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Beyond the Cliff: Navigating Autistic Adulthood

  • Ben Sharif, Director
  • Karen S Shapiro, Producer

A silhouette of four people standing on top of a cliff as the sun shines through the clouds. Text in the top left corner reads "Beyond the Cliff: Navigating Autistic Adulthood"

About the Project

"Beyond the Cliff: Navigating Autistic Adulthood", a feature-length documentary, follows the stories of adults on the autism spectrum and explores the various challenges each face during their transitions into adulthood.

The CDC currently estimates that 1 in 36 children born in the United States are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a number which continues to increase without even accounting for those who are mis-diagnosed, diagnosed in adulthood or those who have trouble accessing a diagnosis altogether.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that obligates elementary and secondary schools to offer services for children with disabilities. Though transition services are also required, the law stipulates that, although “educational services must be provided to students with disabilities who are in school until the age of 21… states can choose to limit or extend eligibility for kids who are 18 or older.” Many parents of children on the autism spectrum equate the drop in aid to “falling off the services cliff.”

Autism isn’t something one ages out of, so what does the future hold for this ever growing, often-underestimated population? "Beyond the Cliff: Navigating Autistic Adulthood" will explore the experiences, both struggles and successes, of diverse autistic adults throughout the U.S. as they traverse the intimidatingly complex healthcare system, find inclusive post-secondary education opportunities, secure meaningful employment, access accommodative housing, etc., all in a society that frequently neglects their neurological differences and needs. To accompany the footage that we, the filmmakers, capture, we will be giving our autistic participants cameras to catalog their journeys in their own words and glean personal insights into their perspectives about life.

Who and what determines success for these autistic people? How can we encourage and embolden individuals on the spectrum to thrive, and create opportunities and inclusive environments that enable them to hone their unique talents and insights? By exploring these questions, we can begin to discover ways to further inspire and support the incoming generations. We see this documentary as a catalyst that, with the involvement of a fully autistic advisory board, will spark a robust impact campaign attempting to bring together communities of stakeholders, engage people of all backgrounds in important conversations, create better access to services along with other initiatives that help foster true acceptance and inclusion.

The themes of "Beyond the Cliff: Navigating Autistic Adulthood" are universal, as every parent’s dream is to cultivate their child, instill in them proper values and lessons so that they live fulfilling lives.