Frank Nappi has taught high school English and Creative Writing for over twenty years. His debut novel, “Echoes From The Infantry,” received national attention, including MWSA’s silver medal for outstanding fiction for 2006. His follow-up novel, “The Legend of Mickey Tussler,” garnered rave reviews as well, including a screenplay adaptation of the touching story which aired nationwide in September and is being released on DVD January 10th. Frank lives on Long Island with his wife Julia and their two sons, Nicholas and Anthony and continues to support groups such as Autism Speaks, Best Buddies, and Challenger Baseball.
I am pleased to announce that January 10th marks the official release of the DVD “A Mile in His Shoes,” starring Dean Cain. “A Mile in His Shoes” is the heartwarming film adaptation of my novel “The Legend of Mickey Tussler.” The story, which is being re-released by Skyhorse Publishing in April to coincide with Autism Awareness Month, chronicles the struggle for acceptance and ultimate redemption of a seventeen year old baseball player with Aspergers. The story is being celebrated as one that goes where no baseball novel has ever gone before. Sure, there is plenty of good old fashioned hardball, lots of baseball jargon and feel good descriptions that every baseball fan can appreciate. But this story is one that has never been told before. Set in the minor leagues in the late 1940s, this remarkable tale tells the story of a pitching phenom who must deal with a different set of circumstances, heretofore unexamined in books such as this. In short, young Tussler despite notable baseball prowess, suffers from what we now identify as autism. The book follows the fortunes of the team and their new teammate Mickey, who continues to have a fair amount of trouble adjusting to his new situation while away from the routine and comforts of life back home. It is at these moments that the reader gets a real glimpse into the world as seen through the eyes of an autistic person. It is not the safe, predictable place that most of us enjoy. Rather, it is a frightening, oftentimes emotionally debilitating prison of sorts, replete with all kinds of treacherous pitfalls that the boy is unable to navigate. The book has been called an excellent reminder that we all need to be mindful of special needs individuals when they cross our path. Perhaps New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez said it best when he proclaimed, “I see all kinds of challenges facing kids today, and this book does a very good job of treating gifted kids and teenagers with sensitivity and understanding in coping with and meeting these challenges.”
While the film is not completely faithful to the book, the director manages to successfully maintain many of the overarching themes I tried to allow “the game” to serve as the vehicle through which these messages are established; that anything worth accomplishing requires hard work and determination, the power of teamwork, and that challenges can be overcome. For more information about the remarkable story of Mickey Tussler, including endorsements and reviews, please visit www.franknappi.com
April 2011, World Autism Awareness Month, has been one of the most memorable times in my life. The last few weeks I have taken part in some unbelievable ‘Light It Up Blue‘ events, met amazing people, and connected with the worldwide community to commemorate World Autism Awareness Month. April was comprised of so many moving parts that came together seamlessly, due to the hard work of so many.
I have been meaning to write a blog post, but I keep hitting walls.
Sure, I drafted a post of my experiences on April 1 and 2, detailing some of my stops: The Today Show with Alpha Xi Delta; WPIX 11 with the incredible students from Pelham; The New York Stock Exchange with our Co-Founders Mr. and Mrs. Wright, state dignitaries, politicians, celebrities and many more prominent people in the autism community. I could write about the reception hosted by ‘Light It Up Blue Rockland,’ in my hometown, when my brother and his housemates were in attendance. I was so proud. Or, the press conference at the Intrepid, which took place on a beautiful Saturday morning.
Throughout this campaign, I communicated with literally thousands of people all over the world. I feel blessed and privileged to have heard their stories and seen their photos. While I worry that I will never be able to formulate the right words to give World Autism Awareness Month justice it deserves, here are some photos that will speak for me:
I can’t forget to include the panel discussion, ‘Solving the Autism Public Health Puzzle: Regional and International Collaboration,’ held at the United Nations, or ‘A Blue Affair’ hosted by Donald Trump Jr. and his wife, Vanessa.
We should also revisit the push to ‘Light The White House Blue.’ I am in awe of each person who submitted a blog entry. More than 1,000 comments were posted and much of the autism community was unified for a common goal.
On April 25, my dear friend Jess, who so bravely and unselfishly shares her beautiful family with us on A Diary of a Mom, was invited to The White House for an event to commemorate Autism Awareness Month. The morning before she headed over to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Jess told me that she would be taking my brother Jeff with her. My heart was full. I couldn’t think of anyone better to represent him. She gives all of those affected by autism the utmost respect and genuine compassion. I will never be able to thank her enough.
However, alongside all of these spectacular and unique moments, the most memorable for me happened on probably the most mundane of all days.
On April 3, once we all were coming down off the Light It Up Blue ‘high,’ my brother came home from his residential house, and I snapped back to reality. We took a walk, as we have done countless times before. My mom, brother, and I have been taking Sunday walks for years, making it almost an institution. We go to different locations, but often find ourselves on the wooded path at the Pearl River Middle School, as we did that day. We are shielded by the trees and find comfort in the trail’s predictable twists and turns.
Before we begin, Jeff’s anxiety kicks in and he asks for a rundown of dates, “Yes, Jeff, next weekend you can order two DVDs off Amazon, in June 2011 we will go to Montauk for a week, in 2014 we will remodel the kitchen …” and so it goes. Then, we are swallowed by the woods, where Jeffery will usually stroll a few steps behind making his noises. My mom and I will smile and greet friendly strangers; some give us knowing and warm looks, while others sort of stare.
