On May 1, 2012 advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners and production company Bodega will premiere a 25-minute documentary directed by Peter Sorcher, “I Want to Say,” in San Francisco (and then in subsequent cities) that tells the story of Hacking Autism, a newly adopted Autism Speaks initiative devoted to using technology to give those with autism a voice.
The trailer for the documentary highlights the growing prevalence of autism, recently grown to affect 1 in 88 children, parents’ emotional struggle to communicate with their children, and the hope and promise of introducing technology to all of the autism community.
The film chronicles the lives of real children living with autism, and their challenges and breakthroughs through the use of touch technology. The documentary is centered on students in Silicon Valley at Palo Alto’s Technology School (an inclusive school with both typical and special needs students working and learning together), and features Temple Grandin, a hero in the autism community.
TouchSmart technology empowered those with impaired motor skills and nonverbal dispositions to write poetry, communicate with their families after years of silence and even tell their parents they love them for the first time in their lives.
Rich Silverstein and the Goodby Silverstein & Partners team helped collect a group of partners including Autism Speaks, Bodega and director Peter Sorcher, Intel, Apple, the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation, Microsoft, Disney and others to lend their support and resources in order to help put the technology in the hands of Hope’s students. At the same time, the group wanted to draw awareness to the power of touch technology for people on the spectrum through the creation of “I Want to Say,” and through leveraging social media and marketing around the cause.
Last fall, together with HP, Goodby Silverstein & Partners held the first Hackathon, an event in Silicon Valley that paired leading autism experts with an eager army of software programmers to creative innovative, touch-enabled applications for the autism community in order to facilitate communication.
Hacking Autism aims to build and online community devoted to people sharing their own stories of hope through technology. Autism Speaks will also hold yearly Hackathons for the development of free, cross-platform, touch-enabled apps for autism communities around the glove to help them communicate in a way never before though possible.
Global Hackathons are being planned in a continuous effort to fulfill the promise of technology and make it available to those who can truly benefit from it. The mission is only just beginning.
Anyone interested in learning more about the initiative can visit the site HackingAutism.org or the Facebook page. For continual updates on the initiative, please follow @autismspeaks and the hashtag #hackingautism on Twitter.