Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams, recently released a new documentary Life Animated, animating the story of a teen with autism and his family who bonded over Disney animations. The documentary reveals the transformative power that Disney animations can have on the lives of teens with autism.

What is Autism?

The CDC states:
“Autism spectrum disorder is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASD have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things.” 

A Connection to Disney Characters

The documentary Life Animated followed the story of Owen Suskind, a boy who developed regressive autism at age three. At age three, he completely stopped talking, isolating him from his family. A few years later he uttered his first word, which at the time his parents couldn’t understand. Later, after Owen kept rewinding a scene from the Disney movie The Little Mermaid, saying “Just your voice”, did his parents finally understand what he was trying to say. His parents then realized that they could communicate with Owen through the animations in Disney movies.

The character Iago from the Disney movie Aladdin, was how Owen had his first conversation with his father. Throughout Owen’s life, Disney characters taught him how the skills he needed to communicate and interact socially with people around him. Disney’s animated characters are so expressive of emotions and their reactions, that it provides youth and teens with autism an understanding of human connections.

Cinema: A Tool for Teens with Autism

The documentary Life Animated reveals how cinema can be used to drastically change an individual’s life. Teens with autism aren’t the only ones who can learn from the characters of Disney movies. Disney’s is known for its reputation of using characters that are challenged with issues of negative stereotypes, disabilities, and gender identity. Life Animated hopes to reveal the necessity of viewing cinema as not just a form of entertainment, but a potential tool to educate and develop youth and teens dealing with multiple struggles.

Seven Stars Can Help

Seven Stars is an adventure therapy program for 13 to 18-year-old teens. Our students commonly deal with issues such as autism, anxiety, ADHD, trauma, and other behavioral challenges.
Call us today at (844) 601-1167 for more information on our adventure therapy program and how we can help.

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