Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism (ABC) Info

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Imagine being trapped inside a Disney movie and having to
learn about life mostly from animated characters dancing across a screen
of color. A fantasy? A nightmare? This is the real-life story of Owen
Suskind, the son of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind
and his wife, Cornelia. An autistic boy who couldn't speak for years,
Owen memorized dozens of Disney movies, turned them into a language to
express love and loss, kinship, brotherhood.The family was forced to
become animated characters, communicating with him in Disney dialogue
and song; until they all emerge, together, revealing how, in darkness,
we all literally need stories to survive.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism (ABC):

1

Apr 27, 2014

I had three problems with this book. First, the author, who is quick to tell us that he won a Pulitzer, was the wrong one to write this book. His wife, also a journalist, spends far more time with their autistic son; why didn't she tell their story? It can't be that Pulitzer, because Suskind is guilty of the shmaltz he tells the readers good reporters avoid. And his writing is confusing. I often reread his run-on-sentences to try to figure out what he was trying to say. Second, the author's son I had three problems with this book. First, the author, who is quick to tell us that he won a Pulitzer, was the wrong one to write this book. His wife, also a journalist, spends far more time with their autistic son; why didn't she tell their story? It can't be that Pulitzer, because Suskind is guilty of the shmaltz he tells the readers good reporters avoid. And his writing is confusing. I often reread his run-on-sentences to try to figure out what he was trying to say. Second, the author's son was atypical. So many times his behavior just didn't jive with autism. Suskind goes into great detail about his son's deep, compassionate insights and the reader is left scratching his or her head. Is this really autism? Whose definition are they using? The child did struggle, but Suskind just didn't flesh out what life with his autistic child was like, day-to-day. Finally, the author's treatment plan for his child must have cost a fortune. Suskind hires every specialist known to man, including a one-on-one counselor for camp, and even renting a room for $500/month at a church for his wife to homeschool their child (in order to get him into the best special ed high school). As a parent of children with special needs, I just couldn't relate to this family, nor did I learn about (typical) autism treatment. Not recommended. ...more
2

Jul 02, 2014

I really wanted to love this book. I so, so wanted to love it. The idea of using a child's interests to help them meet their goals, to run with it, to let it be the world, to not worry about whether it's "too much" -- I love that concept. But that's not exactly what this is...

It felt like the book was a race against time to make Owen as "normal" as possible. Achievements were only celebrated when they met what the adults wanted -- a glimpse of "something more". Stereotypes of people with autism I really wanted to love this book. I so, so wanted to love it. The idea of using a child's interests to help them meet their goals, to run with it, to let it be the world, to not worry about whether it's "too much" -- I love that concept. But that's not exactly what this is...

It felt like the book was a race against time to make Owen as "normal" as possible. Achievements were only celebrated when they met what the adults wanted -- a glimpse of "something more". Stereotypes of people with autism were present throughout. The wealth and amount of money the family spent, as if everyone can do that or as if it is mandatory or you're failing. I mean, Owen wants to go away to college, and their solution is to behavior mod his stims out of him, because that's the only way he'll be successful. What?! That doesn't even make sense to me. t never felt like I got to see and know Owen. I never felt like Owen was celebrated AS HE IS, autism and all. He sounds like such a cool dude -- I would love to have met that person in this book. ...more
5

May 24, 2015

This is a very biased review. I'm an avid reader with a sentimental temperament. Books often get to me, but I've never felt as emotionally connected to a book as I have to this one.

I am almost exactly Walt's age give or take a few months, and I have an autistic brother who's just a year older than Owen. I grew up in this 90s Disney generation with him, and, although I and my parents are different from the Suskinds in many ways, I could identify with so much of this book.

It was at parts painful This is a very biased review. I'm an avid reader with a sentimental temperament. Books often get to me, but I've never felt as emotionally connected to a book as I have to this one.

I am almost exactly Walt's age give or take a few months, and I have an autistic brother who's just a year older than Owen. I grew up in this 90s Disney generation with him, and, although I and my parents are different from the Suskinds in many ways, I could identify with so much of this book.

