The Suskind Family


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Owen Suskind, a boy silenced by autism, methodically memorized dozens of Disney movies. When his family realized this, they began to speak to him in Disney dialogue and turned their world into a stage, playing animated characters. Over years, Owen regained speech, learned to read by reading credits and eventually invented an original language — using scripts and lyrics — to express love, loss, kinship, and brotherhood. In turning his passion into a pathway, the Suskind family developed an approach, called “affinity therapy,” that is driving research and showing broad success in addressing the core social communication deficits of autism. Owen’s father, the author Ron Suskind, is now leading an effort to develop technology that allows multiple neurodiverse populations to harness their strong interests to drive social, emotion, and practical learning.

Life, Animated Synopsis:

From Academy Award® winning director Roger Ross Williams, LIFE, ANIMATED is the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films.   This emotional coming-of-age story follows Owen as he graduates to adulthood and takes his first steps toward independence. 

The subject of his father Ron Suskind’s New York Times bestseller, Owen was a thriving three year old who suddenly and inexplicably went silent – and for years after remained unable to connect with other people or to convey his thoughts, feelings or desires.  Over time, through repeated viewings of Disney classics like THE LITTLE MERMAID and THE LION KING, Owen found useful tools to help him to understand complex social cues and to re-connect with the world around him.

LIFE, ANIMATED evocatively interweaves classic Disney sequences with verite scenes from Owen’s life in order to explore how his identification and empathy for characters like Simba, Jafar, and Ariel gave him a means to understand his feelings and allowed him to interpret reality.  Beautiful, original animations offer rich insights into Owen’s fruitful dialogue with the Disney oeuvre as he imagines himself heroically facing adversity as a member in a tribe of sidekicks.

Owen’s story is a moving testament to the many ways in which stories can serve as a means of persevering through the dark times, leading us all toward the light.

 

Social Media:

Website – ronsuskind.com

Twitter – @ronsuskind

Facebook – Ron Suskind Author Page

 

Select Publications:

New York Times

CBS News

Democracy Now

Slate

Harvard Gazette

 

Angela Brugioni