Understanding Autism – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Understanding Autism

Hobart and William Smith Colleges will welcome inclusivity advocate and writer DJ Savarese to campus for a screening of his new documentary Deej, which details Savarese’s experiences as a non-speaking young man with autism. Hosted by the Department of Education, the screening on Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Vandervort Room is open to the public.

Savarese, who uses text-to-speech software to communicate, is traveling across the country ahead of the documentary’s world premiere on PBS in October. “I won the lottery when my parents adopted me from foster care; I won it again when they included me in regular education. Now, I seek to help kids much less fortunate than I by showing people what a non-speaking student with autism can do,” says Savarese, who graduated from Oberlin College in May.

The documentary stands out among its peers as one of the only films to shed light on the experiences of a non-speaking individual with autism. Filmed over six years, the documentary details the challenges Savarese faced while navigating high school, college applications and family life. Savarese’s journey brought him to Geneva once before when he visited Hobart and William Smith during his college search, and his tour is briefly depicted in the film’s trailer (the golf cart scene near the one-minute mark).

“In Deej, the camera intrudes on every aspect of my life. If seeing truly is believing, then perhaps eyes can be opened to the full potential of kids with significant disabilities,” says Savarese.

Savarese is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a published writer whose work has appeared in Seneca ReviewThe Iowa Review and Voices for Diversity and Social Justice, among others. He consults and presents at conferences across the country, advocating for literacy-based education, communication and inclusivity for the non-speaking community.

For more information, please contact Associate Professor of Education Mary Kelly at kelly@hws.edu or 315-781-3084.