How to Dance in Ohio

Movie review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
How to Dance in Ohio Movie Poster Image
Inspirational, heartwarming doc about living with autism.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 89 minutes

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The counselors, parents, and the kids themselves help each other with the daunting prospect of going to a dance. They are supportive, kind, and patient as they show how to socialize and face fears. Empathy and integrity are important themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dr. Amigo is an incredible role model for the kids he works with as well as their parents, using his knowledge and warmth to make his patients' lives easier. Parents also assist, support, and set boundaries.


Concerns about women's safety discussed, although no specifics.


Discussions about dating; the cast couples up; a brief kiss.


It highlights Dr. Amigo's practice and program.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The dance is alcohol-free.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that How to Dance In Ohio is a documentary that centers on a group of high-functioning people on the autism spectrum preparing for the challenges and joys that come with attending a formal dance. Therapy and living with autism are central themes. The Amigo Counseling Center and its program are highlighted. There's nothing to worry about here, but some folks may be sensitive to some of the concerns expressed about living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

User Reviews

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Kid, 12 years old February 16, 2016

True, amazing, and heartfelt

I can tell you right now: this is the best movie I have seen in a long time. Not only is it relatable, not only is beautiful, it is completely true. This docume... Continue reading

What's the story?

HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO is a documentary about a group of high-functioning teens and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) preparing for, and attending, a spring formal in Columbus, Ohio. Under the therapeutic guidance of clinical psychologist Emilio Amigo and his staff, folks such as 16-year-old Marideth Bridges, 19-year-old Caroline McKenzie, and 22-year-old Jessica Sullivan work on learning how to communicate and interact with others in various social settings. With the help of their families, Dr. Amigo, and other professionals, they spend 12 weeks preparing for a formal dance at a local night club organized by the Amigo Counseling Center to help them learn how to cope with the many anxieties they have about participating in the event, and they practice how to socialize with other people. From working through their discomfort with trying to have a conversation to navigating their nervousness when choosing dresses, they all work their way toward the big event by facing their fears head-on.

Is it any good?

The film offers a warmhearted, informative look at the routines, successes, and struggles people with Asperger's syndrome and high-functioning autism have when interacting with the mainstream world. But what stands out here is the self-awareness of the cast, who understand that they need extra help and coping mechanisms to function, and who do their best to articulate their anxieties and their desires. The insights offered by their parents and Dr. Amigo also offer a broader lens from which to see how they navigate their day-to-day lives.

Though both men and women are featured here, the fact that much of the story centers on three women leaves it feeling a bit uneven. However, this doesn’t detract from the overall themes, which underscore how paralyzing basic social practices can be for people on the autism spectrum. It also shows how they, with the right support, can go to college, get jobs, and live independently. Overall, How to Dance In Ohio is a documentary that shows us how something as simple as a rite of passage can be life-changing to those who are challenged by life every day.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it's like to live with autism spectrum disorder. What exactly is ASD? How can documentaries such as How to Dance In Ohio help people learn to understand it better? 

  • Documentaries often inform or raise awareness about things people may not know much about. Does this documentary successfully do this about people living with ASD? 

  • How does How to Dance In Ohio promote empathy and integrity? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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