Decoding Autism with Sara Lee Kessler


READ: Sara Lee Kessler's Blog Post On Why She Made The Film

Autism is a devastating neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a child’s language development, social skills and often IQ. There is no clear cause and no cure.  Twenty years ago, it was so uncommon that few people had heard of it. Today, as we learn in the original hour-long high definition documentary, Decoding Autism, one out of 110 American children is being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. That includes one out of 94 children in New Jersey, which has the highest prevalence rate in the nation. What’s driving this alarming increase in autism that some are calling an epidemic?  And what, specifically, is going on in New Jersey? Decoding Autism looks at this major public health crisis that leaves families heartbroken, vulnerable and desperate for answers. 

The production team, led by Emmy Award-winning journalist, Sara Lee Kessler, visits the labs of top autism researchers around the nation, who are examining the brain, the blood, the genes and the environment, trying to decode the mystery of autism.  Scientists explain how what they are discovering may one day lead to new treatments and even a cure for what they now consider “the autisms.”  This documentary explores how research is bringing new hope to families with children on the autism spectrum.

Decoding Autism includes interviews with a number of parents, including Rachelle and Phillip Rogers, a Las Vegas couple who enrolled their two small boys in the Autism Phenome Project at the UC-Davis MIND Institute in California; Kym and Arthur Leiby, a New Jersey couple whose son, Parker, participated in an autism brain wave study at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Sarah Montani, a Boston mother whose daughter, Avalyn, is taking part in an autism sibling study at Children’s Hospital Boston; and Jodie and John Steele, whose son, Joshua is enrolled in a clinical trial at the Univeristy of Louisville School of Medicine that combines Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation with Applied Behavior Analysis.

Decoding Autism also visits schools that specialize in educating children with autism, including the internationally-recognized Princeton Child Development Institute in New Jersey and Thursday’s Child in New York.  We learn how early intervention using Applied Behavior Analysis, both in the classroom and at home, is maximizing the potential of children with autism spectrum disorder.

Major funding for “Decoding Autism” is provided by The Mel Karmazin Foundation.
Additional funding is provided by The New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, The Karma Foundation and by the Marotta Family Foundation.

Support for the Decoding Autism website is made possible by Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization.