Does your child absolutely love Disney? Between the parks, films, books, merchandise, you name it, and Disney has become a cultural phenomenon in our society. What many don’t know though is that it’s also had a positive correlation in our special needs community through it’s films. If you go to Disney’s philanthropy page you will see that their mission is this…

“A Better, Brighter Tomorrow: Disney is committed to strengthening communities by providing hope, happiness, and comfort to kids and families who need it most.”

This is a similar message to what we promote everyday in our special needs community.

We want to give hope to families for supports for their children.

We want to encourage each family to be happy with each blessing they receive in this world.

And finally we want our kids and families to live comfortable lives where they can pursue whatever they want to do in this world.

As a disability advocate and film consultant, I’ve seen day-by-day how much Disney impacts those with different types of special needs. When I was diagnosed with autism at 4, one of my all-time favorite movies was the Lion King. The song from the Lion King soundtrack ‘Circle of Life’ would later become the first song I ever sang at 5-years-old. That was one of my first times ever performing on stage. Today at 28, I’m a national speaker that gives hundreds of talks each year. One of my hopes one day is to give a talk about inclusion and acceptance to the employees at each Disney World Park to help better assist those with special needs.

For today’s movies kids I know have fallen in love with films such as Finding Dory and Inside Out! With that I wanted to share 5 ways Disney has helped those with special needs…

  1. It has given them likeable characters to portrayed to encourage roleplaying.

Role-playing has helped countless kids to build on self-confidence, social abilities and being able to understand other people’s perspectives. A common difficulty for those with autism and ADHD among other special needs is not being able to understand others at times (i.e. mind blindness). The majority of Disney films are family-friendly that allows these individuals to portray different characters with their families and peers alike!

  1. They’ve allowed them to explore sharing and expressing different feelings.

A perfect example starts with the Disney/Pixar hit ‘Inside Out’ that focuses on the life of Riley, an 11-year-old girl who is transitioning with her family to a new city. During the film Riley’s emotions are focused on that include characters such as Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. With each new transition she experiences, it helps become an educational tool to share those transitions with your loved ones as well. Movies like the Lion King have also explored feelings of loss and moving on that can be hard to express in them.

  1. Understanding that you are wonderful exactly as you are.

Many Disney movies embrace this theme today. Aladdin is a perfect example of this. Even though Aladdin thinks he needs to be something he’s not to get the princess, at the end of the day the princess just loves him for exactly who he is. This is a message that can be related to anyone who may feel like they are a little different than the next person. Someone will love you for who you are. Just be you.

  1. Helping spark creativity.

Walt Disney who founded The Walt Disney Company admitted to himself that he was never the smartest individual however one thing he continued to explore was his own original creativity. That creativity helped him with two of his very first creations in Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Now whenever you see Disney you get to see the creativity of each individual journey a project has. This is the same type of creativity that our kids with special needs can explore to think outside of the box.

  1. Hope that they can do anything they set out to do in this world.

Most importantly, Disney movies have helped inspire our children to believe that great things are possible for them. This is a message all of our children should hear regardless of having special needs. That if you go to school, get the supports you need to thrive, than you can do anything you set your mind too.

As one of Disney’s most famous movies of all-time in Pinocchio says in one of their songs…

“When you wish upon a star. Your dreams come true.”

I currently work with the entertainment industry to bring a realistic portrayal of those with autism and other special needs to the big screen. Need some help with your next film? We’d love to collaborate with you! Contact us anytime here for more details. 

-Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.- (2)