TEAM OF BROTHERS is an 11-minute film made for the series, Stories from the Spectrum, a multi-platform media project that explores the subject of autism in America, and how we as a society must prepare to address the needs of our increasingly neurodiverse population. The creator and executive producer is Kathryn Dietz, an award-winning PBS filmmaker who developed this project during her tenure as Visiting Artist at Tufts University’s Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development.
Stories from the Spectrum features short films about teens and adults who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Taken together the films testify to the tremendous breadth and variety of life of the spectrum, through the stories of characters whose disabilities range from mild to severe. Film has the power to confer dignity upon its subjects and this is our aim: to celebrate and give voice to people who often have none, by cutting through the polarizing and stigmatizing arguments that have characterized discussions about autism for nearly 75 years.
TEAM OF BROTHERS tells the story of Jenna Markow, a young woman who spent her childhood being bullied and isolated, first for her life-threatening peanut allergy that required a separate table at school, Tourette’s syndrome and OCD. She had no friends but her parents, who struggled to help her even as they dealt with their own disabilities. They took her for neurological testing at age fourteen, and she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
The diagnosis qualified her to receive appropriate educational services, but did little to help her find friends, especially since her school was nearly 20 miles from home. And girls like Jenna often fall through the cracks. As she noted after one especially easy life skill session, “It’s hard to practice social skills with people who have poor social skills.” Where does a person like Jenna find the friendships and social connections everyone craves?
One day her mother got a call from Coach Ray LeBlanc of the East Coast Jumbos, a team he started to accommodate his own autistic son. His players were a lot like her and had a variety of disabilities including autism, Down syndrome, and deafness. Jenna tried out and made the team – their only female player (although not by design). Her hockey skills made her a popular teammate, and she gradually gained confidence and began to thrive. At the end of the film she tells us: “When you find something you love, you fit in. And being different can be hard, but it’s definitely okay.”
Written, directed, and produced by: Kathryn Dietz
Cinematography and editing by: Dael Mundy
Music by: Tom Phillips
Special thanks to: The East Coast Jumbos, and Marc Mandell of The Needham Channel
Funding by: The IAM Strong Foundation
Besides being featured on this website, TEAM OF BROTHERS will be entered in film festivals, screened at local venues, broadcast on community media stations in Westwood and Needham, and featured on an upcoming Stories from the Spectrum website. To contact Kathryn Dietz, please connect via LinkedIn.
The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.