It was at parts painful and at others uplifting. I heard about the book almost by accident, but I am so glad I read it. ...more
5

May 21, 2019

This is a pretty good read about how a family experienced their autistic son Owen and how he learned to survive his life with Asperger's through the teachings of disney films and the sidekicks in them. If you want to read more, be sure to check this book out at your local library and wherever books are sold as well as check out the film by the same name too.
5

Aug 31, 2014

I don't normally write reviews, but this book deserves one. Suskind tells a deeply personal story about how his autistic son, Owen, used animated movies -- mostly the older, hand drawn Disney films -- as a toolkit to access and develop his ability to understand not only spoken and written language but also emotions, relationships, and his identity. Owen is a guy who was born "neurotypical" but developed the regressive form of autism, such that by the age of three he had lost his language and I don't normally write reviews, but this book deserves one. Suskind tells a deeply personal story about how his autistic son, Owen, used animated movies -- mostly the older, hand drawn Disney films -- as a toolkit to access and develop his ability to understand not only spoken and written language but also emotions, relationships, and his identity. Owen is a guy who was born "neurotypical" but developed the regressive form of autism, such that by the age of three he had lost his language and sensory processing abilities to the point where words, in those early years of autism, sounded like babble, and processing the world and all of its emotional and sensory input was overwhelming. It was so fascinating to read about how Owen sat in the basement, hitting rewind and play over and over again, absorbing the babble and the emotional expressions of his favorite characters, the moral undertones of the story lines, and even eventually understanding the meaning of the strings of letters that drifted up the screen in the closing credits. A turning point (very early on in the book; I'm not giving anything away!) happens during the sixth birthday of Walt, Owen's brother, when Owen -- up until this point only uttering very needs based strings of words-- came into the kitchen after observing that Walt seemed upset and said, simply, "Owen doesn't want to grow up, just like Peter Pan." This utterance is what draws the rest of the Suskind family -- the father, mother, and other son, Walt -- into Owen's Disney world, the entire family taking on the voices of characters and singing the theme songs, day in and day out, in order to "get in there with him" and connect. The rest of the book is a coming of age story, as fascinating as it is moving. Seriously it's SO FREAKING GOOD. ...more
5

Mar 28, 2014

I loved this book. It spoke to me on so many levels - as a mother, as someone who briefly studied Art Therapy, as inspiration for what constitutes a strong family & how to face adversity together...beautifully written, personal story of how a family searches to reconnect with their son, Owen, who is diagnosed with autism.

I can't remember the last book I read where I cried and laughed on the same page! Ron Suskind sure can draw the emotions out of me. On page 217, he is writing about how I loved this book. It spoke to me on so many levels - as a mother, as someone who briefly studied Art Therapy, as inspiration for what constitutes a strong family & how to face adversity together...beautifully written, personal story of how a family searches to reconnect with their son, Owen, who is diagnosed with autism.

I can't remember the last book I read where I cried and laughed on the same page! Ron Suskind sure can draw the emotions out of me. On page 217, he is writing about how Owen has developed a coping mechanism for the darker parts of life after brutal bullying and I cried reading Cornelia's reaction. (I LOVED Cornelia! She is the epitome of strength, resolve and good humor.) Then Ron goes on to next describe the method they used to desensitize Owen to curse words...I laughed out loud imagining that scene!

The Suskind's younger son, Owen, had always loved Disney movies. He learns to communicate and connect with his family and eventually with others through this passion. Ron describes the power of memory by saying "...memory is like that. A hook - some powerful association or moment of changed perspective - that helps keep it locked in tight, fresh for retrieval, years hence." Owen derives emotions, dialog and beautiful life messages from his fascination with animated characters. There are many beautiful moments in this book ~ when Owen first says grace at dinner, Owen's bar mitzvah, when Cornelia confronts a parent for staring at a special needs child, the interactions between Owen & his older brother, Walt, when Owen develops a friendship with Jonathan Freeman, the voice of Jafar in Aladdin, etc.

