Please Stand By (2017) is a film to add to your summer watch list. It not only has appeal if you're a writer, fan of the original Star Trek series, or Dakota Fanning, but it features a woman with autism as the lead. It shows us familiar behavioral therapy methods and how people in the real world might react to a person with autism. Indeed, Please Stand By is a film that not only entertains but shows ABA methods in popular culture.
Wendy (Dakota Fanning) resides in a special needs facility in San Francisco run by Scottie (Toni Collette), a psychiatrist. Their daily routine includes playing a few notes on their respective kazoo to either greet one another or to let Scottie know Wendy's location. Wendy also writes down new information she deems essential in a notebook or repeats information to herself for something more immediate. If there are meltdowns, Scottie uses the calming phrase 'Please Stand By.' This routine further involves Wendy watching episodes of classic Star Trek while crocheting. (Note: Wendy has also made a little blue science uniform for her puppy named Pete). Unfortunately, Wendy's sister and only immediate family, Audrey (Alice Eve), realizes Wendy doesn't care for the facility. Still, with a baby, on the way, Audrey feels comfortable keeping her sister with Scottie.
Wendy is pretty happy with her 500-page Star Trek script, which she has written for a contest. Unfortunately, on the day she explains the timeframe it needs to get to Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles, she gets the news from Audrey that the stay in the facility is a lot longer than expected. So, Wendy decides to sneak out of the facility and make the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles to hand-deliver it herself, using the money saved from a part-time job.
On this trip, Wendy is venturing out into alien land. Some are impatient with her and think she is odd, e.g., the bus driver who gives Wendy funny looks for writing things in her notepad to remember, or the store clerk who tries to trick her for a pack of candy bars. On the other hand, another bus operator takes time to direct Wendy to the right area for her trip to Los Angeles, and there is a helpful older woman who recognizes Wendy's autism. Wendy also has to deal with a sensory overload when she hears the clashing of sounds that include motorcycles and the loud buzzing of a lawn machine going off.
Wendy has a learning experience, and so do Scottie and Audrey. They trust Wendy a bit more while undoubtedly accepting new supervision methods, giving Wendy the opportunity to learn and gain independence. While the film isn't perfect, it has enough charm and entertainment value that had me smiling when I initially watched the movie and revisited it. You might find it charming as well.
Additionally, as someone who mainly uses ABA with elementary school kids, the movie gave me an idea of behavioral therapy used with adults.
Author: Joel B. Kirk, Paraprofessional