San Luis Obispo public attended a screening of the documentary for Cuesta’s Book of the year.
Photo by Adrian Martino / Special Contributor – Journalism 201A
By Marcus Hicks
Autism awareness advocates gathered at the San Luis Obispo county library for the screening of “Life Animated” — the true story of overcoming the struggles of communicating with autism.
Owen Suskind, the young child with autism in the film, learned to communicate with his family through viewing Disney movies and picking up on the language.
Owen had never effectively communicated until at the age of six, after his brothers birthday, he ran up to his parents and told them, “Walter doesn’t wanna grow up like Peter Pan or Mowgli.”
After this breakthrough, the family began to communicate with Owen through Disney quotes. At one point his father, Ron Suskind, overheard his son talking to a stuffed parrot named Iago, from the movie Aladdin.
Ron crawled under Owen’s bed and imitates the parrot in order to talk to his son for the first time in several years.
When he asked Owen how he was doing Owen replied, “I’m not happy, I can’t understand what people say and I don’t have any friends.”
Ron described how he had to bite his hand and keep up the act after the shocking revelation of his son talking.
Following the success of managing his disability, Owen moved into an assisted living apartment and his girlfriend of three years Emily was introduced.
He later had a difficult breakup with Emily and interviewed for a job at a movie theater to cope with the breakup.
The film ended with Owen succeeding in getting his first job at the movie theater, and sitting in one of the seats.
At the conclusion of the powerful film, the lights brightened and a question and answer session commenced.
Ann Dille was one member of the public who attended the screening. She said she’s been to many similar events in the community and had noticed a lot of older folks in attendance.
Dille, a volunteer at the San Luis Obispo library, was thrilled to see others expressing their interest in autism.
During the question and answer session attendees mentioned how the ending of the film differed significantly from the ending of the book it was based on.
There was also a discussion on how social services can be difficult to access and how expensive the care and therapy can be.
The book was written by Owen’s father, Ron Suskind, and is available online and in bookstores nationwide.