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Tyson’s Run, a film based on the true story of an autistic teenager, was released on March 11. The film follows the journey of Tyson, played by Major Dodson, as he overcomes bullying and prejudice to compete and win his first marathon. In his professional life, Tyson’s father, Bobby Hollerman, is a football coach with numerous championships. At home, he struggles to understand and relate to his son. Tyson’s mother, Ellie Hollerman, often feels emotionally neglected by her husband, has an unplanned pregnancy, and struggles to support Tyson with little help. Tyson enrolls in public school for the first time and meets runner Aklilu, who trains Tyson for his first marathon.  

Autistic Representation

Like the character he plays, Major Dodson is also on the autism spectrum. According to Dodson, most of his fans were not aware of his diagnosis prior to this film. Dodson reported to that “I think it will be a new discovery for most people. I’ve come a very far, very long way from how I used to be as a kid. I credit occupational therapy. I credit really good parenting and acceptance over the years of who I am – letting me go out and do my own thing. So I’m very, very independent now.” 

Dodson also credits acting for helping him to improve his social skills, such as eye contact, tone of voice, and body language. According to Dodson, there was preparation prior to filming to make sure Tyson was portrayed in a realistic and respectful manner. He hopes the movie will inspire other autistic people to pursue their dreams.  

Important Themes

Tyson’s Run includes many themes that autistic people can relate to. Tyson seemed to exhibit sensory issues and would sometimes run away from situations. For example, when he was falsely accused of using a mirror to look up a teacher’s skirt, he ran away from Spanish class, running through traffic and covering his ears. One night, upon hearing his parents argue, he ran away from home into an intense thunderstorm where he almost drowned in the park. Tyson comes across as socially blunt and forward. When he meets a female friend, he asks if she would be his girlfriend. He often endures bullying and has trouble fitting in at school and home.  

This movie highlights the importance of mentorship. Aklilu is a positive influence in Tyson’s life and pushes him to achieve his best as a runner, while remaining calm and humble in the process. In the beginning, finishing a marathon seems like an impossible goal for Tyson, but with proper mentorship, he is able to not only meet his goal, but exceed. Tyson is an example of someone who does not live according to the expectations of others, but of his own. He shows that autistic individuals do not have to stay in a box, but can accomplish their own life goals when they have proper support.