Although I was an "Air Force brat" growing up, I have lived in the DC metro area for years now and it was interesting for me to read how the Suskinds scrambled looking for a school that would accept and help them in their work with Owen. Insurance did not cover his therapy and, although they had financial means that most don't have, it must have been a struggle emotionally & financially year after year. Their motivation (and, approval from Owen) to share his story is to help others and draw an awareness to this issue.

I went to hear Ron Suskind speak at Politics & Prose at an author event last weekend and was surprised to find the whole family present. Howard Norman, a fellow author and long time friend, introduced and began the interview with Ron. They live near one another. They used to write together in the coffee shop of Politics & Prose. It was like "old home" week for this event. Former teachers and neighbors came. Then the rest of the Suskind family joined Ron in the discussion. They all talked about the successes and failures in trying to obtain help for Owen. Cornelia is also a writer and edited the book.

And, Owen, spoke as well. He is so handsome and was very articulate. He responded and answered all questions, made direct eye contact and even sang from the movie "Hercules" for us - "Go the Distance" - so appropriate! The family's hard work has paid off. Owen is moving to an independent living community following graduation, has a girl friend and a job.

The book is dedicated to the older son, Walter. Ron calls him his hero. There was a powerful moment during their presentation when Walter spoke about his brother. He compared their struggle to "The Jungle Book" where they were all working together to get Mowgli (Owen) to manhood. He talked about how embarrassed he was when Owen tried to crawl through a bookshelf once in public after a recent viewing of the movie, "The Pagemaster."

The Suskinds are so direct & honest. They say that Owen changed their family dynamics, but they can't imagine being any other way. Owen is remarkable - his truth, integrity and insights.

Owen is extremely perceptive. In one portion of the book, Jonathan Freeman is discussing the underlying theme of a Disney movie, Aladdin, as "...how in the end, good triumphs.' 'Umm. Sort of. I think it's about more than that,' counters Owen. 'I think it's about finally accepting who you really are. And being okay with that.'"

And, as Ron said at the end of his presentation on Saturday "Different does not mean less." ...more
3

Jul 12, 2015

Hm. I imagine this is a fairly polarizing read.

The good: it was certainly readable, though slick. Kept my attention and kept me reading enough that I finished it in just a few days.

Everybody's journey, and everybody's pain, is different, and big to them. I think it's completely legitimate that this family struggled with their son's autism, and that it was genuinely challenging and painful. That said, it is really, really hard to feel deep empathy for parents who are so very privileged and Hm. I imagine this is a fairly polarizing read.

The good: it was certainly readable, though slick. Kept my attention and kept me reading enough that I finished it in just a few days.

Everybody's journey, and everybody's pain, is different, and big to them. I think it's completely legitimate that this family struggled with their son's autism, and that it was genuinely challenging and painful. That said, it is really, really hard to feel deep empathy for parents who are so very privileged and well-resourced. So many folks I know with cognitive/developmental disabilities or ASD, from my time in community-based disability advocacy to working in customer service in the public library to friends' siblings, are dealing with all of this minus the tens of thousands of dollars for specialized interventions and care teams, or trying to deal with it on top of family and neighborhood trauma. The number of kids with autism in Somali families in Seattle is apparently significantly higher than the general population, for example, and those families are often also dealing with a whole host of other challenges, including unstable housing, language and cultural barriers, lack of high-paying jobs with good insurance, and deeply rooted systemic racism. Hard to hold that up against "no famous person wants to come talk for half an hour to the wealthy donors and parents at this special school." I don't think he's flippant or not cognizant of their relative wealth and the massive amount of cultural/class capital the family brings to the endeavor... but it really does create a gulf for me as a reader.

I don't mean to lack compassion or scoff at the challenges they faced. But. I would have liked a little more of Owen's voice and a little less east coast insider culture. ...more
4

May 13, 2014

A rather moving video clip on "The Daily Show" and a young relative of mine who may be on the border of the autism spectrum combined to pique my interest in this book, and it didn't disappoint. Suskind turns his Pulitzer Prize-winning talent for journalistic storytelling on his own family's struggle to help his autistic son Owen. I'm not much of a crier, nor am I a parent. But Suskind's story was a cry fest for me, and I mean that in a good way. And the tale of how he and his wife discover the A rather moving video clip on "The Daily Show" and a young relative of mine who may be on the border of the autism spectrum combined to pique my interest in this book, and it didn't disappoint. Suskind turns his Pulitzer Prize-winning talent for journalistic storytelling on his own family's struggle to help his autistic son Owen. I'm not much of a crier, nor am I a parent. But Suskind's story was a cry fest for me, and I mean that in a good way. And the tale of how he and his wife discover the bridge into his son's mind through Disney movies is absolutely rivetting. I just might have to put some of my childhood favorites in the Netflix queue!

