Iowa PBS has been including Iowans with disabilities in its local content for several years. With a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and support from the Max and Helen Guernsey Charitable Foundation, Iowa PBS has expanded its coverage of Iowa’s disability communities, placing Iowans with disabilities squarely at the center of their own stories. Beyond being a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, this Iowa PBS initiative has increased awareness of Iowans with disabilities and set the stage for greater inclusivity in Iowa PBS local content from July 2020 onward.
As part of this initiative, Iowa PBS launched The Life Autistic, a multi-platform project that explores the lives of Iowans with Autism Spectrum Disorder. By taking a close look at their diagnoses, treatments, family life, and daily routines, viewers gain an intimate perspective on the lives of people on the spectrum. Through hearing from experts and educators, including author and activist Temple Grandin, they develop a better understanding of the many expressions of autism. The Life Autistic has reached hundreds of thousands of people across the state.
Unique stories from the web series were gathered together into The Life Autistic Collection, a 60-minute documentary that introduces viewers to several Iowans on the spectrum, from the very young to the elderly.
One of the people featured is Lainie, who lives in a Balance Autism Campus group home where she receives 24/7 support and works part-time in their office doing cleaning. Another is Mike, who works for Talk To Me Technologies in Cedar Falls. His wife is an occupational therapist and together they are raising two sons with autism. A third, named Tyler, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 22 months when his language abilities regressed. He now speaks publicly as an autism awareness advocate and says his biggest successes include graduating from college, getting a full-time job, and serving as a board member for the Autism Society of Iowa.