Lori Ciccarelli, mother to 24-year-old JJ, believes she is a missionary for autism and feels it is her responsibility to support other families. “I am a mom on a mission to provide resources and hope to those in need. I finally realized my son didn’t need a cure, he just needed tools for success and to function responsibly in society. I was in denial for many years. Once I accepted my son’s diagnosis, doors started opening because I started opening those doors.” Lori shares successful tools and resources in her film, JJ’s Journey, a Journey about Autism. “Why reinvent the wheel? If these therapies and tools worked for us, maybe they can help others.” Lori had no film experience, but was determined. It took her three years to complete this project and released her film in 2008. The CDC reports that 1 in 88 is being diagnosed with autism. “I am concerned that our country is not prepared for our kids entering adulthood.” Lori understands the importance of autism awareness and wants to make a difference.
Through this riveting documentary film, experience the struggles, challenges, and triumphs of JJ focusing on autism awareness, education, tolerance, gifts and talents, the spiritual journey, and an awakening through treatments. Because autism is a locked-in disorder, watch how JJ’s brain is unlocked. He was on medications for 10 years; JJ has been medication-free since 2006. “Since intolerance has been the hardest part of our journey, I want to help educate society.” School districts around the country are using JJ’s Journey to address issues on tolerance in addition to universities using the film as part of the autism curriculum for special education credentialing programs.
JJ’s Journey was nominated for the 2009 Autism Society of America Media Excellence Award and being showcased around the world as the Official Selection for various international film festivals. Lori and JJ have been touted by Oprah as “Ambassadors of Hope” featured on Oprah.com and Oprah’s Angel Network in addition to being featured on NBC.
JJ graduated Point Loma Nazarene University 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design – concentration in Illustration and a minor in Writing. He hopes to write and illustrate graphic novels.
Lori holds an appointed seat on the California State Council of Developmental Disabilities Board of Directors. She is earning a Master’s degree in Leadership; and is certified in Spiritual Direction, Leadership and Formation. Lori is a regular featured writer for Special-ism.com.
If you would like to view the trailer of JJ’s Journey, click here.
JJ’s Graduation Speech (this clip is not in the documentary as the film was released before JJ graduated from high school)
“I admire their courage, strength, spirit, spirituality, wisdom, humor and endurance.”
“The documentary speaks to so many things besides Autism. All the things about acceptance, integration, understanding, also apply to every relationship and interpersonal interaction, and how we should deal with people in general. I thought it was exceptional Lori!” – Dr. Randy Gerber
“I have read hundreds of autism-related books, gone to countless conferences and seen dozens of DVDs. Yet, nothing has had such an impact on me as JJ’s Journey – A Journey About Autism… Compassion, determination and hope exude from this remarkable documentary about the journey of one, autistic, young man. You quickly realize that this is far more than just a mother’s devotion. It’s a valuable resource to be used by educators, doctors and therapists so that they can understand who our children are and why they do what they do. It is one of only a few media tools on the market that chronicles the life of someone living with autism from toddler to adolescence…with feedback and analysis from those who are pivotal in helping with development. And, in many ways, it supersedes an “autistic” learning tool, because it can be used as a lesson in tolerance and respect.”
“Everyone should watch this documentary to learn more about autism. Lori Ciccarelli, mother of JJ, single- handedly filmed, edited, and created this DVD to help other parents of children with autism in seeking answers to treatment and acceptance of their children. Behind every child’s success is the parent who goes to the ends of the earth and back to ensure the success of their child and Lori is no exception. What I find particularly intriguing are obstacles JJ experienced, not with the autism per se, but with the way he was treated by teachers and peers. I am pleased to know that JJ has overcome the challenges and is a successful young college graduate despite the people who nearly broke him on his journey. Thank you to Lori for this wonderful piece that will encourage, inspire, and educate others on their journey of learning more about autism/Asperger’s, as well as learning more about tolerance, or better yet, acceptance, and compassion for one another.” Dee DiGioia, www.CaringandCourageousKids.com
“The day I watched JJ’s Journey was a pivotal point of hope for me. Watching Lori Ciccarelli, share concrete tips for helping her son, JJ, overcome many obstacles, gave me a sort of action plan to try with my own child. Neurofeedback has become a part of our lives because of her compelling testimony, as well as social role playing, tips for inclusion, and getting the most for my child at his IEPs.” S. Saturn, mother of a child with special needs