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INSIGHT New autism movie made and acted by women with condition hopes to spread awareness

'I spent most of my life not understanding what was going on, thinking that I was broken'

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Jordanne Jones, who plays Christine in the film, says she is still learning about autism

Jordanne Jones, who plays Christine in the film, says she is still learning about autism

Jordanne Jones, who plays Christine in the film, says she is still learning about autism

A new movie about autism aims to create an extra awareness of the condition through the real-life experiences of autistic people themselves.

The new drama Mildly Different tells the story of a young woman on the autism spectrum from childhood to adulthood as she struggles to feel accepted.

But what is unique about the movie is that is it written/ directed by and starring people who have autism themselves. And it gets to the heart of feeling different without understanding why.

Both writer/director Anna Czarska and lead actress Jordanne Jones are autistic.

They wanted to give audiences an insight into what autism looks and feels like - especially for females, for who the condition is often different from males.

Anna was also prompted by her own experiences to make the film for Sticky Tape Productions in the hope of helping others - for she went undiagnosed for many years.

"Because I wasn't actually diagnosed until my thirties, I spent most of my life not understanding what was going on, thinking that I was broken, thinking that there was just something wrong with me," she said.

"When I found out I was actually just autistic, everything that I'd gone through in my life just clicked. I was like: 'Yes, this makes sense."

Anna experienced many emotions following diagnosis, including a sense of relief and anger that she had to wait so long for an assessment.

"I had gone through a bit of an emotional whirlwind, because I was angry that it had taken this long for somebody to even assess me.

"I was so relieved. And so happy to know what actually has been happening, why I'm actually different."

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Jordanne with her co star Lara McIvor

Jordanne with her co star Lara McIvor

Jordanne with her co star Lara McIvor

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Even after her diagnosis, people would tell her that she didn't 'look' autistic, and she realised that people had misconceptions about traits that present in females.

Anna remembers reading a piece by top autistic writer and psychotherapist Tania Marshall, who cited a personal checklist.

It included difficulties communicating her thoughts and feelings, in words, to others, especially if anxious, stressed or upset, and offending others by saying what she was thinking, even if she didn't mean to.

It mirrored what she had suspected.

"I started reading the new research about autism in women and atypical presentation.

"And it was like a checklist, like you see in the film, with this point, and that point, and this and this. I was like: 'This is me, this is all me'.

"I was already in the film industry. I remember just thinking to myself, what am I going to do with all this?

"What am I going to do with this journey and with all this information knowing that there's people out there like me?

"Especially females, because they are predominantly misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, and because we present differently versus the traditional male-based research that everybody's used to."

The result is Mildly Different, which is supported by the Arts Council and Arts Disability Connect scheme, managed by Arts and Disability Ireland.

Young Irish actress Ruby Connolly plays the young Christina, who struggles to feel accepted, while top Irish actress Jordanne Jones plays her as an adult, as the kindness of another person restores her confidence. For Jordanne, who stars in Irish drama Metal Heart and Netflix hit The Alienist, having a diagnosis of autism aged 16 made the project all the more personal.

As she underwent therapy for other mental health issues, she always felt there was another element, she recalls.

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Jordanne Jones gets ready for a scene with hairdresser Aisling Quinn

Jordanne Jones gets ready for a scene with hairdresser Aisling Quinn

Jordanne Jones gets ready for a scene with hairdresser Aisling Quinn

"Through all the therapy, through all the talking, I kept sitting down with my mam (independent Senator Lynn Ruane) and saying: 'OK, but there's something else'. It was just something that I knew was different, that I didn't have the words to communicate; I still struggle.

"It's also probably part of my autism, I think in very visual ways. I just knew there was something in the way that I was seeing life and feeling life.

"I love emotional roles, something that allows me to connect with myself and to think within myself, to explore just who I am.

"I have the diagnosis of ASD (autism spectrum disorder). I just thought it was a good opportunity for me to think about my own diagnosis of autism and also wanting to represent something that's important, that educates people.

"It's something that I'm trying to learn as well.

"People can often think that because I have the diagnosis that I must know a lot about autism or where I am on the spectrum, what autism is for me. But that is something that I am gradually learning constantly.

"I really found myself in Christina, because I think Christina is someone that would probably get remarks like: 'She's strange and weird and odd but you'd never think that she's autistic, though'. And I felt that resonated with me."

Jordanne jumped at the opportunity to focus on this story, like Anna, in the hope of helping others.

"I believe that it's a great medium and platform to speak on behalf of yourself and then try to speak on behalf of others and represent something big and send out a message.

"That's always where the importance of acting and what I wanted to do has laid."

The 28-minute film will have its premiere in Dublin's Stella Rathmines on November 17 (tickets on Eventbrite) and will then at film festivals and, Anna hopes, through educational programmes.

"I really wanted to give the audience as well as other autistic individuals an insight into the experience itself of somebody that is autistic and see what it's like first-hand."

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