"The word 'autism' still conveys a fixed and dreadful meaning to most people - they visualize a child mute, rocking screaming, inaccessible, cut off from human contact. And we almost always speak of autistic children, never of autistic adults, as if such children never grew up or were somehow mysteriously spirited off the planet, out of society."
A coming of age story focused on Terrence (aka T-Man), a 26-year-old Black man with high functioning autism who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Curious and earnest, but living with the realities of existing on the spectrum, he has lived with his mother his whole life. He now feels ready to take the big step towards an independent life, including holding down a job and renting his own apartment, despite the many obstacles the world presents for autistic adults. When he is chosen by AvidXchange, a financial technology firm, to be part of a pilot program hiring people on the autism spectrum, the new income gives him the footing needed to seek independence.
However, Terrence finds himself encountering unexpected challenges as he enters the next chapter of his life. The relationship with his parents becomes strained after a series of events, his job security through the pilot program remains in question, and he even finds himself in personal danger. Throughout everything that happens over a year and a half, Terrence maintains a laser focus on his ultimate goal.
Though he is initially guarded about his condition for fear of ridicule from the outside world, we also witness Terrence gradually coming to terms with his autism as he shares personal insights in this remarkably intimate document presenting a truly unique, compelling, and necessary coming-of-age story. The film gives an honest, intimate, and unflinching look at what it is like to have a cognitive difference today in America. In sharing his story with the world, Terrence seeks not sympathy, but dignity.
FILMMAKER'S STATEMENT: "An intimate and raw look at what it's like for someone with a high functioning cognitive difference to try to make it today in the United States, to do many of the things that most cognitively typical people take for granted. The film is meant to challenge the viewer's perception of what those challenges may look like and to think long and hard about what we can do collectively to help people like Terrence find their place in the world.
And that's not just empty, feel-good talk. Studies indicate that approximately 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with autism. That means over the next decade 50,000 kids with autism will enter adulthood each year. Yet at this moment some 85% of young adults with autism are underemployed or unemployed in the United States, a rate far higher than nearly any other disability group. Nearly half of 25-year-olds with autism have never held a job. Entire generations of people with autism stand to be left behind if things don't change.
Yet despite the importance of this topic, there are few representations of young adults on the spectrum in our culture. If people do have an image in their mind of autism, it's likely a tired trope shaped by movies such as Rain Man, which do little to convey the true complexity of people with autism.
Adventures of T-Man is here to show viewers that they have not been spirited off the planet but are here and that their voices need to be heard."
—Nick Deel and Huiying Wang