"How to Dance in Ohio"
AFC Clients with Autism Socially Connect by Learning "How to Dance in Ohio"
Dr. Emilio Amigo, Clinical Director of Amigo Family Counseling, LLC (AFC) in Columbus, OH, garners much public attention with his clinical group therapy program for individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis. The program, named the Respons∙ability Social Therapy™ (RST), caught the attention of Filmmaker and Director Alexandra Shiva, who aspired to capture the essence of Dr. Amigo's work through film. Both Director Shiva and Dr. Amigo share commonalities; both are true visionaries driven by the passion and expertise behind their work. Director Shiva's vision came to fruition in the rare and remarkable documentary "How to Dance in Ohio".
The film features three young ladies living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as they go through the trials and triumphs of preparing for a spring formal within their ASD community of fellow clients at AFC. The social nuances associated with going to a formal event can be daunting to individuals with ASD. Because social impairment is one fundamental aspect of ASD, this process can be not only intimidating to those on the spectrum, it can also be confusing and distressing.
In the film, one witnesses how Dr. Amigo and his clinical staff guide the clients through the process of delving into the core social challenges of their condition in order to develop new skills and abilities. The AFC staff assist the clients with all steps of the process, considering what is and is not socially appropriate on a date and at a large social event, contemplating who might be a good date, accepting rejection, , buying socially appropriate clothes, and practicing how to dance with another person, among many other skills.
"How to Dance in Ohio" premiered at the UCLA Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior in the Fall of 2016. The premiere attracted several hundred attendees. In response to the screening, Vicky Goodman, Founder and President of Friends of the Semel Institute, commented to Dr. Amigo, "The film was so touching and heartwarming and gave us such an insight into the challenges that people with developmental disabilities face. You are doing truly noble work and it is people like you that make the world a better place. Your patience, creativity, and spirit all came through in the film, and these young people are fortunate to have a champion like you at their side. You were right when you said that this film speaks to all of us and shows not only our vulnerabilities but our humanity."
This film, in association with Blumhouse Productions and Gidalya Pictures, made a huge impact on viewers. The documentary, winner of a 2015 Peabody Award and chosen as a 2015 Official Selection film at the Sundance Film Festival, is now celebrated by many in the film and ASD community in the US and abroad. Moreover, facilities dedicated to autism support, advocacy, and research applaud Dr. Amigo's work.
This past October 5th, Autisme Sans Limites (ASL) hosted the premier of How to Dance in Ohio at the Outremont Theatre in Montreal. There were over 600 individuals who attended the event - numerous Canadian celebrities, individuals living on the autism spectrum, and those who support the autism community. ASL painted footsteps outside of the theatre and requested that all "come and dance" with them! Why? It is because the beauty and power of human connection can be felt and revealed when one dances with another.
When viewing the film, one will walk away feeling inspired, enlightened, and reflective. The beauty of the film is that it both educates and challenges its viewer. The film invites the public to enter directly into the lives of those living with autism. It evokes a unique realization of how those with autism are, in ways, similar to those of us without the condition and yet they are marked by struggles and gifts that most do not fully comprehend.
Dr. Amigo once stated, “Part of connecting with someone is moving in similar patterns.” This comment is not only a poignant comment on human connection, but one foundational aspect of the philosophy behind his therapeutic approach. Shared human connection, a fundamental part of humanity, is an aspect of life most neurotypicals may too often take for granted. We at Amigo Family Counseling devote our careers to providing a means by which this essential element of human existence can thrive in the lives of those on the autism spectrum. So, put on your dancing shoes, join the movement, and enjoy the film How to Dance in Ohio! Director Shiva, Dr. Amigo, and all associated with the film, inspire us all to promote the acceptance of difference and uniqueness, foster the importance of shared human connection and social reciprocity, and celebrate the power of human spirit and the capacity for change.
All images of individuals shown here are public domain authorized in association with their use in the "How to Dance in Ohio" documentary.