Segments in this Video

Meet Alyssa Ruzzin (02:21)


Intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin was born in Michigan in 1969. She works at a grocery store. Her brother Greg is filming her to learn more about her life.

Generalized Seizures (02:52)

Alyssa Ruzzin and her brother Greg head for the YMCA, where Alyssa plans to ride a stationary bike. She stopped riding her real bike six years ago after she had a seizure while riding. She wears a medical ID alert necklace for people with epilepsy.

"Forcing Isn't Fair" (02:20)

Alyssa Ruzzin is repairing her watch as her brother films. He is closer than she is comfortable with. She gets frustrated and asks him to stop filming.

Learning Struggle (04:48)

Alyssa Ruzzin says she does not have a learning disability. Disorder and disability sound too serious and negative for her. She has a receptive language problem. Listening is easier than reading. She gets hung up on word definitions.

Early Signs of Learning Disability (02:13)

Greg interviews his parents about Alyssa. His mother remembers when they first noticed something was different. She was diagnosed with psychomotor epilepsy as a young girl. Phenobarbital made her more hyperactive.

"How God Built Me" (02:30)

Alyssa Ruzzin keeps in frequent contact with her mother. She recognizes that people without learning struggles also have a lot of pressure on them. She sees herself as an example of moving on and taking care of herself.

Personal Budgeting with Intellectual Disability (02:25)

Alyssa Ruzzin explains her finances. She keeps what she calls a "savings bond." It is an envelope with the money she has left over after paying her expenses. She calls her purse her bank. She has a checking and savings account at the actual bank.

Treating Stress and Epilepsy (04:17)

Alyssa Ruzzin's dad recalls her early school days. Help for learning disabled children was hard to find in the 1970s. Ruzzin prepares her medication for the month. She has been seizure-free for three years. Her medicine costs $2,632 per month.

Financial Support with a Disability (03:03)

Greg films Alyssa Ruzzin while she works at a grocery store. She is proud of her job and enjoys socializing. She is not proud that she cannot make choices on her own. She can only make $800 per month in order to keep getting social security.

Independent with Limits (02:17)

Alyssa Ruzzin introduces her boyfriend Craig. They cannot agree how long they have been together. They do not plan for the future. She sites financial issues as one of the reasons they cannot get married.

Why Interview Me? (01:38)

Alyssa Ruzzin asks her brother Greg why he decided to film her. He says her learning struggles make her story unique. He is surprised at how hard her job is.

Social Security Benefits Decrease (01:56)

Intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin calls her mom to discuss a letter she has received from the Social Security Administration. The state of Illinois will stop paying her medical premiums. Ruzzin fears she will make bad choices on her own.

Have Some Respect (04:06)

Intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin's family hired an independent living advisor who helps her with her checkbook and other daily tasks. Greg teases her for being in bed watching TV in the afternoon. She gets frustrated that he is filming her messy room.

Family Interview (03:20)

Intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin and her brother Greg discuss her lack of energy. The medications she takes for epilepsy make her tired. Her parents remember her short attention span as a child. Ritalin slowed her down.

Life with a Disability (03:20)

Greg films his intellectually disabled sister Alyssa Ruzzin as she gets ready for the day. They eat breakfast at the restaurant she usually visits by herself. She tells a story from work about a funny experience with a customer.

Special Education (02:55)

When intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin was young she had her own language. It can be heard on an audio recording. She went to reading and speech therapy as well as sensory integration therapy. The school district tried to disqualify her from special services.

On the Outside (02:26)

Greg interviews his brother Mark about their intellectually disabled sister Alyssa Ruzzin. A lot of people with epilepsy also have learning problems. The specific reason for her disorder remains unknown. Alyssa remembers coming home from school crying every day.

Lost Child (04:06)

An old home video shows intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin at her birthday party. She went to a school for adults with learning disabilities to learn to work and live on her own. She made a good friend at school though others were not accepting of her.

"It's About Enjoying" (03:57)

Intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin toys with a chain around her neck; doing so keeps her stress down. She wants to play Uno; Greg reminds her that he already beat her twice. She says it is not about winning. She gets irritated with him when he prepares to film her cleaning.

Treated Like a Child (01:48)

Greg recalls his last visit to see his intellectually disabled sister. She told him things we be a lot more fun if they could relate like adults. Alyssa Ruzzin says she has a hard time expressing the things going in her head.

Interview with Long Time Friend (03:51)

Intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin and her brother Greg travel to visit her friend Beth. They have known each other for 18 years. They visit a monument to James Monroe.

Feeling Like an Adult (02:07)

Beth's father believes she and Alyssa succeeded after the PACE Program because they had each other. Beth left the school early and returned home to her parents. Intellectually disabled Alyssa believes this destroyed her confidence.

Role Model (03:02)

Beth talks about the role intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin plays in her life. She says she taught Alyssa how to joke. The friends had to be patient with one another. Ruzzin budgets her money as they move on to the next leg of their trip.

Highly Capable (02:27)

When intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin thought about going back home her mother explained to her that there were few opportunities for her. Sometimes she wishes she could be a kid again.

Daily Routine (03:02)

Intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin and her mother fill out papers to update Alyssa's status with the Social Security Administration. She reads the paper aloud. She considers moving back to her home state, but she does not want to lose what she has gained.

Dealing With a Learning Struggle (02:01)

Intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin used to want to change herself all the time. Now she realizes that her situation is never going away. Greg explains why he wanted to document his sister's story.

Misjudged and Underestimated (06:55)

Intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin talks about how deeply she has been affected by childhood teasing. Her mother was surprised that she remembers someone trying to sexually assault her. Her boyfriend accepts her decision not to have sex.

Everyone is Different (02:36)

Intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin speaks to kids at the Center for Independent Future. She emphasizes positive reinforcement as a key to self-esteem.

Teamwork and Risk Taking (03:11)

Intellectually disabled Alyssa Ruzzin talks about her future. She does not picture big changes any time soon. She is aware her life will get more complicated when her parents pass away. She hopes her words will help others.

Credits and Out Takes: Lost Child? Living with an Intellectual Disability (03:12)

Credits: Lost Child? Living with an Intellectual Disability

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Lost Child? Living with an Intellectual Disability

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For a person with an intellectual disability, social communications and interactions can sometimes be limited or difficult. “We don’t always know how to get the feelings out,” says Alyssa Ruzzin, whose life is the focus of this film. Coping with the challenges of an intellectual disability compounded by epilepsy, she is an inspiring speaker and a forthright advocate for the rights of people with special needs. Over the course of this documentary filmed by her brother, viewers are given an opportunity to learn more about Alyssa’s rich interior life as well as her struggles and triumphs as she deals with going to work, being in a relationship, and other day-to-day activities. By opening up to Greg and his camera, Alyssa is hopeful that she “might be helping people realize what goes on in other people’s heads when they can’t speak about it.” (91 minutes)

Length: 92 minutes

Item#: BVL50432

ISBN: 978-1-62290-610-9

Copyright date: ©2012

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“Manages—rather amazingly—to tread [the] line between family, personal feeling, and social issues so adroitly that we can feel for his subject’s struggle while understanding the challenges she faces within the family and within society at large....Alyssa’s strength and determination are awe-inspiring, and Ruzzin manages to convey his respect for her and for how she manages her life....It is difficult to overestimate this film’s importance with regard to the educational and social issues with which it engages.”  Journal of Film and Video

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