I highly recommend the audio version of the book, as Suskind does a fantastic job narrating his own tale (a rarity among authors). You'll also get the wonderful bonus of Owen himself narrating a story he wrote. ...more
5

Sep 25, 2014

Caution: Do not read this in public if you, like me, are an ugly crier. But definitely, definitely read it.

Suskind, in my opinion, is at his best here in how he threads painful pieces of reality through a mesmerizing and moving narrative. He (and the whole Kennedy-Suskind clan) is a hell of a sidekick here. Owen, though, is an inspiration. Really, his perseverance blew me out of the water and his father very beautifully captures the quietest and most contemplative moments like a beam of light Caution: Do not read this in public if you, like me, are an ugly crier. But definitely, definitely read it.

Suskind, in my opinion, is at his best here in how he threads painful pieces of reality through a mesmerizing and moving narrative. He (and the whole Kennedy-Suskind clan) is a hell of a sidekick here. Owen, though, is an inspiration. Really, his perseverance blew me out of the water and his father very beautifully captures the quietest and most contemplative moments like a beam of light that captures all the little flecks of dusts that bystanders wouldn't have the lens with which to see. I have always had great respect for those who have persevered despite physical, mental, or emotional struggles, but I think I'm too quick to characterize them as archetypal heroes without first considering them as whole persons with depths beneath the still surface the likes of which I can only hope to understand.

The book also makes you consider the cost of raising a child on the spectrum and the responsibility that we have as a society to provide resources for those who do not have the funds that this family does. Just as we (or at least, should) invest in public education as it provides tremendous returns, so should we invest with these individuals who do not fit within what is defined as typical because they, too, have valuable contributions through the special lenses with which they see the world. ...more
3

May 25, 2017

Meh. On the fence about this book. On the one hand it is beautifully written, and an amazing story of how a family connected through their autistic son's special interest. On the other hand, it is very much a tale of privilege and the great divide between the futures of autistic who have all the advantages a rich family provides, and those like myself who never had the advantages of childhood therapy, a behavioral specialist, assisted living, specialized assistance and schools. This is all Meh. On the fence about this book. On the one hand it is beautifully written, and an amazing story of how a family connected through their autistic son's special interest. On the other hand, it is very much a tale of privilege and the great divide between the futures of autistic who have all the advantages a rich family provides, and those like myself who never had the advantages of childhood therapy, a behavioral specialist, assisted living, specialized assistance and schools. This is all glossed over in the book, as if it is taken for granted we all had this team of experts working with us since age 3, went to a 35k a year special needs school, etc. Things like the parents being able to rent an apartment just to teach their son living skills that they don't even live in, using the fathers contacts to get the son introduced to famous Disney animators, etc are just presented in stark almost smug detail.

Minimal credit is given to the effects of privilege on outcome, only the efforts of the family are stressed. To me this book is more an illustration of what so many autistic lives could be if this level of care and intervention was available to all, not just the 1%. ...more
5

Mar 23, 2014

I first heard of this book thanks to the excerpt that appeared in the New York Times Magazine a few weeks back.

I picked up the book, interested to read the rest of the Suskind's story.

The book blew me away.

As someone who doesn't yet have kids, but has been surrounded by "different" kids all my life (my father used to work at a Community Living until I was 12, my uncle is mentally handicapped and my youngest cousin is autistic), I thought I was prepared for reading about Owen.

And for the most I first heard of this book thanks to the excerpt that appeared in the New York Times Magazine a few weeks back.

I picked up the book, interested to read the rest of the Suskind's story.

The book blew me away.

