This blog post is by Billy Juergensen about his brother Benjamin who is on the autism spectrum. Billy created a short film inspired by his brother. In the fall, Billy will continue his studies at the Savannah College of Art and Design where he will be majoring in film.
The original purpose of creating the documentary was to complete a required Senior Project in high school. At the outset, I envisioned creating a short film about how children with autism grow in various school settings, and how for many of them their creative side can define who they are. While doing my preliminary research, I began going over a large body of my own brothers artwork. Benjamin who was diagnosed at age 2 with autism has been drawing as long as any of us in the family can remember. The more research I did, the more I realized that I had everything I could want in a subject for this project was right in front of me.
I feel that this gave the documentary a much more personal tone, as my parents and I had the ability to detail our firsthand experiences with raising Benjamin. Being in a variety of film classes, I have had the opportunity to do various types of films, ranging from short comedy skits to full animations with fictional characters. Until now, I hadn't worked on a film with such a serious tone, let alone one of such length.
The project took around five months to complete, in which I learned many of the basic principles of making a good documentary and how to organize information throughout a film to keep interest. Benjamin is now sixteen years old, and I feel it is truly a blessing to have him in our lives. Benjamin's artwork in itself is done with such mastery, and never ceases to fill us with wonder as we look through his sketchbooks. His optimistic behavior inspires all of us to push forward through the hard times in life, and the affection he shows us on a daily basis affirms our belief that love and family are two of themost essential elements in life with people affected by autism.
I am continuing my studies this Fall at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where I will be majoring in Film. Benjamin will always be a large part of my life, and has, no doubt in many ways, helped shape me into the person I am now, as well as the artist I hope to become. In that way, “The World Smiles Back” is both a tribute and a thank-you to my amazing little brother, Benjamin.
Click here to download Autism Speaks Sibling Support Tool Kit. This tool kit is for children who have a brother or sister diagnosed with autism. Though the guide has been designed for children ages 6-12, the information can be adapted as needed to other age and education levels. The guide is written in an interactive format so parents and siblings can set aside some quiet time to read the guide together. The intention is to create an opportunity for siblings to focus on their feelings, reactions to their sibling’s diagnosis and get information about autism.