Seven-year-old Braeden Reed, an actor with autism, adds a much-needed touch of authenticity to Dear John, the hit chick flick shot in Charleston and directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Unlike the mumbling, wooden leading man (sorry Channing Tatum), Reed plays it for real. Reed convinced the director he’d be right for the part when he auditioned and they formed an instant rapport. The cast and crew quickly warmed to him, and he was more capable than they expected — partly due to the assistance he’d received growing up. Reed’s memorable appearance in the film drew much-deserved attention to Carolina Autism, the organization that helped him and his family deal with the challenges that came with his condition. Unfortunately, proposed state budget cuts could mean the elimination of services for 30,000 people like Reed. His appearances in Columbia at recent meetings for Disability Advocacy Day could be the most important he has ever made.