As someone who doesn't yet have kids, but has been surrounded by "different" kids all my life (my father used to work at a Community Living until I was 12, my uncle is mentally handicapped and my youngest cousin is autistic), I thought I was prepared for reading about Owen.

And for the most part, I was. I had no judgments about Owen, his behaviours, or anything like that. What got to me, and what I didn't really understand before, was what it must be like for the parents. Sure, every parent loves their kid unconditionally, but the amount of unconditional love from Cornelia and Ron, Cornelia especially.

This book will warm your heart, and make you look at your life, and the sidekicks in it, with a different point of view. ...more
1

Sep 16, 2015

This is the rambling, badly-edited tale of a pair of wealthy parents who bought their non-neurotypical son the privilege of growing up into a semi-independent adult. Suskind lards the book with constant cues for the reader to find it inspirational, which put my back right up. I suggest that he stick with the shorter form journalism with which he made his name and won his Pulitzer.
2

Jun 24, 2014

My advice for reading this book is that you have to read it as Owen's (the son) story. It is so hard to get wrapped up in the narrator's perspective as an adult dealing with the struggles of his child, instead of celebrating the joy of his life. Owen sounds like one amazing person.
At the end of the book, there was so much name dropping, figure naming, and just general complaining it was sucking the joy out of the book and the accomplishment in Owen's life. Well it was certainly sucking the joy My advice for reading this book is that you have to read it as Owen's (the son) story. It is so hard to get wrapped up in the narrator's perspective as an adult dealing with the struggles of his child, instead of celebrating the joy of his life. Owen sounds like one amazing person.
At the end of the book, there was so much name dropping, figure naming, and just general complaining it was sucking the joy out of the book and the accomplishment in Owen's life. Well it was certainly sucking the joy of reading for me. I skipped to the end and read Owen's story with is talented drawings, which was wonderful and insightful.
Suskind wrote a work that won him the Pulitzer Prize about a young man who struggles from a life of poverty to get admitted to the college of his dream. Maybe he should look at the perspective of a child with autism from a middle class or lower income family and the struggles they have to face raising their child, without the financial ability to provide for a team of therapists, housing, private schools and camps. What about the autistic kids in the public school systems who only have a few teachers to help them? I echo the sentiments of my fellow reviewers. The laundry list of costs for various treatments and private education was hard to relate to as someone who works full time but would never be able to afford that for my child. It was a turn off and a bit insulting at some times.
For something that was suppose to be inspirational, I found the negativity and woe often outweighed the positive praise and excitement. It was a joy to read about Owen's experiences, but that was sapped out of me when I read a complaint about an attitude, behavior or obstacle that sometimes sounded like whining on the parent's part.
I don't have a child with a disorder so I won't claim I know personally the pain of raising a child with such unique needs. But I don't think I would be the person who would write about my complaints and woes for the world to see, or lament about how much money I spent (or couldn't spend) to raise my child for all the world to know. But that's just me. ...more
4

Jul 31, 2018

I found this book captivating and appreciated the insight into the life of and interactions with a person with autism, from onset to adulthood. The biggest problem I had reading it was constantly being aware of the privilege in this family. This story could only be told by people with immense wealth and influence, which is certainly not the typical experience.
4

May 25, 2014

This book was quite a pleasant surprise. We have a son who is on the autism spectrum. We think he's more verbal and expressive than Suskind's son. But a bit hard to tell from the book.

Fundamentally, really great to listen to the experience of someone who is a bit further ahead on the path with his son. A lot of very important lessons.

And very confirming that his experience was all around "there's a lot going on in there how do we discover it?". Far too much child rearing seems to be trying to This book was quite a pleasant surprise. We have a son who is on the autism spectrum. We think he's more verbal and expressive than Suskind's son. But a bit hard to tell from the book.

Fundamentally, really great to listen to the experience of someone who is a bit further ahead on the path with his son. A lot of very important lessons.

And very confirming that his experience was all around "there's a lot going on in there how do we discover it?". Far too much child rearing seems to be trying to "impose order" on kids - order which can impede their development.

