The new documentary film “Best Kept Secret” explores New Jersey teacher Janet Mino’s work with severely autistic students at an inner-city special education school as they enter adulthood and prepare to leave the school. From the film’s description:
The remarkable efforts of the school come with an expiration date. Its students, who can enter at age 10, are “aged out” at 21. Parents and teachers call it “falling off the cliff,” because of the scarcity of continuing adult education programs and accommodations. In 2012, Mino faces the prospect of her entire class of six young men going off that cliff, and she begins a desperate search for alternatives to homebound idleness, institutionalization or homelessness for her graduating students.
The need for a better understanding of the struggles of special needs students is underscored by a recent news story highlighting a California mother’s battle to help her autistic and diabetic son receive an education. The mother says Yuba City, Calif. public school officials offered her an $86,000 settlement to move her son into a private school and settle complaints about his previous treatment.
A New York Times review praised “Best Kept Secret” because it “spotlights an important issue yet never seeks to squeeze the truth into an easily digestible narrative frame. Instead it expands its storytelling to the boundaries of messy, joyful and painful reality.”
The documentary by Samantha Buck premieres Sept. 6 in theaters in New York and Los Angeles. You also can see “Best Kept Secret” on PBS’ POV series on Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. Pacific time.