Because of you, an ‘Evening with Ezra’ got it Right!

Beauty, intentional imbalance, thoughtful accessibility, and human connections meant unmasked and authentic experiences for all of us.

This was our night together. This is Love & Autism.

We set out to push the boundary of what it means to host an inclusive event. We wanted to do more than accommodate autistic differences. We wanted this event “An Evening with Ezra’ to be autistic centered; where people would be able to be their authentic selves, unmasked with autistic traits not only expected but part of the full experience. This is what we dreamed of, planned for, and it ended up exceeding our own expectations.

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The Status Quo

In order to know the magic of this night, you have to have some context of the status quo of inclusivity within events large and small (think MLB, festivals, big concert venues). The status quo is sensory rooms or sensory bags and a ‘go away’ or ‘shut down your autistic traits so that us non-autistics can enjoy our time. A common formula requires emotional and sensory regulation to be a segregated experience. Autistic persons must leave the event and move towards the space. In doing so, saying go over there or take the bag of stuff, we actually further stigmation when the intention is to include. Event design separates non-autistic people from autistic people. We envision another way.

These spaces are often supposed to be visually inviting but instead hit a juvenile or special vibe. Primary colors, techy overwhelm, and drug store fidgets are as far as we’ve gotten. In inclusion, special isn’t VIP treatment, it’s the pathologies special. Even at the most high end experiences such as the ones splashed across our insta feeds, have an incomparable difference to the rest of the event space. These spaces feel less trendy, less vibey and often not aesthetically pleasing at all.

Non-equivalent, separate, and lesser but with the message of ‘But look what we did for you” is just not enough for me.

Indirectly, these messages are strong and carry the capacity to sustain ableist worldviews where differentiate autistic and non-autistic people feels comfortable.


Separate regulator space is not bad. There is value in a quiet space to regulate, but it’s shaming and limiting to be required to have to leave a space to regulate furthering the idea that masking is good and autistic traits are bad. It isn’t hard to see that autistic traits are unwelcome. Don’t get me wrong, sensory spaces are an okay start. This is better than nothing. This status quo is actually better than not acknowledging access issues in any way, but the underlying mentality is still stigmatizing autistic people.

We also see the bag of goodies approach. This is also adequate, not exactly bad, and needs to be extended. The bag generally has some sensory products like earplugs, sensory toys, a soft sensory item, perhaps a visual strategy that screams to treat me differently, and some sponsorship swag. These items are a one size fits all, and generally can’t be personalized or selected by the autistic person. These bags are often just for the autistic or neurodivergent person, almost like a scarlet letter but this time it’s a big D for disability.

When we started envisioning ‘An evening with Ezra’, we realized that we could do it so much better than what is currently cutting edge. Alex Plank and I chose to do this event together, demonstrating a shared partnership from two different lived experiences; autistic and not.

We took on different rules, situating ourselves in our strengths but collaborating on its core to elevate even our own personal standards. Love & Autism has always done autistic centered. At our core, we push the status quo. We thrive in that push. It’s exciting to take stock of what is and challenge it with new ideas.

Alex, the more social of us two, was responsible for creating connections by inviting our autistic. Intersectionality and diverse representation is always something on my mind, making sure our guest list and public reach includes age, gender, sexual orientation, race, culture, career, and family role.

We knew that this film Ezra had articulated one version of being autistic and that family system as something that could feel limiting to the diversity of what it means to be autistic. We included other disability advocates because sometimes within disability culture there’s a polarization or camps where there is a lot of shared terrain amongst invisible and visible disabilities. What we intended to do was construct an event that mirrored our framework for understanding being autistic as both a disabling condition and a social construct. Both aspects are an equally important conversation of what it means to be autistic.

While Alex focused on the human connections, I created the intention and experience of the event. The emotional tone and experience of our time together was so important to me. I wanted it to certainly be a movie premiere, but also to be a corrective emotional experience for some, for others meeting an emotional need that they didn’t even know they had, a journey of growth and change that existed in the room, but also a great party.

Here is our formula:


People like beautiful spaces, continuity from start to finish is emotionally soothing. We feel good about ourselves, when we are in a beautiful space. When you think about it, so often autistic space such as therapy offices, educational settings, or even larger scale; an intention to beautiful space doesn’t seem to be a thing.

In not attending to creating beauty, the message is something ugly. It’s autistic people don’t deserve beauty, they are too impaired to notice, they won’t notice, or this is good enough because we didn’t do something for disabled people. It may not be something that you’ve given much thought to, but it’s everywhere.

