A good show or movie has the power to touch your heart, inspire new ideas, tell truths from history, and ever so often, shed light into the lives of people that might have never crossed your path

People with disabilities are, first and foremost, people. They have feelings, wants and needs… just like you and me. They have wants and aspirations. They may have to go about things in a slightly different way. These features remind us that there is no need to take pity or to treat them differently. Take the time to know them, and you’ll be surprised at the gem you’ll find in each of them.

We’ve asked our multidisciplinary team of experts and special educators to share their all-time favorite shows about special needs. Whether you’re a parent, an educator, a student, or just happened to come across this on your moments – this list is a keeper. Make sure to add it to your ‘Favorites’ + share it a friend. Enjoy!

WHAT: Based on the New York Times bestseller, this movie tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a young boy born with a facial difference as he tries to fit in at a mainstream elementary school for the first time. He strives to teach others that beauty is not just on the outside.

TAKEAWAYS: It reminds us how people can make someone feel uncomfortable by staring – something the young boy with facial differences in ‘Wonder’ has to deal with every day.

“Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle. And if you really want to see what people are, all you have to do is look.”

– Auggie Pullman

WHAT: A biopic of Temple Grandin, a woman with autism who has become one of the top scientists in the humane livestock handling industry.

TAKEAWAYS: Different, but not less.

“My name is Temple Grandin. I’m not like other people. I think in pictures and I connect them.”
― Temple Grandin

WHAT: Based on the New York Times best-selling book, this film examines the lives of families, each contending with a child who is uniquely different.

TAKEAWAYS: This important film urges us to start thinking of disability in terms of identity, not as a locus of struggle but a place of being.

WHAT: The show follows several individuals with autism as they date and enter into romantic relationships; for some of them, it’s their first time dating. On Netflix.

TAKEAWAYS: This show is a chance for those on the autism spectrum to be portrayed realistically, and for the rest of the world to realize that they fall in love just like the rest of us.

WHAT: Within the mind of an American girl named Riley are the basic emotions that control her actions — Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. Her experiences become memories, stored as colored orbs, which are sent into long-term memory each night

TAKEAWAYS: We learn to foster deeper and more compassionate connections to others and about emotional regulation.

“You can’t focus on what’s going wrong. There’s always a way to turn things around, to find the fun.”

— Joy (voice)

WHAT: This show on Netflix focuses on the life of 18-year-old Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist), who has autism spectrum disorder.

TAKEAWAYS: An appreciation for individuals learning to gain independence.

WHAT: Finding Dory has multiple characters with disabilities that live in the community (the ocean) and in institutions (the aquarium, the quarantine section of the aquarium). The characters are part of ecosystems (the coral reef) integrated with non-disabled aquatic creatures.

TAKEAWAYS: A good narrative, both for adults & kids.

“When something is too hard… There is always another way.”

– Charlie (Dory’s Dad)

WHAT: This documentary series follows a group of young students with a range of learning disabilities as they receive hands-on training in the hospitality trade. For 22 teenagers from across the country, it is their first day at the Foxes Hotel in Somerset, the grand Victorian hotel which specialises in running this unique training academy.

TAKEAWAYS: We can appreciate how young adults can become independent adults given time, understanding and patience.

WHAT: 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.

TAKEAWAYS: We all need a way to communicate. Some do it in more unique ways than others!

WHAT: Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) has never thought of himself as disadvantaged, and thanks to his supportive mother (Sally Field), he leads anything but a restricted life. Whether dominating on the gridiron as a college football star, fighting in Vietnam or captaining a shrimp boat, Forrest inspires people with his childlike optimism.

TAKEAWAYS: Its timelessness, poignancy, and hilarity are infectiously powerful.

“Don’t ever let anybody tell you they’re better than you.”

– Mrs. Gump

WHAT: A young woman with autism runs away from her caregiver in an attempt to submit her 500-page manuscript to a “Star Trek” writing competition at Paramount Pictures …

TAKEAWAYS: Interesting if you’re looking for an old-fashioned, feelgood indie movie.

WHAT: Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and Savant syndrome, is recruited into the surgical unit of a prestigious hospital.

TAKEAWAYS: The show carries a beautiful positive message. It tells us that us no matter how hard life can be, there’s always something.

“Is fear of failure a good reason not to do this?”

 — Dr. Shaun Murphy

WHAT: Rudy is a biographical account of the life of Daniel Ruettiger who harbored dreams of playing football at the University of Notre Dame despite significant obstacles.

TAKEAWAYS: This is one of the best beating-the-odds tales; an intelligent, inspiring sentimental drama.

“Well, you know what my dad always said, ‘having dreams is what makes life tolerable.’ “

– Pete

WHAT: This popular TV series focuses on the experiences of three generations of a California family. The show features 8-year-old Max Braverman who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Autism emerges as a central part of nearly every episode of the drama.

TAKEAWAYS: Max helps shed light on the often-misunderstood behaviors and feelings of people with ASD.

WHAT: After his wife dies of cancer, an overworked engineer struggles to care for his son with autism. His son in response to bullying regresses into a fantasy world escape.

TAKEAWAYS: The intentions behind “A Boy Called Po” are not only good, but honorable. In this story of a young widower dad raising a son with autism.

Po: Don’t be afraid daddy.

David Wilson: Don’t be afraid of what, pal?

Po: Don’t be afraid of me.

Po: I don’t want people to be afraid of me.

Po: Don’t be afraid of me, daddy.

David Wilson: I’m not afraid of you.

David Wilson: Daddy’s not afraid, not anymore

May this list inspire your next movie choice and open your mind to this beautiful and unique community!

About ELG

ELG is a social enterprise dedicated to serving the special needs community in China. 

Established since 2006, ELG has been guiding and supporting families through its specialized services and programs on the journey towards an inclusive future.

Our team of multidisciplinary experts and special educators are here to provide professional advice for your questions related to special education. If you know someone in need, you can always reach out to us – we are here to help.

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