Finding Dory and Talking About Disabilities - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on June 22, 2016

Finding Dory and Talking About Disabilities

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Katrina Stier
(610) 447-6314

Finding Dory and Talking About Disabilities

Dory tries to make her way in the world while
coping with a significant memory loss condition.

One of the first big hits of the 2016 summer movie season is Finding Dory, the long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo. As with most animated films targeted for young audiences, the movie strikes an emotional chord and aims to teach a lesson; that lesson is understanding and tolerance for people with disabilities.

As you may know, Dory has a significant memory loss condition. In Finding Nemo, it makes for some laughs, but it’s treated far more seriously in Finding Dory, as Dory tries to make her way in the world while not being able to remember where she’s been. It’s spurring a conversation around disabilities, and it could very well lead to a conversation with you and your kids on the topic.

“Children are naturally curious and want to try to understand the differences they notice around them, these are the why questions. It is important to answer their questions as honestly and as openly as possible at the level of their understanding,” suggest Christopher Stenberg, M.D., chair of Pediatrics at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “Sometimes they will have follow-up questions, sometimes they will be satisfied and just move on – either response is completely normal.”

Here are some pointers for having that talk with your children:

  • Acknowledge their curiosity. If you see your child staring at someone in a wheelchair, don’t ignore it. The more open you are in talking about people with disabilities and helping your kids to understand, the more likely they are to feel comfortable talking to people with disabilities. This will help them to develop understanding and empathy.
  • Teach your children to be welcoming. Usually, people with disabilities want to be treated like everyone else. They don’t want to feel like they’re “apart” from the community. Help your children to understand this by teaching them to not shy away from someone who might be different from them. Don’t rush your kids away from someone who has a disability.
  • Emphasize the similarities. People with special needs are just like other people. Parents should emphasize this with their children. If they have a classmate or neighbor with a disability, talk to them about what they have in common with other children – favorite games, sports or TV shows.
  • Model good behavior. Your kids model your behavior, both good and bad. Keep this in mind when you interact with people with disabilities; treat them with the respect you would treat any other person. And avoid derogatory words such as "crippled," "retarded," and "handicapped."
  • Don’t discourage your children’s questions. If your child starts asking questions about a certain disability that you don’t know the answer to, don’t shut him down; instead, make it a research project. You can go online to learn about a certain disability. This will not only increase your child’s knowledge and understanding of the disability, it will help him to keep an open mind towards people with disabilities.
  • Don’t allow jokes or bullying. Kids with special needs are often the butt of other children’s jokes and pranks. Teach your children to respect those with disabilities. And if your child has been mean to a classmate or neighbor with disabilities, teach them to apologize.

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