But kids on the spectrum respond far worse to these outside-in methods. Suskind's family discovery of the inside out is really important to listen to and think about.

My only hesitation is that the stories are packaged. He's a great writer. And there were times when I wanted to hear the kid's comments (apart from the literal quotes) in a language which felt more "real" to me. Can't explain exactly what that would mean. But at times the quotes seemed a bit slick.

Regardless, this is an excellent book and I have already recommended it to several people. ...more
3

Aug 16, 2014

At three years old, Owen Suskind was a happy talkative toddler. Then, seemingly overnight, he began to regress in multiple ways: he stopped talking, seemed to no longer understand language, began to lose motor skills, spent his time whirling & crying. Eventually, his terrified parents learned that he had autism. They were determined to help him any way they could. This is the story of the next 20 years, as they tried therapy after therapy, school after school.

Owen was captivated by Disney At three years old, Owen Suskind was a happy talkative toddler. Then, seemingly overnight, he began to regress in multiple ways: he stopped talking, seemed to no longer understand language, began to lose motor skills, spent his time whirling & crying. Eventually, his terrified parents learned that he had autism. They were determined to help him any way they could. This is the story of the next 20 years, as they tried therapy after therapy, school after school.

Owen was captivated by Disney animated movies. His parents discovered that they could reach him through the movie dialog. While he could not carry on even a limited conversation, he could communicate by reciting lines from the movies. Some of his insights, as communicated through the movie dialog are incredible (deep enough that I have to wonder if they are "enhanced" by the author). Still, the idea that Owen could communicate through memorized dialog and that that skill could be used to teach him is fascinating and incredible.

I found the family's saga interesting and inspiring. Having worked with young people on the autism spectrum, some of whom had similar obsessions with cartoons, superheros, illustrating, I could recognize Owen as the complex real young man that he is. Unfortunately, the book was overly detailed and poorly edited, and the family's seemingly unlimited resources were too evident & off-putting. ...more
5

Mar 13, 2017

This is one of the most beautiful stories I've ever experienced. I was literally taken to tears several times while listening to the audio book. It doesn't take long before you're loving this family and their son Owen. Ron and Cornelia don't just give up on their son, they work to figure out how to reach him. His brother, Walter, doesn't just flee from an embarrassing brother, he learns from him. And Owen might just be one of the most brilliant people you'll ever meet. His insights into Disney This is one of the most beautiful stories I've ever experienced. I was literally taken to tears several times while listening to the audio book. It doesn't take long before you're loving this family and their son Owen. Ron and Cornelia don't just give up on their son, they work to figure out how to reach him. His brother, Walter, doesn't just flee from an embarrassing brother, he learns from him. And Owen might just be one of the most brilliant people you'll ever meet. His insights into Disney movies will take you deeper than you've ever thought to go. He sees them differently and, like his family, you'll find yourself learning from him.

I highly recommend the audio book version of this. Ron takes on the voices of the various Disney sidekicks they used to reach Owen. But the special gem comes at the very end where Owen himself narrates his beautiful tale of 12 sidekicks in search of their hero. It's a mirror at his life, the journey you've just experienced. This is one of the most important stories you'll ever experience. You'll come away with a different perspective about autism and the challenges those with it face. It can be a horrible, devastating experience, but in the end, it is SO rewarding.

I love that the Suskinds shared this story with the world, and I hope Owen's stories about sidekicks gets made into an animated movie (hand drawn, of course!). That's a movie I'd go see for sure. ...more
4

May 31, 2014

A superb look at the immense challenges posed in a family when a child is diagnosed with autism, in this case a particularly heartbreaking type of regressive autism that does not appear until a child's second year, stealing the communication and social skills he or she has already mastered and blindsiding his parents. (As an occupational therapist, I have more than once had a parent show me a video of her child at a first or second birthday party, easily demonstrating skills that we have spent A superb look at the immense challenges posed in a family when a child is diagnosed with autism, in this case a particularly heartbreaking type of regressive autism that does not appear until a child's second year, stealing the communication and social skills he or she has already mastered and blindsiding his parents. (As an occupational therapist, I have more than once had a parent show me a video of her child at a first or second birthday party, easily demonstrating skills that we have spent months in therapy trying to regain.) In my opinion, it is also a superb look at the power of a mother's love and sacrifice, not to cure her child (at this time, an impossibility), but to maximize her child's potential in ways few professionals would have dared to dream.

