Loras College and its Lynch Learning Center welcomed DJ Savarese (“Deej”) to campus Oct. 19 during the first screening in Iowa of the acclaimed new documentary “Deej” based on Savarese’s remarkable life as an autistic individual.
“We all need support of one kind or another and we all have something to offer in turn,” said Lynn Gallagher, Ed.D., director of Disability Services at the Lynch Learning Center. “DJ’s story is extremely relevant in today’s world. Society will benefit with a shift away from the culturally loaded concept of independence to that of self-determination, respect and interdependence.”
Savarese and his mother, Emily, took several questions after the screening.
The event was made possible by the generous donation from Schoen Family Charitable Trust and is part of the Deej Inclusion Tour, a series of more than 50 campus and community screenings across the United States. It also cast a spotlight on the Lynch Learning Center created in 1986 to provide additional services to students with a primary diagnosis of learning disabilities or attention deficit disorder. The Center offers three levels of service for students with diagnosed disabilities: The Enhanced Program, Accommodation Services and ARCH Program for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Abandoned by his birth parents and unable to speak for himself, Savarese found not only a loving family but also a life in words, which he types on a text-to-voice synthesizer. As he makes his way through high school and dreams of college, he confronts his past, obstacles to inclusion, and the sometimes paralyzing beauty of his own senses.
Savarese graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin (Ohio) College in May with a double major in anthropology and creative writing. An ASAN Scholar Fellow, he was also the recipient of Oberlin’s William Battrick Poetry Fellowship and their Comfort Starr Award for meritorious scholarly work in anthropology. As a writer, he has published poems and prose in The Iowa Review, Seneca Review, Prospect, Disability Studies Quarterly, StoneCanoe, Wordgatherings.com and Voices for Diversity and Social Justice: Literary Education Anthology.
For more information on the Loras College Lynch Learning Center, please contact Gallagher at Lynn.Gallagher@loras.edu or 563.588.7921.
Watch the trailer. (www.deejmovie.com/watch)