After graduating from Western Michigan University with a BFA in dance, Vana Carter Thiero had envisioned a very different life for herself than the one she has now.
Thiero, a filmmaker who caught the bug after moving to L.A. from her native Michigan, has used her skills to document the challenges of rearing two autistic sons.
My Thiero Boys, which has had numerous screenings on the West Coast is a raw and revealing look at what it takes for a single mom like Thiero to care for her boys Carter, 15 and Bakary, 13.
It's not easy.
Both Thiero boys were diagnosed with autism as infants. Carter is a tall, slender young man with exceptional language skills. He wants to go to college and become an animator. Bakary, however, has a few more challenges as you will see in our Keep It Flowing video interview with the family. We also include a short snippet from the film.
We caught up with them at Balboa Park in the San Fernando Valley just after they participated in the Autism Walk in Pasadena, one of the biggest Southern California events during National Autism Month.
If you'd like to read more on the Thieros and autism, check out their website. As for the documentary, it's been submitted to several film festivals and also to PBS.
Here's our video
Vana Thiero live on KCAL9 News - August 2012 A Lifestyle Dealing With Autism - Part 1 of a 5 part series.
Here's our video of the interview
Click on > button to play.
PRESS RELEASE: "My Thiero Boys: A lifestyle dealing with Autism"
PREMIERE SCREENING Saturday, February 25th 2012 at 2pm and 7pm at the CAP Theater 13752 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks, CA
A single Mother with two sons exposes the challenges raising children diagnosed with autism. In the documentary film, "My Thiero Boys: A lifestyle dealing with Autism" (MTB), Dr. Robert W. Sears, MD, FAAP author of "The Autism Book" and "The Vaccine Book" presents insightful information regarding diagnosis, recovery and intervention. Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson, Executive Director for ACT Today! and Parent to a special needs son passionately speaks about the future for the children as they become adults. Attorney, Areva Martin also a special needs Parent is the Co-Founder of the Special Needs Network provides intriguing data and experiences faced in a life dealing with autism.
The 2pm screening of MTB, at the CAP Theater in Sherman Oaks is Hosted by ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today!). And the 7pm screening is Hosted by BAD West (the Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers West). There will be Q&A following each screening.
Many films have addressed aspects of autism yet MTB the first of a 5 Part Series, helps viewers understand about the autism culture, the families, educators, advocates, medical professionals and therapists who work to create a quality of life for people who encompass a vast spectrum of developmental delays.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) states that 1 in 110 children born in America are diagnosed with autism. Many industry experts suspect the numbers are much higher. "My Thiero Boys" encourages viewers to prepare to learn how to include these special needs individuals into society both socially and professionally.
Vana Thiero is the Writer/Producer of the documentary. She's been shooting for over 3 years. While working as a Sr. Editor for CNN, Thiero won an EMMY for their 9/11 news coverage. For more information visit: MyThieroBoys.com.
PRESS RELEASE: My Thiero Boys: A lifestyle dealing with Autism SUCCESSFUL PREMIERE SCREENING
Last Saturday, February 25th 2012 at 2pm and 7pm at the CAP Theater in Sherman Oaks
After shooting for over 3 years Writer/Producer and single Mother, Vana Thiero, received industry support and a congratulatory reception at the Premiere Screening of her documentary film “My Thiero Boys: A lifestyle dealing with Autism” (MTB). Many found the piece raw and candid as it exposed the true challenges families face raising children diagnosed with autism.
“Oh my God it was so good! It was so moving! It was so emotional!” Was the response from E! News Line Producer, Jackie Burke.
“I love this film. I think it could play on HBO … Because it is so powerful” commented Writer/Director, Dwayne Johnson-Cochran who’s also Producing Partner for Bassett/Vance Productions.
