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Mother of autistic child hopes to inspire others with online animated show

Sinead Clancy and Rita Zobayan
Production designer Sinead Clancy and writer Rita Zobayan with drawings for an animated series they are calling “Reilly’s Life” on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. The titular character has autism and the show aims to inspire newly diagnosed children and their parents.
(Tim Berger / Glendale News Press)

When Sinead Clancy’s son Roan was diagnosed with autism eight years ago, she, like many moms in her shoes, went on a Googling tandem to learn all she could about the developmental disorder.

But almost a decade later and after helping her child accept himself, she wants to inspire newly diagnosed children and their parents with an original cartoon premise.

Clancy is the creator of “Reilly’s Life,” which she hopes will be a series of 10-minute online episodes that follow the titular kid — who is on the autism spectrum — on his many adventures.

The Montrose mother said there’s one trait viewers will immediately notice about Reilly.

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“He’s nonverbal, which is very unusual for a lead character on a TV show, but a lot of children on the spectrum are nonverbal,” Clancy said.

So, to speak with the rest of the world, Reilly relies on help from his sister and Gerry, a toy giraffe.

“You get to see all the little eccentricities or little ideas that he has in his mind and how they come to life… that’s the hope that children who are on the spectrum can see and understand that even though they’re not speaking words, they can still communicate,” Clancy said.

The planned pilot is based on an early experience she had with Roan — a twin whose sister isn’t autistic — after he was diagnosed at 22 months, when he refused to wear T-shirts that didn’t have stripes. He was also nonverbal during the first few years after his diagnosis.

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Clancy, who has worked in production design in the entertainment industry for 20 years, says she has an animator lined up and a pilot script has been written. All that’s left at this point is financial backing.

A Kickstarter campaign for “Reilly’s Life” was launched two weeks ago and has, so far, raised about $4,000 with a $15,000 target by May 15.

Clancy’s close friend Rita Zobayan, an educator who has specialized in mentoring kids with learning disabilities, is the show’s writer and said the first script has received a thumbs up from Daniel Anderson, an educational consultant who has worked on shows like “Sesame Street” and “Dora the Explorer.”

Zobayan said “Reilly’s Life” is also meant for kids without autism and will hopefully create awareness about those who are living with the disorder.

If everything goes as planned, Clancy said she expects to have the pilot completed by September. She also hopes part of getting it made will include getting children like Roan involved.

“The hope is somehow we’d have some of our voice talents that would be people that have autism,” she said. “That would add another layer, to show children that you’re still a valuable asset in this world.”

And Clancy is long past those days of paranoid Googling. Roan is now 10 years old, going to school and getting some therapy.

Clancy said there’s a lot of emphasis on the possible causes of autism, but eventually she was able to help Roan understand what he’s living with and how to push forward.

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“I have a good idea of what the middle ground is,” she said. “A lot of people say only this way works or you have to do it this way. Really, what it’s all about is just accepting what works for your family.”


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