Adam loves classical music, playing the cello and chasing girls. Adam's father Richard feels his wife, Rosanne, has made Adam her whole world, abandoning many of the causes that made him originally fall in love with her. Rosanne's feistiness can be bracing and disruptive at times, but she seems to have the right idea when it comes to finding acceptance for autistic children. "One thing I learned growing up with the Civil Rights movement," she says in the film, "is that it's not just enough for you to be doing better. Your whole tribe has to do better, or else you really can't do that much better." So, is Adam doing better? Richard and Roseanne bring us up to speed on their life with Adam since the cameras left:
Adam Inhales the Crowd
RICHARD: "Adam just got his braces off. He's performing for groups of up to a thousand people at a time. He plays Beethoven on his cello, but then he grabs the microphone and sings a song spontaneously. At a recent performance for some reason he started break- dancing. He inhales the crowd. The first time he had a large audience he was playing and every forty-five seconds or so he would stop and he would say out loud, 'Keep going!' The first time, everybody was sort of surprised, and then the second time he did it, they all started applauding. And then he did it a couple more times - because we had said, 'Don't stop, whatever you do. Play this thing through.' He just does it at his own weird pace."
Mainstreaming and Music
RICHARD: "Adam's in a public school called Rosewood Elementary. It's in West Hollywood. And he's done so well there, he's in a normal mainstream class. He's not in Special Ed. He's in the school band. He was accepted in the Philadelphia Philharmonics Strings Camp for kids at Bryn Mawr College for two weeks. He lived in a dorm there. They had kids from five to twenty-two years old. A five-year-old Chinese violin prodigy; a Russian kid who was twelve; a Yugoslav kid flew in. They'd never had an autistic kid before, so they took a chance largely because of the film, because of the notoriety around the Tribeca Film Festival. Roseanne went back and stayed with him and we hired a couple of students from Bryn Mawr to also help out. He went into this way over his head -- these are kids who do eight hours a day practicing. He was in the bottom wrung orchestra, but he worked his way up several rungs. The people in the Philharmonic string section actually teach the camp, and they thought he was great. They said basically the sky's the limit. He could be a composer, because he can write music, and he hears it. Sometimes I'll take him to a blues club in South Central L.A. and just ask the woman who owns the club if Adam can sit in with one of her bands. And Adam will, with these guys who are in their seventies."
Adam v. California
ROSANNE: "We sued the state of California because they had cut off Adam's therapy. And we won. When you sue the state, you don't get a big settlement. But we got fifteen hours a week of behavioral therapy for Adam, and we got the law changed. The regional center we belonged to had decided that they would cut every kid off at the age of five and force the parents to try to get services from the school district. But the school district only offers services that have to do with education. In the film that lawyers told them it would take four hundred thousand dollars to sue; we did it for twelve thousand. We made a deal to use the lawyer for the three days in court, and I did all of the paperwork - the evidence books, the research. We caught the state redhanded. They were talking to the company that provides the therapists and telling them how to write their reports to say that the child should be cut off individually. And then they would use that report to cut the child off. One of Adam's therapists gave us copies of the communication between the therapists and the regional center, instructing them on how to write the reports. Adam had been cut off by six therapists who had never met him. And I had all of the emails of me begging them to meet Adam before they cut him off. Now, if they want to cut your kid off from therapy, you have the right to be in the room when the decision is made so that you can be an advocate for your child. Now parents have to put in writing that they want to be included at any of the decision-making about services. The judge's decision came down just when we finished shooting the movie.
"He would never have been able to go to Philadelphia and study with the Orchestra, if he had not had those 15-hours a week of therapies. Adam no longer runs away. He has been talking quite a bit, he talks up a storm. It made all the difference in the world."
ROSANNE: "Recently Adam was having a hard time rehearsing, they said well we'll just bring him out to do his piece. He was going to play this really beautiful sonata that he learned at the camp. I was outside with him because I didn't want him to disturb the other kids performing. And of course he got away from me, and ran up on stage. He took over the show. Told the orchestra what to do, told the deejay what to play. One of the songs that he sings when he performs is 'Nature Boy.' That Nat King Cole song. I don't know if you've heard it, but it was written by an autistic homeless man who annoyed Nat King Cole's manager until he played the song; they put it on the 'B' side of one of the 45s, and that became one of his biggest hits. They used to have to go under bridges to find him, to give him his royalties because he was absolutely autistic. I thought that would be an appropriate song for Adam. [SINGS] 'There was a boy, a very strange, enchanted boy. They say he wandered very far, very far over land and sea....A little shy, and sad of eye, but very wise is he....And then one day, one magic day, he passed my way, and as we spoke of many things, fools and kings, this he said to me. The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.'"