Actor Hugo Weaving’s nephew Ky Greenwood has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). He was born with it; in fact, boys are four times more likely to be born with ASD than girls. Now Ky and Weaving have teamed up to star in a short animated film that explores that challenges faced by Ky and others living with autism.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 0.5 per cent of Australians have ASD. The Australian Advisory Board on ASD puts it at 1 per cent. As with any mental health disorder, obtaining exact numbers is tricky, but groups agree that the disorder is on the rise.
Created by mental health service provider Sentis, Living with Autism: Ky’s Story is a powerful, sensitive short film about the experience of growing up with autism. It explores the effect of the disorder on Ky himself, as well as on his mother, and the way people around them understand him.
The film opens with Ky and his mother going grocery shopping. Every day activities are hard for them, and being in public, exposed to unfamiliar sounds and surroundings can make Ky upset. To onlookers, he seems like a badly behaved child. But Weaving explains, “The hardest part for Ky’s mum wasn’t his behaviour, but knowing that people were judging her parenting.”
Autism mainly affects people in three areas: communication, social interaction and behaviour. For Ky, the rough waters of adolescence are even harder to navigate with ASD, and he immerses himself in video games, escaping to a safe world that Weaving says, “protects him from the complex social rules and rituals of the real world.” While other kids learn the rules, Ky can’t, and he’s left feeling “awkward, isolated and scared.”
Ky will always have autism, and while routine will serve him well, Weaving explains, “Ky’s life and the lives of millions of others with autism can be made a little easier with a little more awareness, understanding and friendship.”
The film screened at the Gold Coast University Hospital earlier this week. In an interview with the Gold Coast Bulletin, Weaving calls the film, “a wonderful piece of work,” saying, “It’s the fact that Ky and I have a family connection and therefore an emotional connection that makes [the film] work.”
Ky agrees. He says he hopes “people will understand me now – that I’m different to everyone else.”
For more information about autism, visit Autism Spectrum Australia, Australia’s largest nonprofit autism service provider.