Mandy’s Voice: A Film About Nonverbal Autism and Finding the Right Tools to Communicate

A few months ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and ran across a post in an autism group that caught my eye. The post was a casting call for for Hear Me, later retitled Mandy’s Voice, a short film about nonverbal autism. 

In this touching film, based on true life events, a nonverbal autistic teen finds her voice through the use of Facilitated Communication.

As the mother of a son on the spectrum, who at one point regressed verbally, I instantly connected to the film’s storyline. I remember my emotions sweeping over me when he finally began to communicate via sign language. The opportunity to be a part of this inspirational story that I so related to compelled me to send my information to the casting agent.

Although I had previously limited experience in the world of film as a middle school television production teacher and acting exposure in theater as a college student, the professional world of film was foreign to me. I didn’t really expect anything to come of it.

However, much to my surprise, a few months later, over Zoom, I met with the director, Roxanne Lewis of Roxxiedanz Productions. The enthusiasm in her voice about this project was infectious! Roxanne impressed upon me how important it was to the production team and crew for this film to be authentic to the community to which it represented. As a parent of a son in the autism community, that resonated with me.

After our call, a few months went by and I almost forgot about it. Then one day, during the middle of my husband and my midday workout, I received a call from a number I didn’t recognize. Typically I’d not answer, but that day I did.

“Hey, Amy, you may not remember me. It’s been so long. But this is Roxanne Lewis. We spoke a few months back about the film Mandy’s Voice.

Of course, I remembered her! Roxanne shared that the supporting roles I’d initially expressed interest in for a mother and her autistic son were still available and asked if I’d be interested. I accepted for Barclay and I both! 

It’s only been a short time since accepting that role. Still, rehearsals, research, and conversations in this space have led me to feel a deeper connection to the vulnerability and beauty of the human spirit, both inside and outside the autism community.

To this cast, the crew, the real individuals who were the inspirations for the film, their families, and therapists – I am in awe and forever changed. 

The two leads, the incredibly talented and beautiful Karen Sillas, and the amazing autism self-advocate and stunning Rachel Barcellona are sure to deliver performances that authentically capture both the frustration and connection between an overwhelmed and dedicated mother and her nonverbal, intelligent daughter. 

Rounding out the trio is their trusted faciliatator, played by Crystal Thompson. Crystal, founder of Believe Autism in Jacksonville, Florida, has worked with individuals with autism since 2005. She brings her real-life passion for helping children with autism and their families thrive to Mandy’s Voice in a way that, again, elevates the authenticity of this story.

During each virtual rehearsal, Roxanne, who serves alongside Josh Hansbrough of Birdman Filmworks and Sharon Y. Cobb as Executive Producers, as well as the the entire production team, educates, inspires, and delivers. Because of them, the final product is sure to bring to the screen an emotional journey that leaves the viewer both wounded and uplifted long after the credits have rolled.

The initial magic of filming happens this week. And while the post-production magic will take some time, follow Mandy’s Voice Film on all social media to both support and follow this fantastic film to its finale.

When I tried to explain to Barclay he would be in a movie this weekend, I said, “We are going to pretend, like when I am Godzilla, and you are King Kong.” So, sorry in advance, Roxanne, if Barclay bangs his chest and roars when you say “Action!”

In all honesty, I trust Roxanne and the entire teamI know it’s going to be raw and real and beautiful. And as a mother of a child on the spectrum, that’s how it should be. (Click here for a full list of the Production Team and Crew). 

Humanity should be our race. Love should be our religion.

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Amy Nielsen lives in Orlando, Florida. She is the proud mother of four children ranging in age from 5-33! She and her husband, Brent enjoy sports and traveling. Amy is a former teacher with nearly 20 years of experience, a freelance writer, and a special needs advocate. Her mission is to help educate and empower families of children with disabilities to focus on their child's interests and strengths.