Before I got to picking gorgeous velvet pink couches and buying alpaca rugs, we had to rebrand our logo. Love & Autism used to be pink, blue and a pop of purple. In 2020, Autism Speaks rebranded with exactly this, pink, blue with a touch of purple. They even included a year’s mission of kindness. With our colors and kindness on the annual docket, I honestly didn’t know what to think but it created discomfort. I held tight. These are Love & Autism’s colors, we will keep them for ourselves. Integrity issue aside, it’s the brand confusion that let me evolve from what I had initially created.

With beauty in mind, we evolved right before this event to our classic pink and our new gold. I love pink. Pink is my happy color. Adding gold is a glimmer. Glimmers are everywhere. We needed to find our glimmer. We’ve found ourselves in a historical trigger status with many autism organizations.

Love & Autism hopes to be your glimmer. We wanted playful & confident, beauty & bold. I think we got it right!

Beauty is important to Love & Autism because it communicates directly that autistic people deserve beauty, autistic people appreciate beauty, autistic people are beautiful. The beautiful event space we created with each selection needing to fit with that sentiment. It ended up being just gorgeous! I think we all discovered that beauty within, beauty exuded by our authentic selves, and beautiful spaces are absolutely essential in shifting the narrative.

We did so many other things with intention.

Intentional imbalance

If you weren’t at this event, this could easily be missed. We created an intentional neuro majority event for autistic and neurodivergent people. By design, we wanted out autistic people to be rocking that pink carpet, laughing in that theater, and drinking champs with us. I think we all know that a stacked autistic guest list just made this event pop. As those middle schoolers say, the vibes were immaculate. Autistic & Immaculate.

Yes, there were celebrities, that’s cool too. I mean Kerry Washington radiated in her homage to Taylor Swift’s Tortured Poet’s Department. When we thoughtfully articulated our invitations, we achieved more than we set out to do. In review, we had around two thirds of attendance being autistic or within autistic family systems. Autistic majority space brings a euphoric and joyful sense of wellbeing, a sense that I am in exactly the right place.

The intentional imbalance was more than autistic numbers. We stacked this event in an autistic centered way, that contributes to maybe even more subtle but significant messages. William Fitzgerald and Alex Plank were positioned center stage. In fact, even time between panel members was intentional imbalance towards autistic voices. We started the conversation with William. Bobby Cannavale and Tony Goldwyen have all this celebrity and illustrious careers, and we still started and ended with autistic voices. William and Alex were intentionally asked more questions than non-autistic voices. Taking up space was important to me. We could correct something that I see happening in the opposite direction.

We made sure that ‘autistic’ and ‘autism’ were words spoken by structuring the conversation. It went even better. Hearing words like autistic, neurodivergent, anxiety, ADHD without shame or judgment is something we all needed. Each question moved the panelists into emotional space where we could get real, dig deep and talk about what matters to Love & Autism. We got there too.

William Horburg gave such an emotionally connected conversation, Tony Goldwyn stretched to newer depths. Tony Goldwyn yielded to autistic voices. Bobby Cannavale’s emotions of joy to connection to growth in his body language and face. This all has meaning because these are the experiences that change people. Well intentioned people carry limiting messages about autistic people that don’t serve them anymore. We created something where people could move past these without even knowing it was happening. Box office dollars don’t change the world, people do. Creating space for autistic voices grows all of us.

Autistic center was not just centerstage but throughout the event. We wanted autistic people in leaders, autistic people front facing within the event. Without autistic people, this event would have been just that a regular evening out.

— Autistic people were in leadership positions with Alex Plank as event coordinator.
— Vanessa D’Souza guiding our non-autistic catering team to prepare her sensory experience menu.
— Rono Providing her dumplings and expertise for Food Joy to prep.
— Melissa Areffi using those autistic traits of finding a solution found our replica car on a shoestring budget.
— All things that you could see from digital products to website and print materials were designed by my trusted neurodivergent marketing team, Alford Creative.
— Autistic musician, Harpist Evangeline extended our emotional connections through sound.
— Autistic artists, Dimitri Spiridakis, Alfonso Julian Camacho, Serge and Navid, shifted a space that was adequate into a space that was beyond.
— Even at the end of our evening, the delightful cookies were made by Tara and her boys, an autistic family system.

We wanted the words autism to be integrated, not hidden. Those pillows really did it!

Every single decision was to give an experience of course correction, that autistic people aren’t just beneficiaries of fundraising events but core to our experience at least at our event.

These things are more important than you might think at first glance. It means that Love & Autism created another autistic centered, autistic attended event, but it’s more than that. It was a successful, beautiful, and well attended LA premier of a film. These things have never happened before and it simply worked!

Thoughtful Accessibility

Thoughtfulness is our value. To frame this into accessibility should not be groundbreaking. We combined these words intentionally as it means that we can think about the needs and experiences of others, consider how to achieve equitable inclusion, dig for gaps within our thinking, and make it happen.

