Exceptional Minds School Helps Kids with Autism Find Their Niche

Maane Khatchatourian:

For the majority of young adults diagnosed with autism, finding a skilled job — especially one in the entertainment biz — is a pipe dream. But thanks to Exceptional Minds digital arts vocational school, it doesn’t have to be.
With the school’s help, four autistic students in their early 20s were hired to work on post-production visual effects for “American Hustle.” Arielle Guthrie, Lloyd Hackl, Patrick Brady and Eli Katz, who are in the program’s third and final year, provided rotoscoping services — the laborious process of outlining elements in key frames for digital manipulation — from EM’s Sherman Oaks, Calif., studio.
One of the program’s instructors, Josh Dagg, closely supervised the project, which the students worked on for five weeks on top of their full course loads. Dagg said most people with Autism Spectrum Disorders — when they feel mentally engaged — can focus with laser precision on a task for hours on end. Students in the program represent a wide range of individuals afflicted with a varying severity of symptoms. The students who worked on “American Hustle” had milder forms of autism.
“I want them to look forward to a career of personal and professional success rather than a lifetime of people telling them that ‘because you hit this particular number in this genetic lottery, you are now a glorified houseplant,’ ” Dagg said. “That’s a very real fear for a lot of people (with autism).”