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‘Far From the Tree’ film offers insight for parents of children with special needs

GREENWICH VILLAGE, Manhattan -- It’s all about love and empathy and understanding.

"Far From the Tree" follows families meeting extraordinary challenges like down syndrome dwarfism, autism and having a child in prison. It is based on a best-selling book by Andrew Solomon that took 10 years to write.

“I wrote this book to understand how something goes from an illness to an identity,” Solomon told PIX11. “I am gay and when I was little, I was homosexual and it was a sickness. And in my adulthood, it became an identity. And if that was my experience, then what are other people’s experiences who had illnesses that are now their identities."

There were question and answer sessions following the opening of the movie, featuring some of the families in the film.

One particularly moving story involved the Allnutt family whose son Jack has autism. After years of searching for a way to communicate with their son, the parents found the answer in a program in Texas using computers.

“Having a son with autism, particularly nonverbal was very challenging,” Amy Allnutt told PIX11. “But when I look back at this and our story, it’s okay, all part of our journey.”

For this documentary maker, who had never worked with families with special challenges, Rachel Dretzin learned so much that she is hoping audiences will too.

“It was profound for me as a director and profound for me as a human being,” Dretzin told PIX11. “When I started making this film I was intimidated and awkward around people with severe disabilities. I didn’t know what to say or how they act. I had a lot of misguided assumptions. I grew so much as a human being.”

At the movie’s opening, audiences appeared to love it.

“The idea of differences and accepting people with their differences is very important,” Liz Silverman, a moviegoer, told PIX 11. “It is one of the best movies about parenting ever.”

The movie opens in New York City on July 20 and nationwide on July 27th.