The realities of life are often best expressed through art. Facts are good, statistics are necessary, but stories are what touch our hearts. In books and films, we get the chance to live someone else’s life, to see with their eyes, feel through their bones. In these pages, we share some of the books and movies which have touched us deeply; whose stories we return to again and again for all the truth they portray about what it means to be human.
A Mind at a Time is by Dr. Mel Levine, a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School and Director of the Clinical Centre for the Study of Development and Learning. Some children are strong in one area but require support in another. No one is equally capable in all. Mel Levine’s book is a guide for parents, teachers and anyone working with children – it describes individual learning patterns, and explains how a child can optimize strengths and minimize weaknesses.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a novel told from the point of view of a young man with autism. Unraveling the mystery of what happened to the dog becomes a compelling journey through the mind of a person whose understanding of social behavior is completely different from the average reader’s. It is funny, sad, poignant and revealing.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is both a beautifully written book and a beautifully filmed movie about racism and prejudice seen through the eyes of a young girl. Both are meditations are what it means to be a parent, to have integrity and to live a life of principle no matter what the cost.
Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks is a fascinating portrayal of the world of the deaf, with particular emphasis on the development of language in people with hearing handicaps.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is a novel which explores the history of a man born with the body of a woman and his long struggle to fit into a world meant for someone else. It is a poignant and moving exploration of identity and loss as well as a portrayal of the mysterious ways in which lives inter-twine.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman is the true story of a Hmong child, settled in the United States, who suffers from intractable seizures. The book explores her family’s traditional understanding of seizures and the disconnect between their views and those of the medical community in the American city where they live as political refugees.
Finding Nemo: Set in “the big blue,” this story tells of a father learning to let his son grow up. As Marlon searches the ocean for his son Nemo, he comes to recognize that Nemo’s disability cannot prevent him from having a full life.
Forrest Gump: “Stupid is as stupid does,” says Forrest Gump in a perfect testimony to the abilities of this young man. Slower than his peers intellectually but blessed with emotional intelligence, Forrest Gump teaches others the true meaning of friendship, loyalty, love, and courage.
The Miracle Worker: Based on the true story of Helen Keller, this movie and play tells the story of Anne Sullivan’s quest to help Helen Keller – blind, deaf, and mute – find her words.
Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken: Set in America in the 1930′s, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken tells the story of a precocious young woman who will never let her dreams be diminished. As a stunt woman in a traveling fair, Sonora refuses to let her disability stop her from continuing her work, even when everyone tells her she’s crazy.
Mr. Holland’s Opus: The story of a man’s determination to create a masterpiece, Mr. Holland’s Opus is about the true meaning of success. Infatuated with music, this high school teacher still makes so many sacrifices for his students, wife, and deaf son that he feels he has given up his own dreams and ambitions. Ultimately, though, he learns that through each sacrifice he has created his masterpiece.
Saved!: A story about learning to accept and love one another through our differences, this movie is set in a strict evangelical Christian high school. With an unexpected pregnancy, one teenage girl must break free of her previous notions and learn to accept others no matter how different they may be.
A Beautiful Mind: The story of the brilliant and tortured John Nash, A Beautiful Mind illustrates the power of the human spirit regardless of the struggles a person faces.
Radio: This story of an American football coach who takes a developmentally challenged young man under his wing reveals that friendship can grow between anyone. Radio’s dedication transforms the beliefs of even the least tolerant of people.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? is the story of a classically dysfunctional family in which each member struggles to live with a child’s mental handicap and the mother’s morbid obesity. The portrayal of each character’s response to a range of difficulties is provocative and challenging.
Lorenzo’s Oil is an emotional and painful account of a child with a rare degenerative disorder and his parents’ untiring effort to save his life.
Rainman is a movie about the relationship of a man with autism and his manipulative younger brother who is determined to get his share of their parental inheritance. By turns hilarious and exasperating, the film manages to capture the slow transformation of a man against his every instinct.
Awakenings is the fascinating true story of a whole ward of patients with severe mental illness who, under the influence of a new drug, temporarily return to “sanity” and the lessons they learn there.
Black is the controversial and provocative story of a girl with a visual and a hearing handicap and her relationship with her teacher. Based on the lives of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, the film is an Indian version of the well-known story.
Khamoshi is a story about two deaf parents and their hearing daughter – an interesting exploration of the fiercely maintained language of sign and its importance for those with hearing handicap.
Taare Zameen Par is a story about child with dyslexia living in modern India. Actor/director Aamir Khan nicely portrays the web of ignorance around mainstream Indian parents, their obsession with “toppers” and high scorers; and the Indian education system, which strives to satisfy this obsession by way of rote and punishment completely failing to tap talent that needs to be nourished and encouraged. Caught in this web is a child who can’t seem to understand why he doesn’t fit in. Watch this movie with your children. It will change your world. It will also change the way you look at your kids!
Iqbal is the story of a poor 18 year old deaf and mute village boy who dares to dream of joining the Indian cricket team. ‘Iqbal’ is a true to life depiction of what a child with disability goes through in India and the grit, determination and strength of character he is forced draw on from within. He is ridiculed, faces hardships and opposition all along and never gets the support he desires, but in the end, he silences his detractors and races past all those who attempt to pull him down.
Happy Feet is the animated story of a young Emperor penguin named Mumble who grew up ‘different’ because he could not sing like the others in his clan. What he could do was to tap dance, a skill frowned upon by his elders. He is embraced by Adelie penguins and after many trials and tribulations and heroic deeds, finally wins the heart and admiration of all.