard Everts, the director, said the film started out as a journey to answer questions about his own son and turned into a film all families living with autism can look to for answers, according to a website about the film at usofautism.com

There are five other screenings scheduled in other cities, including the one at the Savoy 16 theater, with 25 percent of ticket sales from local screenings being donated to organizations or families in the autism community.

Welsh said the screening at the Savoy 16 will benefit the Vermilion Association for Special Education Foundation, the Tommy Foundation and AutismAid.

Tickets will go on sale March 20, he said.

Welsh, a longtime parent advocate for autism who launched his own organization, AutismAid, last year, said he hasn't seen the final version of the film.

But he said he knows it includes a broad spectrum of people with autism, both high-functioning people who advocate for themselves asking for respect, jobs and housing, and those on the low-functioning end of the scale with families advocating for them.

"It's an upbeat American dream story," he said. "It's possible to survive and thrive as individuals with autism."

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