Reader’s Digest, “Lost Boy,” by Ron Suskind and Miki Sato
Disney movies offer more than just entertainment: this NMA-winning Reader’s Digest piece (written by Ron Suskind – author of Life, Animated – with illustrations by Miki Sato) tells the story of a “Lost Boy” with regressive autism, who finds his voice through classic Disney movies.
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The story starts when parents Ron and Cornelia noticed that their almost three year old, Owen, began growing backwards: he lost his fine motor skills and language abilities, barely able to use a sippy cup and his only word “juice.”
When Owen began mimicking Aladdin’s Iago – echolalia, a symptom of autism – Ron and Cornelia slowly set off on a course of “Disney therapy” or “affinity therapy.” Ron explains that the movies are a dream portal for those who struggle with auditory processing; Walt Disney had instructed his animators to make the movies so vivid and clear that they could be understood even without sound. This alternative treatment for autism allowed the Suskinds to glimpse at Owen’s underlying capacities for language and social development.
To read more about how the Suskinds used these dream portal films and Disney therapy to connect with Owen, and to read about Owen’s successes and progress (he is now in his 20s, and is president of a Disney Club at his Riverview school), download the strikingly illustrated memoir for free from the NMA archive section.