Renee, a 13-year-old non-verbal autistic girl, sits patiently in a canoe waiting for a partner while playing with a sound app on her phone. Marcus arrives late and the camp counselor tells him to partner with her, much to his annoyance. Marcus attempts to speak with Renee, who is only able to mutter and make noises to express her feelings. When Marcus attempts to show off his paddling skills, Renee is unimpressed and starts rocking the boat. Marcus asks Renee to tell him what she wants and she responds by showing a poop emoji on her phone and signaling to a couple of outhouses. Marcus obliges and paddles her to land.
When they pass by some reeds, Renee reaches out to let them brush past her arms. She has Marcus paddle through multiple times, and he realizes that she didn’t actually need to use the outhouses and just wanted to touch the reeds. He tries doing the same thing, and then Renee goes back to her phone. This gives Marcus an idea to connect with her. He paddles them to a tunnel and has Renee play her phone so that the sound can reverberate. At first, she enjoys it. Then a speedboat races by and the sound reverberates, overwhelming Renee. She frantically paddles out of the tunnel, nearly colliding with the speedboat in the process. When they crash onto land, Renee has a meltdown and throws her phone, which falls into the lake. Sobbing, she hides under the canoe while Marcus watches the chaos unfold in bewilderment.
Eventually, Marcus pulls up a reed and sits by the canoe until Renee calms down. She sits up and takes the reed where she begins to giggle. The two repeat the sound that the phone made together. Marcus and Renee get back into the canoe and paddle back to the camp.
In a post-credits scene, Renee’s recovered phone is resting in a bowl of rice and it receives a message from Marcus asking if she wants to go canoeing again.
A Person of Color as a main character and Autistic, really pulling out all the stops on representation. I saw very little backlash on this short. When you meet one autistic, you meet only one. It is a big spectrum and someone can easily be triggered. I love that Marcus realized how happy Renee was and helped her with her sensory needs. Showing empathy is so important.
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