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One of the best-reviewed movies this year has started a pivotal conversation in our community about autism and emotions. What many critics are saying will be a lock to win the Oscar for best animated feature in February, “Inside Out” is a film that follows the life of Riley, an 11-year-old girl going through some difficult transitions in her life. The film also follows the interactions between five of Riley’s main emotions in her head that include Joy, Anger, Fear, Despair and Sadness.

For individuals with autism and other special needs, these types of visuals can help start a conversation about emotions. So far several members from our autism community have shared their perspectives…

Paula Hollis, a mom with a son on the autism spectrum told the Sun News & Review, “Disney is giving our son another tool with this movie to use in understanding and expressing his emotions.”

Dr. Courtney Harkins who is a local marriage and family therapist shared her thoughts on OC Mom Blog saying, “This movie is going to help both children and parents talk and discuss how feelings impact us and the relationships we have with others. This is truly amazing! My hope is that if parents have felt uncomfortable in the past talking about feelings, this movie will make it fun for both parents and children to talk about them.”

Kathy Hooven, a mom blogger who has a son on the autism spectrum wrote on The Mighty, “Regardless of who’s at the controls of Ryan’s emotions, he needs to be the one to figure it out on the inside. Even if he can’t say it, he’s the one who must feel it, understand it and process it. And even though sometimes it kills me to be on the outside, unable to look from the inside out, that is where I need to be, ready to help Ryan embrace whoever is at the controls and do what I can to help him find joy, in his time, in his way… not mine.”

Finally, Lisa Smith one of my favorite bloggers wrote on Autism Speaks about her son, “Because Tate and many with autism are visual thinkers, seeing emotions personified like in ‘Inside Out’  has helped him to understand feelings better than he has in the past…”

My personal view of the movie is simply this: if you are looking for a healthy way to help your children learn more about emotions than ‘Inside Out’ is the way to go. Many in our community will be able to use this movie as a tool to spark that conversation. It’s also a tool for those in general, not just from our special needs community. So while this movie may be getting most of its recognition for being one of Disney and Pixar’s finest films we can use this momentum as the film has gone viral to educate our communities and loved ones about empathy, love, and the spectrum of feelings one may go through. As someone who grew up with autism and emotional distress at times, I’m glad films like these will exist to help future generations of children with special needs.

You can watch a trailer of the film below to get a glimpse into the look at the emotions that you will see on film!

You can learn more about my background in disability and autism related films here.