East Amherst resident Diego Raf Diaz is embarking on a video project that he hopes will show the world – particularly impressionable children – that people living with autism shouldn’t be shunned or outcast, that they can lead beautiful, productive lives and deserve love and respect. And while Diaz recognizes that living with his condition is challenging, he views his autism as a gift, and a chance to prove that “everyone has great potential and can achieve something spectacular and enjoy a rewarding, happy life.”
It was his desire to introduce the world to understanding autism that led the 24 year old to major in Animation at Villa Maria College (he graduated in 2016 with a BFA) and to embark on creating “What Autism Really Is,” an animated video that showcases the lives of individuals on the spectrum as it raises autism awareness. Diaz purposely chose April – National Autism Awareness Month – to officially launch his project.
Working with former Villa Maria College professor Rodrigo Gomez in Villa Maria’s animation lab, Diaz has created a promotional trailer for “What Autism Really Is,” which can be viewed here. Diaz is interviewing people from around the United States with autism and will turn them into animated characters that will be interviewed in the video by the central animated character, Percy. Diaz has also created a prototype Percy doll.
“My motivation as an animator is to help others with autism tell their story to help people learn about autism and understand people with autism can lead beautiful, productive lives,” says Diaz. “I was able to ‘conquer’ my autism because I had a strong, loving and understanding family who encouraged me, as did my professors at Villa Maria, and I want to show others with autism what they, too, can achieve.”
Diaz, still in the early stages of his project, has started an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to raise money for “What Autism Really Is.” Additional information on the project and how people can donate can be found here.
“What caught my attention when I met Diego at Villa Maria College was how driven and committed he is, and what a clear vision he had of exactly what he wanted to do and what he had to say,” says Gomez. “He is dedicated to finding others who have a lot to say about how beautiful their lives are while living on the spectrum and his video will allow all of us to find the real meaning of what it’s like to live with autism and to better understand the lives of those who live with autism.”