As we round the first bend, which borders a putting green at the local golf course, we remind Jeff to quiet down. As per usual, he gets louder, and we laugh. Next, there is a downturn that Jeff always heads down gingerly. He approaches this dip with the caution he exhibits in some everyday activities. If there are any disruptions along the way (fallen tree, broken bridge, mud puddles, etc.), Jeff always takes note – I am positive he remembers every element of the trail from the first day he stepped foot there, over twenty years ago.
We plod along, stopping from time to time to chat about dates. He’ll hold our hands, then jog ahead, or maybe he’ll stop to give us a hug. My mom and I don’t mind – as a matter of fact, we’d have it no other way.
The last leg has a steep uphill that my mom and I sort of dread. Each time, Jeff manages to surge, making it to the top with a smile. He takes on the hill with gusto and courage. This trail reminds me of the journey my family is on. There are times we are slow and anxious, while other times we coast through and laugh. We have down-slopes and upturns, but Jeff always keeps our pace and establishes a rhythm. It may have taken him a little longer through the years, but he has become our fearless leader. Jeff holds us up with his unconditional love and directs us with his strength.
My brother, like the countless members of our community, is brave.
World Autism Awareness Month 2011 has given me a greater sense of community. Together, we will make the world a safer and more welcoming place for my brother, and all of those with autism spectrum disorders. I have a renewed hope, and will be forever changed.
I would like to send a big thank you to each and every person in the autism community.
PIX11 Morning News kicked off their Autism Awareness Week with Owen Saunders and his classmates from Pelham. They recorded a song for Autism Speaks urging the world to Light It Up Blue for World Autism Awareness Day. The class headed down to the New York City studio to perform!
For more about this segment visit here!
This is a guest post by Erik Linthorst is a 13-year veteran of the film business. An award winning documentary filmmaker and a produced screenwriter. Erik founded Pergé Productions in 2006 to make films aimed at helping families with children with special needs. In his advocacy work, Erik travels worldwide, presenting his film and advancing the issues it raises.
Throughout April, PBS stations around the country will air a documentary film Erik Linthorst made about searching for the right help for his son, Graham, who doctors called “autistic-like” Check your local listings for airtimes, or www.autisticlike.com.
Autistic-Like:Graham’s Story started as a project for me, but I now realize it has become something more like a community. Many people have told us our story sounds so familiar, and that’s really why I made the movie: I felt like it shouldn’t be so hard to find the right help for our children.
Our story began in 2005, a very hard year for our family. Our seventeen-month old son’s quirks were blooming into full-fledged obsessions. We had experts on one side saying he was clearly and possibly severely autistic. We had experts on the other side saying he was most likely not autistic. Still others insisted he was too young to diagnose. We had family and friends on both sides giving us advice that was by turns helpful, misguided and sometimes downright bad. My wife and I were in an emotional tailspin, alternately propping each other up and freaking each other out with our anxious thoughts.
Then we began the slow process of digging out: discarding this expert for that one, this treatment for that, this book for that, this piece of advice for another. And we grew in strength. Once I was back on my feet, and feeling armed with new understanding, I felt the desire to reach out to families just beginning their hard year. I felt like sharing our story might help them dig-out faster. So, being in the film business, I decided to make a documentary about our journey. I brought out my camera, began to chronicle our lives, and recruited journalist Jody Becker to help investigate the issues, elevating an intimate family story into what we aimed to make a thoughtful report from the edge of the autism epidemic.
Then I sent the film, Autistic-Like: Graham’s Story, out into the world and planned to be done. But then the emails started coming in. And they kept coming. Then the trickle became a wash, several a day, coming in from all over the U.S., and then Canada, and then from all over the world. And they all had questions. What did I think about this therapy? that biomedical approach? This doctor? That organization? I took the time to respond to all of them, because the truth is it helped me feel no so alone, too.
I heard from professionals, as well. Many told me they use the film as a new parent orientation tool. They shared that they were teaching workshops, and seminars with it. Schools were holding movie night fundraisers. But they had questions too: How could they see the extended interviews from the film? Did I have an update on Graham’s progress? workshops?
After much consideration, both for Graham’s sake as well as my wife and my own, I decided to say ‘yes’ to all of the above.
So this month our little movie hits a milestone: the PBS broadcasts include an 8-minute update “Where is Graham Now”; we have translated the film into Spanish to reach more families, and now more insights from the experts are available in a 2 DVD Box set that includes a full-color 12 page guidebook for facilitating professional and community conversations. I’ve traveled with the film, met hundreds of parents and professionals, and like the slowly dawning realization that supporting Graham is a project with no end for me, I see the film that way, too. More families, more conversation, more resources. The story continues.
The countdown is on to April 1st! World Autism Awareness Month is in reach and we are so excited to Light It Up Blue! Every day, leading up to the big day we’ll post highlights, a special interview and much more!
Who’s Lighting It Up Blue?
|More than 500 buildings and communities are lighting it up blue! The Cairo Tower in Egypt will be joining the Light It Up Blue campaign! The Cairo Tower is a great city landmark and provides amazing views of the city for all who visit it!
Visit www.lightitupblue.org to get pledge your support and get involved!
|Today’s virtual interview is with Rebecca Y. from Chicago, Ill.
Autism Speaks: What are you Lighting Up Blue?
AS: Why was the ‘Light It Up Blue’ campaign important to you?
AS: How did you get North Park University on board?
Are you lighting up blue too? Take this quick and easy survey to tell us how!
Blue Website Builder of the Day
|Kim Porter is our Blue Website Builder of the Day! Check out her page! She has already surpassed her fundraising goal! Way to go Kim!
You can build a Blue website too! Just visit this link and get started!