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By Phillip A. Pell
May 21, 2008

It’s fashionable to add “the Musical” to the end of things these days.
From “Cannibal: the Musical” to “My Hammer, My Friend: the Musical” the
tag line is intended to convey a snide, ironic sneer about the subject
matter; a blase disregard for what otherwise could be considered a
subject ill-suited to the frivolous treatment musical theater normally
conveys.  From the title alone it would be very easy to write off
“Autism: the Musical” as just another offensive example in this same,
tired vein.  This hasty rush to judgment could not be farther from the

The film starts out with a set of statistics from the Centers for
Disease Control.  In 1980 fewer than 1 in 10,000 children was diagnosed
with autism.  Now it’s 1 in 150.  The filmmakers apparently want to lead
the viewer to the conclusion that autism is on the rise at more than
epidemic proportions however it is just as easy to draw the conclusion
that we’re getting better at understanding who is autistic and
diagnosing disorders farther up the autism spectrum.  Watching the film
you’ll probably recognize the mannerisms of “that weird kid” you avoided
or bullied in grade school.  You just wrote him off as a spaz or a nerd.
You probably gave him a wedgie or kicked him down the stairs.  From the
first frames of this film it’s hard to avoid the realization that this
is a film less about a bunch of autistic kids making a musical than it
is a less-than-subtle indictment of society, schools, medical
institutions, parents and you personally.  The autistic kids are a red
herring; an obvious attention-grabber that sets you up for the kick to
the gut realizations that come later. Read the rest of this entry »