Who decides what the meaning to life is? Most parents would say it’s when their child can live independently after they are gone. I recently watched a film from an Academy Award winning director Roger Ross Williams, Life Animated. It’s 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. Here is more information shared from this amazing film.
The film 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.
It truly opens your eyes and makes you question, is the meaning of life really about living independently? Or could it be that the true meaning of life is to be happy, have meaningful relationships and a connection with your child to be able to exchange communication? What I would give right now to really understand Cody’s feelings. During Halloween, we have this 3 foot monster that typically sits on our porch holding a bowl for candy for trick or treaters. This year I placed in in the dining room window and to this day I am not sure if it was Cody’ new friend or if he was scared of it. He would make this squeak sound in passing or when driving up the drive way from his car seat when he would see it. I moved it to the corner in the garage because I just could not read his social cues and what his emotion truly was.
Having an understanding of his feelings, knowing what he’s truly passionate about, his insecurities or just being able to help him to reach his dreams and successes even if it’s not completely living independent one day may be more of my answer for me. Isn’t this really what the meaning of life is all about? The film gave me hope. It reminded me a big part of life is the journey getting their not at the end. Part of me believes the journey gives him the independence he would need if you can better understand, relate and have a child that can express his/her feelings to you.
A friend recently went to the viewing of this film and afterwards said that Ron Suskin spoke her language. I could feel her energy reading her comments. She shared with me the use of sensory pathways to deliver content in a multi-modal way is why she studied neuroscience. Her daughter echoed Toy Story for years. Followed by Elmo and she began to realize this was very functional. Deciphering the meanings has given her more opportunities to connect with her by tapping into the way she sees the world. Listening to her experiences with her daughter who is a decade older than Cody, it really has given me hope and desire to tap in to his world and look at things differently. Observing his interests and view it in his eyes not how I think it should be viewed. Seeking ways for the connection that may be unique to him for me to step into his world to better understand. I am on a mission now. Between her comments and watching this film its motivated me.
So all in all, go watch this movie. It made me realize to look at things differently. Stop looking at the typical education system and to really sit back and observe, listen and have fun with your child. Learn how they learn. Enhance what you see is an interest for them and run with it, weather its Disney, horses or music.