Merlijn Goldsack is an example for many people with autism. Because of his autism, he stopped going to school at a very young age. Stuck at home as a teenager, without any qualifications, he became depressed because of his situation, but then found his talent for making films. Merlijn decided to investigate the educational situation of young people with ASD in America and Finland and in this way to start his "Journey for Education". In this documentary, Merlijn explores autism and education with a special focus on the problems of children who can’t attend school, comparing his own situation in the Netherlands with that of children in other countries.
Ben and Paul met Merlijn three years ago (Ben Willems is the producer of the film and Paul Veld the coaching director, both from OQTOO Immersive Media). They had a meeting with Merlijn and Dr. Jeanet Landsman of UMCG/TGO, project leader of ‘De Sensatie van een Goed Leven’ (The Sensation of a Good Life), a large national network survey into stimulus processing for people with autism and intellectual disabilities (ID). Ben and Paul are associated with this survey as media and communication specialists and, together with the network members of this project, recently set up the platform Sensonate.
Ben Willems: “At this meeting, we started talking to Merlijn and his mother, Saskia Buma, who is also an expert in the field of autism. We saw a committed and talented boy who had taught himself to make videos for his YouTube channel. In his vlogs, he talks about his struggle with his environment and shows how he is overly sensitive to stimuli. In the videos, Merlijn examines the concept of overstimulation, what causes it, and what he can do about it.”
From a professional point of view, Ben and Paul quickly spotted Merlijn’s talent, as well as some suggestions for improvement. Because of Merlijn's enthusiasm and eagerness to learn, they came up with the idea of inviting Merlijn as "The Raging Reporter" to make videos for the video magazine of ‘De Sensatie van een Goed Leven’.
After seeing the first videos, Ben and Paul felt that they deserved more impact than what would be possible through the short individual vlogs on YouTube. It is shocking that so many young people with autism experience discomfort on a daily basis and cannot develop optimally within our current educational system, and more people should hear about this.
Ben and Paul talked a lot about this with Merlijn and Saskia and offered to support Merlijn with both production and direction, and to help him in making a 45-minute documentary out of all the film material already made.
Paul Veld: “We then started supporting and coaching Merlijn and Saskia in the creative process. Our commitment was to capture the essence of Merlin's ideas, shape them and make his story as tangible as possible. We supplemented Merlijn’s existing vlogs with extra recordings, which were edited by Ulrike Mischke. Merlijn developed the graphic design and created the titles and animations.”
Now, three years later and with financial support from the Brunel Foundation, an English-language documentary has been jointly produced in which Merlijn shows his "Journey for Education" to a large audience in an authentic way. The special documentary shows us that targeted and good education for young people with autism is indeed possible if a better system is in place and proper guidance is given.
Ben Willems: “The film is an incentive for all young people with autism and especially for those who are forced to stay at home. Hopefully it will inspire many others.”
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