According to Autism Speaks, autism currently affects 1 in 88 children in the United States alone, with tens of millions of children affected worldwide. While there may be no recognized cure, there are forms of treatment which seem to offer signs of hope for those affected. One such treatment? Disney films.
In April, Disney Editions will release ‘Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism,’ a new book from Pultizer Prize winner Ron Suskind. In the memoir, whose original publisher description was billed as a ‘parallel story of the epidemic of autism in our country and of The Walt Disney Company, revealing how the signature malady of our era and the films of the country’s greatest story factory are surprisingly interlinked.’ An updated description that was recently released, however, paints a more direct picture of the book’s subject matter:
What if you were trapped in a Disney movie? In all of them, actually from Dumbo to Peter Pan to The Lion King — and had to learn about life and love mostly from what could be gleaned from animated characters, dancing across a screen of color?
Asking this question opens a doorway to one of the most extraordinary stories imaginable.
It is the saga of Owen Suskind, who happens to be the son of one of America’s most noted writers, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Ron Suskind. He’s also autistic. The twisting, 20-year journey of this boy and his family will change that way you see autism, old Disney movies and the power of the imagination… to heal a shattered world.
Ron Suskind tells the story of how his autistic son was able to regain the ability to speak through the medium of Disney animated films.
Interestingly enough, Suskind isn’t the only one who appears to have found promise in Disney films — a company in Ireland called ‘Animated Language Learning‘ is working with Disney and Pixar Animation Studios to take a different approach in treating autism. The program, which already has some parents singing its praises, reportedly uses short clips from Pixar films such as Toy Story which portray an event that the child can relate with and then connects those images to text. More information on the process can be found on this page.
The company also provides this video, which it says shows ‘a demonstration by a child with severe autism, who was once without general language, has built a broadly based language system through the ALL language learning paradigm. The program has helped this child overcome developmental disabilities with the help of sensory integration.’