The book club of which I am a part is composed of OT's, speech therapists, and one physical therapist, all of whom work daily with children on the autism spectrum. We are familiar with the obsessive way in which many autistic children become enamored of cartoon characters, treating these imaginary characters as best friends and retreating into their company at the first sign of stress. (I once had a 6-year-old patient who would not do anything until the Sponge Bob toy he carried with him did it first. For him, this toy was a dear friend who bravely ventured into dangerous territory to prove it was safe to do so.) This book helped us understand why so many children with ASD find it necessary to identify with these characters and gave us new insight into the ways popular culture can be used to open the doors to improved social and communication skills for our patients. (The author's child eventually learned to identify emotion in himself and others, and behave more socially, by comparing what he observed in the "real" world to the facial expressions and dialogue he had memorized -- literally -- in Disney films.)

This book is HEARTILY recommended to anyone who works with children on the autism spectrum and to readers who enjoy true stories of those who have met and overcome immense challenges. I also recommend it with some reservation to parents of autistic children. My reservation is this: The author's family is wealthy, educated, and well-connected. Though all of these resources were stretched to the maximum to provide for their child, they had the resources to stretch. My book club decided against recommending this book to the families we serve (in middle class, suburban Indiana) because no family in our years of experience could have afforded the kind of intense intervention this book describes (both from professionals and from a mother who did not need to contribute an income to the family coffer). However, some of the things provided to this child could be adapted for families of lesser means. (Though I would avoid recommending this book to families of truly limited means. I suspect it would only be discouraging.) This book is a solid 4.5 stars. ...more
4

May 02, 2019

Wow! Just wow! That ending really got to me. As I was reading it I was moved and fascinated the process Owen, a boy on the autistic spectrum, used to grow so he could become all that he wanted to be. However, the very last story had me punching my fist in the air saying "go get 'em tiger!" with tears in my eyes. What a great kid/young adult who is so determined to beat all odds and has already shattered the limited expectations others placed on him. Owen's story is not over yet and I hope to Wow! Just wow! That ending really got to me. As I was reading it I was moved and fascinated the process Owen, a boy on the autistic spectrum, used to grow so he could become all that he wanted to be. However, the very last story had me punching my fist in the air saying "go get 'em tiger!" with tears in my eyes. What a great kid/young adult who is so determined to beat all odds and has already shattered the limited expectations others placed on him. Owen's story is not over yet and I hope to continue to follow him as he strives to reach his dreams!

This is an incredible story of an autistic child, Owen, whose parents were given little hope of him ever being able to learn much or function in a normal society to any extent.

By watching Disney movies repeatedly and living through the characters, Owen begins to develop and start expressing himself on his own. Nothing his parents, doctors, or therapists did helped him move forward as much as his Disney heroes!

Over the years as he grows into a functioning young man, it becomes more astonishing to those around him how much Disney has impacted his development. As he is able to express himself more clearly, his family begins to understand this profound impact. They are astonished at what he has picked up on through animation, storylines, and characteristics discovered through Disney movies that contributed to his understanding of the world and what he desires for his future.

The book details the long journey the family traveled while working with Owen to help him become whatever he wanted to become. The father shares the struggles, as well as the beauty, of raising an autistic child. While they could have dismissed Owen's Disney fascination, or even tried to stop it so he wouldn't live in a fantasy world, this imagined world of Walt Disney is what helps Owen better understand the realities of life, gives him dreams, and gives him the drive to reach those dreams.

The understanding of the autism spectrum has changed so much since Owen was young. More resources are available and opportunities are opening up. The beauty of this book, written by the father, is the reality of raising an autistic child, while not classifying Owen as abnormal or sub-par. He is just different, and the father embraces those differences. It's clear how those differences are not necessarily drawbacks. Some of them are astounding.