There were two packed screenings at the CAP Theater in Sherman Oaks, Saturday. The Red Carpet Events allowed everyone the chance to be photographed with the Thiero boys: Carter age 15 and Bakary age 13. The 2pm screening Q&A following the film was moderated by Special Needs Mom, Shannon Penrod and Talk Show Host from CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disorders). Writer/Producer Denise Hamilton of The Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers West (BAD West) moderated the 7pm Q&A.
The film had funny memorable moments such as Carter reading his comic strip “Hater Joe.” Bakary’s tragic experience in the swimming pool was particularly gripping. Award Winning Documentarian, Rhonda Haynes, like others was brought to tears. She spoke during the Q&A, to the Filmmaker stating “I’m so happy you told a real story and didn’t create a fluff documentary.” Seeing the daily affects of autism – good, bad, painful as well as entertaining was what everyone seemed to enjoy most about “My Thiero Boys.”
All of Carter’s Teachers from The Help Group attended the screening along with Vice Principal Andi Ambartsumyan. LAUSD Autism Specialist, Debbie Moss who is featured in the film, was there. Ms. Thiero’s current bosses from FOX were also on hand to lend support: VP of Post Production & Production, Dana Massey with husband Todd and Director of Post Production, Theresa Jackson with her son Tyler who’s diagnosed with Aspergers. Tyler said he related to several issues portrayed in the documentary.
Also in attendance were, Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson, Executive Director for ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today!) and Attorney, Areva Martin, Co-Founder of the Special Needs Network and Author of “The Everyday Advocate.” Both are featured in the documentary and are parents to Special Needs sons Wyatt and Marty, respectively. Mrs. Martin was accompanied by her son and two daughters, Michael and Morgan.
“The 2-25-12 screening, held at The CAP Theater in Sherman Oaks, was for friends & family to provide feedback in order to re-cut the film.”
REVIEW OF PREMIERE SCREENING of “My Thiero Boys: A lifestyle dealing with Autism” WRITTEN BY JOANNA MASTOPIETRO
As a non-parent with very little exposure to the epidemic known as “autism,” viewing Vana Thiero’s documentary “My Thiero Boys” was a heart-wrenching eye-opener.
I know several single mothers with autistic teenagers and have witnessed the uncontrolled and inexplicable behavior of “non-verbal autism,” the type which is at the extreme end of the autism “spectrum”. I always wondered what it must take to live with and raise children with this developmental disorder. Now I know!
Thiero’s film opens with a chaotic scene of a school day morning, getting her two boys out the door to catch their mini school bus. The younger son, Bakary, is “non-verbal” and given to temperamental outbursts while his older brother, Carter, is “high functioning” and demonstrates creativity as a cartoonist, not to mention great insight expressed with clever humor. I was struck by this mother’s ability to adapt to the many demands of a “special” household and still retain a sense of humor, confessing her indulging their love of junk food, commenting “So shoot me,” which made more poignant the glimpse of emotional breakdown in which she shares the burden on her heart.
Thiero approached her subject not only from the up-close and personal viewpoint, which would have been daunting enough, but went far beyond the drama of her one bedroom apartment where she keeps some semblance of order, ruling her roost with determination and the endurance of an Olympic athlete. She touched on the impact to neighbors, the response of strangers in public, the emotional challenge to a husband who couldn’t cope, the insight from academia, the authority of Dr. Robert W. Sears (author of two books on the subject of autism) and a host of others who are involved in the culture of autism. She showed us the government’s indifference toward funding and intervention yet revealed a growing awareness and community involvement.
Just when I thought how broad her perspective was, she exposed the global aspect of this aggressive pandemic, focusing on Africa and Korea. Woven throughout the film were powerful biblical scriptures, documenting her faith and its central role in her deeply challenged life.
I am excited to know that “My Thiero Boys” is the beginning of Thiero’s film series on this extremely important subject, because eventually each of us will come in contact with someone who needs our understanding, support, and most of all, compassion for these children and adults who are a major part of our society and who, as we now know, must be a self-sufficient part, for the benefit of all.