In this event, we crafted sections within the event that could meet emotional, movement, sensory, neurological regulatory needs while staying within the event space if desired. We created a visual map so that those that wanted to emotionally prepare for our evening together could do so. In a lot of ways.

In having accessibility embedded within and describing its function, it also was a growth moment for non-autistic and autistic people that haven’t considered accessibility and regulation for themselves and others. Each created experience was imagined as a possible opportunity for all of our guests. In exploring these experiences, we distanced from the status quo of seclusion and separate solution and in doing so destigmatized regulation differences.

One size accommodations was not the norm within our event. We personalized, diversified and articulated accessibility using all our senses from essential oils, to hand warmers, to swings and rockers, to velvet couches, sensory tastes, design elements. We clearly could have predicted some spacing issues better (next time a bigger space). To be honest, we were told that in industry events, the no show rate is 30%. We actually had about 20% higher than anticipated guests! Not a totally bad problem to have. What we discovered is that in creating thoughtful accessibility throughout this event, it allowed for people to mind their own experience and do what is right and good by them.


The thing that worked that just had to emerge and couldn’t be planned for was the connectedness amongst us. It may sound cliché and here is why it’s not. This was an unmasked authentic autistic space. People were out for a fun evening and out autistic. There wasn’t a sense that autistic traits are something to avoid, hide or pity. We got to experience the profound impact of this in the experience of this evening, but we also got to carry that with us outside of that wonderful Tuesday,

The only regret I have is that I didn’t get to meet many of you. I am painfully shy and hit a note of anxiety where I missed opportunities to connect. Yet, I got to really see the beauty of connection that we created, and that was everything to me.

There are moments that dance in my mind as I dip into memory. Abbie from ‘Love on the Spectrum’ stopping a conversation to pivot towards a joyful greeting of the Epic Players…Lilian Carrier and Beth Burnham taking space…Demi Burnett turning up the heat on the pink carpet…Bobby Cannavale and my mom cracking up…Just beautiful. Then there was the moment that William Fitzgerald made my cheeks hurt while also reducing my anxiety when he left the stage and asked me what my favorite joke was. When I said the weed one he said, I knew it. It was just when I noticed Tony Spiridakus and Alfonso Camacho having an emotional conversation in two modalities, AAC and spoken word. Then there was Johnny Dowers lounge on a pink couch. Dani Bowman and I shared some champs and dished Ryan Reynolds. Carol LeClaire had Tony Goldwyn fully engaged in a chitchat. When Chantal and Robyn gushed over details of diversity and inclusion, I felt such appreciation as I respect these women so much,

Myranda from Bleecker Street gave me warm smiles and repeated the list every time I said, ‘what is the order on the stage.’ It felt right when I noticed my children laughing in all the right spots when we watched this film together. I had wanted this so very much for them to see authentic autistic representation in film. Serg drew designs in the velvet, while Quincy found his fit amongst industry greats. Levi from Glass Beauty, had a full fan experience with the ‘Love on the Spectrum’ cast, only to find that they would quickly be fans of his. I was in awe and gratitude when I experienced the Sensory Delight Tasting menu to which I owe a huge thank you. I got to meet Jessie Ginsburg who I feel like I know from watching her instagram. Jinge my college bestie, made my sister marvel in her kinetic sand creations. Tara and Celina were just present, seemingly knowing when I needed to hear the encouragement of “you did it.” My Love & Autism people were just making it exactly what it needed to be; Meghan, Angelina, Sophie, Carol and Melissa moved around the environment making sure each person was taken care of. Cristine of Food Joy kept extending her nurturance in making sure I ate. and her husband. I think everyone enjoyed that food, especially Rono’s dumplings. I need more of that. Natahsa and Martin Blasick seemed to really take it all in, having fun together. Old friends Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn had the room captivated when they embraced, while new connections emerged with Jon Kilik’s naturally warm demeanor. Artist Dimetri Spiridakus exuded a room filling confidence, while his mother Nicole Hanson was at ease in genuine connections. Relationships were everywhere. Connections filled the room with love.

We had wanted to tell and extend the story of this remarkable film, Ezra. We had envisioned having the universal themes of this film-authenticity, belonging and love emerge in the room.

When I locked eyes with Alex Plank, we went outside and looked in and just said over and over, “We did it! We really did!

So much Love & Gratitude to all of us!
Ezra got it right.
Love & Autism got it right.
We can get it right and create a neurodivergent affirming world.
You & Me

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Whether you were able to join us for ‘An Evening with Ezra’ or if you missed this event, you might enjoy listening to the panel conversations!

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