Rock Rapids family spreads Autism Awareness in nation wide film - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Rock Rapids family spreads Autism Awareness in film, "The United States of Autism"

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Landmarks all over the world were lit blue Tuesday night to bring awareness to a disorder that studies say impacts as many as 1 and 50 children. 

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects a person's social interaction, behavior and communication skills. Here is Sioux Falls, the city's crown jewel was bathed in azure as well. 

Sioux Falls residents came out to light the Falls blue in honor of the many families living and dealing with autism in the community.  One local family is helping to spread awareness about the disease by sharing their story on the big screen.

"Sam has regressive autism, which means he was on track and then he lost his abilities; when he was diagnosed, he was not speaking at all," said Sam's mother, Lin Wessels. 

With the help of speech therapy and other autism-specific services, Sam Wessels is now a functioning fifth grader. 

"Now you would never know we worried he would never speak again," said Lin. 

"Its going to be a very good experience, seeing myself on the big screen…hey mom, that kid kind of looks like me," laughed 11-year-old Sam. 

The Wessels of Rock Rapids, Iowa, are one of 21 families across the country sharing their story in the film, "The United States of Autism."   

"She thought we had something unique to share because of our political activism in Iowa," said Lin. 

Sam and his parents met nearly every presidential candidate during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, even catching the ear of President Obama. 

"I just said he should help the fight against autism basically, stand up for people with autism and help people who are affected by it," said Sam. 

The Wessels have been a strong voice in the local and national government, lobbying for more services to help children with autism. 

"Sometimes it can be the difference between progress or no progress….depending on your insurance and depending on when you live it can be very difficult to get the basic needs met such as speech," said Lin.

The same services that helped Sam to learn, grow and participate in the simple joys of Childhood. 

"I play outside, I swing…I like to read," said Sam. 

Sam's debut film, "The United States of Autism" will be playing at the Historic Palace Theatre in Luverne, MN, on Sunday, April 14th at 2:00pm.

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