A free screening of the documentary “Swim Team” is being offered from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Creston Community High School auditorium.
“Swim Team” is a documentary film that chronicles the extraordinary rise of the Jersey Hammerheads swim team, a competitive swim team started by the parents of a boy on the autism spectrum, which recruits diverse teens with autism.
The free screening is sponsored by Autism Society of Iowa and The Learning Center of Southwest Iowa (TLC).
“It poses a lot of good questions. One of the questions it raises is about the wisdom of leaving parents or families to shoulder the entire responsibility of giving teens or young adults with developmental disabilities a life that feels winning and purposeful,” said TLC Executive Director Kathy Ralston. “Through watching this film, it suggests we all stand to benefit when schools and communities work together with individual families to share in that process.”
Ralston wanted to bring the film to Creston after seeing in a newsletter there was a screening of it in Iowa City.
Autism Society of Iowa and TLC have worked together with the school to provide a screening for students from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. The screening for students has a targeted audience of students who have disabilities and students in leadership positions. But, Ralston said no student who desires to see the film will be turned away.
Similar to the Wednesday evening community screening, Ralston hopes the screening for students opens up a dialogue.
“It will be an opportunity for our students to sit side by side and learn a little more about what some of those students experience in their home life,” Ralston said.
The main goal of the screenings is to open up a dialogue among the school and community about how to better include individuals with developmental disabilities and learning differences.
“Our intention is to view portions of the film and then pose community-based questions on how can we as a community maybe support existing agencies better, utilize existing agencies better and perhaps develop new resources in addition to that for our young adults and adults who live among us with disabilities of any kind,” Ralston said.
While the film features four individuals who have autism spectrum disorder, Ralston said discussions will be much broader in terms of any disability and how the community can become more inclusive and accepting.
Ralston has extended invites to the various agencies in town that are directly involved with individuals with disabilities, as well as the ministerial alliance, special educators and various area businesses.
“Part of my hope is that bringing these parties together in one room in a very informal, friendly setting can start to build better relationships and build awareness of what’s here,” Ralston said. “There will be a lot of questions that aren’t answered that night, but this will generate dialogue. This could springboard into many different directions for many different opportunities.”
As the mother of a child with special needs, Ralston said the film was an honest look into the lives of individuals with special needs.
“We are starting to navigate those steps of transitioning into adulthood and the many, many questions that are out there that many people face,” she said. “It’s a very difficult road to travel. I loved that this film shows that very honestly. I do feel like there’s a need for more questions to be asked in this community and for more parties to be brought together.”
The community screening from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the CCHS auditorium is open to anyone, and to those from surrounding communities.
“I hope everyone will feel welcome. I really am hopeful for a tone of acceptance and friendship and an open dialogue on what we could do better,” Ralston said. “The potential for Creston is amazing. The size of the community is almost ideal for allowing people who have differences to be in a very community-based setting.”