The life of a man with autism and intellectual disability is explored from the perspective of his sister in a new documentary. Titled “The Limits of My World,” the film (directed by Heather Cassano) guides viewers through the life of Cassano’s brother, Brian, as he transitions from school to the adult developmental disability service system.
The film is especially valuable given that documentaries offering insight into the daily lives and challenges of individuals on the autistic spectrum are in relatively short supply. In the film, Cassano acknowledges Brian’s violent outbursts during her childhood, resulting in at least one instance in which the police were called. Empathizing with her brother, Cassano says she “can’t help but wonder who I would be if I lived a life as isolated as his.”
According to a review of the film published by Spectrum News this month, the film focuses largely on Brian’s caretakers as they attempt to evaluate his needs, including whether he can, or should, be employed. This is rendered more challenging due to the fact that Brian himself is non-verbal. In the words of Randyn Woods, Brian’s daytime staffer, “It’s about learning who this guy is.”
In her review, Sara Luterman expressed concerns that the film might be encroaching on Brian’s privacy, with confidential details, such as his prescription information, shown without being blurred out. This concern is compounded due to the fact that at several points in the film, Cassano questions how much Brian is actually able to understand.
“It’s true that autistic people with high support needs are rarely afforded privacy, but it wasn’t clear that violating Brian’s privacy was necessary or appropriate to convey that point, or that making the point was even the intention,” Luterman writes.
Despite these reservations, Luterman appreciated the documentary’s sympathetic and
humanizing portrayal of Brian, depicting him neither as a burden nor an inspirational savant.
“Overall I found the film to be a sensitive portrayal of Brian and other adults with high support needs,” Luterman concluded. “Brian does not possess any secret magical skills, nor is he a plague inflicted on the Cassano family. Brian is a person. It’s a revolutionary form of family narrative, and I hope to see more like it.”