Owen is just Owen. He was always just like any one of the other kids. He just wanted to do what they did. He still just wants to do what his peers do, but he has already done so much more. ...more
4

Jul 25, 2019

So good & real. And bonus, I learned a lot about Disney (got to love the restrictive interests in autism). Anyone who wants to learn more about autism should read this book or watch the movie or both!
4

Mar 26, 2017

Great, except for the parts where Suskind relates Owen's struggle to whatever he's currently doing professionally. Those parts are boring and unnecessary.
5

Jun 25, 2018

This book touched me, changed me, made me a better person. It will open your eyes, heart, and mind and fill you with hope and love. Just make sure you have tissues handy.
4

Sep 26, 2018

How a family rallies around their boy Owen who loses his speech as a toddler is such an uplifting story. They discover that the way "in" to Owen is through Disney movies. They begin to recite lines from Disney movies, dress up as Disney characters, and relate to Owen about his feelings (and dealing with life) through examining Disney films. This is a very moving story. There are everyday miracles and there is a place for everyone. We need to respect imaginations and seek answers. We need to work How a family rallies around their boy Owen who loses his speech as a toddler is such an uplifting story. They discover that the way "in" to Owen is through Disney movies. They begin to recite lines from Disney movies, dress up as Disney characters, and relate to Owen about his feelings (and dealing with life) through examining Disney films. This is a very moving story. There are everyday miracles and there is a place for everyone. We need to respect imaginations and seek answers. We need to work hard at helping everyone to reach their potential. *I listened to Ron & Owen read the audio book. Great! ...more
4

Apr 05, 2017

I rated it based on my heart. Yes, it's a well-crafted story with unique insight. I read it as a mother and as an educator.
When I take my heart out of it, I think that it could have been a bit shorter and been just as effective.
Turnoffs? Whenever bits of the author's political leanings crept in.
5

Jan 08, 2017

As a father to an autistic child (4 years old at the time of this review, she also has a diagnosis of CP) this book just wrecked me at my deepest levels. But ever since I first read the New York Times article summarizing this story (something I do not recommend you do if you are prone to cry and are at your place of work), I knew that this book would be this kind of story.

Suskind's focus is on how his autistic son, Owen, used Disney cartoons as a method to teach himself to talk and eventually As a father to an autistic child (4 years old at the time of this review, she also has a diagnosis of CP) this book just wrecked me at my deepest levels. But ever since I first read the New York Times article summarizing this story (something I do not recommend you do if you are prone to cry and are at your place of work), I knew that this book would be this kind of story.

Suskind's focus is on how his autistic son, Owen, used Disney cartoons as a method to teach himself to talk and eventually socialize. One of the dangers of taking this kind of focus is to sell it as a type of "cure" or to make it a sort of "one size fits all" type of process. After reading the book and even during the book it is tempting to take this as a process that I could follow in my own home and teach my daughter to talk in the same way. I think Suskind does a good job of walking that line and never indicates that this is something that will work for everyone. That his child is unique in this and is an amazingly personal story of growth for his whole family.

One of the things I appreciate about this story is that it is not really about how amazing Disney is, but how amazing his son is for picking up on things and using them to build some very difficult skills for himself. The book I also take to be a love letter to his wife, who goes through some truly overwhelming ordeals and just leads the way in Owen's therapies and schooling.

My only real criticism of the book is that their life comes from a very very different perspective from my own and many of the special needs parents that I know. They spend an enormous amount of money on their child in therapies and private schooling, money that I cannot even imagine having access too. And I do not begrudge them their spending, I work hard to give my own daughter every opportunity that she may need. It is just hard to identify with them in these ways and is indicative of the extremely prohibitive costs concerning autism.

But seriously, near the end of the book Ron Suskind shares how he had had a couple dreams about Owen growing up and as a neurotypical adult that just destroyed me. I was just a sobbing mess.

I listened to the audio and happen to own the hardback version as well. The final chapter was Owen reading his story about the Sidekicks mentioned throughout the book. In the hardback book are his drawings also mentioned throughout the book. It was a wonderful way to end the story.

I believe there is a documentary that is in limited release right now and my family is excited to see more from the Suskind family. ...more

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