“I am a mom on a mission to raise awarenes providing resources and hope. I was in denial for many years, and prayed for a miracle. The miracle that took place was the transformation of my own heart. I finally realized my son didn’t need a cure; he just needed tools for success to function responsibly in society like everyone else. When I finally accepted my son’s diagnosis, doors started opening because I started opening those doors.” -Lori Ciccarelli Stotko, MPS, mother to 29-year-old JJ.
Over the past few decades, Lori has been approached to share her experiences and resources with other families and professionals. As a result, she created the movie, JJ’s Journey , A Journey about Autism to share her resources collectively. “Why reinvent the wheel? If these therapies and tools worked for us, maybe they can help others.” JJ had been on medications for 10 years; and now medication-free since 2006. 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 68 is being diagnosed with autism. Lori understands the importance of autism awareness and wants to help make a difference. (Here’s a sneak peek into a book Lori and JJ are pubishing in 2018 on self advocacy – Myself My Responsibility Book)
Through this riveting documentary film, experience the challenges and triumphs of JJ. “Since intolerance has been the hardest part of our journey, we want to help educate society on unconscious bias.” School districts around the country are using JJ’s Journey to address issues on intolerance 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 showcased around the world as the Official Selection for many international film festivals. Lori and JJ have been featured on NBC and touted by Oprah as “Ambassadors of Hope” on Oprah’s Angel Network.
JJ graduated Point Loma Nazarene University 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design – concentration in Illustration and a minor in Writing. He has had several articles published worldwide as a movie and game reviewer. He hopes to write and illustrate graphic novels some day. Look for his upcoming coloring book on dinosaurs scheduled for release in 2019.
Lori served an appointed seat on the California State Council of Developmental Disabilities Board of Directors from 2011 – 2015. She earned a Master’s degree in Leadership with a concentration in Developing Human Capacity in Organizations graduated summa cum laude from the University of Denver; and certification in Spiritual Direction, Leadership and Formation from the Leadership Institute in Orange, CA. Lori is also the founder and CEO of Transforming Lives Advocacy.
JJ’s Graduation Speech (this clip is not in the documentary as the film was released before JJ graduated from high school)
If you would like to view the trailer of JJ’s Journey, click here.