Tag Archives: Dr. Andrew Starzomski

Now Playing: ‘Mind Over Matter,’ our music video about Asperger’s Syndrome

On Friday night our parents’ group celebrated a special milestone – the premiere of a new song and music video created to shine a light on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and tell a slice of our story as parents and families.

The project began as part of the new Atlantic Minds Wide Open film festival, an incredible undertaking that brought together filmmakers, mental health professionals and the community to explore the role that film and filmmakers can play in wellbeing.

Although ASD is not a mental illness, it’s common for kids and adults on the spectrum to experience mental health challenges due to their difficulties with social interaction and communication. The festival was a ready-made opportunity to spread the word – too good for us to pass up.

The video was a big step for our group and the families involved. It’s one thing to share our hopes, dreams, and challenges in our meetings; it’s quite another to stand up in front of our community and do the same.

But this project was clearly meant to be. Every step of the way, doors opened, connections were made, and things just got done.

The first ‘good sign’ was meeting Amy Spurway during a brainstorm session organized by the film festival. Then the idea of doing a music video just ‘came to her’ as she was heading out for our follow-up meeting over coffee. That night, the song ‘Mind Over Matter’ came to her too, as whole and perfect as an egg. I’ve included the lyrics below. I told Amy last night that I often find myself humming the song, sometimes during tough moments, and I find it very comforting. What a gift she has given us.

Then came the good graces of Kimberlee McTaggart – a Gemini-award winning editor and long-time fixture in Nova Scotia’s filmmaking community – and a woman I am fortunate to count among my closest friends. Even though she was in the middle of editing the third season of Call Me Fitz, Kim gave her very precious weekends to editing ‘Mind Over Matter.’ She also called in some favours from two very talented filmmakers: John Hillis and Caley MacLennan, who made our kids feel like movie stars with their attention, praise, and patience.

I also have to single out Dr. Andrew Starzomski, a psychologist at the East Coast Forensic Hospital, who organized the festival. Andrew supported our project from the very beginning, and gave more of his time to arrange, play, and record Amy’s song. One of my favourite shots in the video comes toward the end when Andrew is recording our kids singing; he looks up at the camera with a stunning smile, full of joy. His passion for helping others find their own joy is part of what made this whole process so meaningful.

On Friday night every parent marvelled at the beauty of the video, which captured the essence of our kids with warmth, humour and dignity. We also talked about our kids, who struggle with transitions, waiting, and following instructions, yet who were absolutely in their element on shooting day.

The project brought so many benefits the video itself is almost gravy! Making the signs for the video with our families was a great process. And getting together as a group is always good – I never fail to feel simultaneously lighter and more grounded after our gatherings.

But it was connecting with Andrew, Amy, Kim, John, and Caley, and all the folks who saw our video on Friday that made this matter to me. It’s all about telling our story and making the circle bigger for our kids. Stay tuned: a sequel is sure to follow!

Mind Over Matter by Amy Spurway

Imagine waking up each day with a feeling
no matter what you say or do you don’t belong
The bright light burns,
you can’t take turns,
they don’t get the way you learn
What you though would make you special, makes you wrong.

So it’s mind
Over matter
That’s what it takes for you
to face the world each day
It’s all mind
over matter
Why can’t they see your difference
in a better way.

Imagine waking up each day with a mission
to help your baby find some ground upon this earth
but folks don’t bend
don’t understand
they try to make them just pretend
Not seeing who they are, or what they’re worth.

So it’s mind
Over matter
That’s what it takes for you
to fight that fight each day
It’s all mind
over matter
Why can’t they see your strength
in another way

Imagine knowing that you could make a difference
you could help somebody spread their wings and fly
Give a little grace
and a little space
know a heart’s not lost or out of place
Just because someone can’t look you in the eye.

And it’s mind
Over matter
That’s all it takes for you
to change the world today
It’s just mind
over matter
Why not see our spirits
in a whole new way.

We can see our beauty in a whole new way.
We can change the world.
We can start today.

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Filed under Celebrating Difference, Family, Films & docs

Atlantic Minds Wide Open: Friday Nov 25 @ Alderney Landing

Last weekend some members of our parent’s group got together at Alderney Landing to shoot a music video – yes you read that right. We’re participating in Atlantic Minds Wide Open , an exciting film festival focused on mental health and building vibrant communities.

The one-day festival is open to everyone and features screenings, panel discussions, and a showing of Crooked Beauty, a documentary that chronicles artist-activist Jacks McNamara’s transformative journey from childhood abuse to psych ward inpatient to pioneering mental health advocacy

You may have read about the festival’s organizer, Dr. Andrew Starzomski, in an article in the Herald last week. This is a man after my own heart, who is using his own love of music and film to help folks tell and share their own stories.  

There’s a great quote on the film fest’s Facebook page that feels like such a good fit for ASD kids:

“I attribute my sudden boost in scholastic achievement to the fact that I had finally become comfortable with myself through my movies and cartoons… I had a better self-image and my grades went up.” – Robert Rodrigues, American filmmaker, “Rebel Without a Crew”

Cartoons are a huge hit in our house and I’ve heard of several ASD kids whose self-confidence has been unlocked by theatre and film. Last week’s ‘film shoot’ was a perfect example: kids who normally shy away from the spotlight were there, eager to stand up and share a slice of their own story. They, and their parents, had created bold black and white signs with messages about their gifts and challenges and there were many take-your-breath-away moments when they stood side-by-side grinning in front of the camera.

I can’t wait to see our kids’ faces on the big screen and I thank Andrew and everyone who is supporting the fest. Creating the film festival has already widened our Circle of Friends by introducing our group to a great new ASD family, connecting our group with three awesome film industry folks who donated their time on a sunny Sunday, and given us some exciting opportunities to think about in the future. And it’s given us yet another opportunity to marvel at the many talents of our beloved kids.

The festival is just about to launch its website, but you can keep in touch with the latest on Facebook. See you on the 25th!

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Filed under ASD events, Celebrating Difference, Films & docs