In a nod to the late Roger Ebert, I’ve assembled a list of movies and shows that can endure the repeated watching that results with having an ASD person in the family. This list is highly personalized – you may find the movies I love are the ones you can’t stand – still, I’ve tried to give a quick rationale for why I like or dislike each one. There is one universal truth: if you expose ASD kids to inappropriate language, they will repeat it – in public and loudly. SpongeBob Squarepants deserves a post all to itself. You’ll have to wait for that one. The Same goes for Finding Nemo. The jury is still out on Scooby Doo.
All of the Scholastic/Weston Woods videos of classic books like Goodnight Gorilla, A Story A Story and Strega Nona
Having the paper books available and turning on the subtitles for each story clearly bolstered our boy’s verbal and sight reading skills.
Sesame Street/The Muppet Show/Muppet Movies
Inexplicably, we go through pro and anti-muppet phases and continue to have lengthy discussions about the “realness” of Muppets. The Muppets are also very useful in teaching about humor and jokes like puns – ASD kids seem to read the social cues of muppets better than in actual people.
Richard Scarry’s Busytown/Busy People
Lovely music and great ways to learn alphabets, rhyming and counting. Also good to have these books handy for reading/storytelling skills.
So many people think this movie is too sad, but there is no greater depiction of the mother-baby connection in animated film. The pink elephants and the crows are also objectionable to some people, but that Casey Junior Train is an icon that endures. It’s what inspired the artist in our boy. For years he would set paper, crayons and paint in front of me and make me (and his teachers) draw it over and over – and then one day he did it himself.
His Kipper scripting was so spot-on that everyone at the local pool thought he was British. I could watch this forever. I may have to.
Wallace & Gromit/Shaun the Sheep
Hilarious. A Close Shave is a little scary, FYI. Shaun is a tiny non-verbal sheep – our boy identified strongly with him.
Thomas the Tank Engine/Thomas and the Magic Railroad
The older the better – Ringo, James Carlin and Alec Baldwin if you can find them. At one point I wrote to Baldwin telling him he should make videos as Mr. Conductor in which he eats a variety of foods to model good eating habits – the single act of eating celery and carrots in the Magic Railroad movie changed our lives. No, he didn’t write back.
The themes seem to resonate – loyalty, frustration, friendship, racing. Skip the second one.
Our boy’s favorite song: If I Only Had a Brain. Do not, under any circumstances, see Oz the Great and Powerful.
My favorite story about this movie: when we were doing cognitive testing, the examiner asked our boy who discovered America and the answer our boy gave him was, “Christopher Plummer.” Also, he drew the cathedral wedding scene using the characters from Scooby Doo.
No explanation needed. Later this year I’ll do a more detailed post on Christmas viewing.
Live action Peter Pan (2003)
The Disney version pales in comparison to this visually stunning, complex version, in which Jason Issacs’ Hook is the perfect villain with a sympathetic edge. Old, alone, done for.
Truly scrumptious. The child catcher scared the hell out of me when I was a kid, but made zero impact on my kids. Go figure.
I didn’t want to add it to the list, but I had to. It’s the Elton John/Nathan Lane/Jeremy Irons factor.
Totally underrated – visually stunning with dialogue and songs well worth repeating.
Boom, baby! The incomparable Eartha Kitt. Kronk and his own theme music. Possibly the highlight of David Spade’s career.
Pegasus. Excellent soundtrack.
All of them – he literally grew up with them, and Andy’s going off to college is the best story we have yet on transition issues.
We did have to hide this one for awhile because his standard response to everything became “Beep! Beep!” but it’s back in circulation now. We simply cannot live without Wile E. Coyote, super genius.
Yes, Eunice. Our boy dressed as Howard Bannister regularly for months. Possibly my favorite movie ever.
Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
These are great – skip the other two.
I don’t know anyone who was not destroyed by the first 20 minutes of this movie – it actually triggered such anxiety in our boy that we had to see professional help.
Sorry, Scrat. No redeeming dialogue or plots, and scripted speech from Sid the Sloth is really, really bad.
We couldn’t really avoid it, and it really is a good movie but: too much screaming! Also, the only curse word our boy uses is a perfect imitation of Samuel L. Jackson’s “Damn!”
Yes, Merlin is a hoot, but if I hear “I’ve had enough of this nonsense!!” one more time I will blow myself to Bermuda.
Lucifer the cat was the bane of my existence for years. Too much meanness.
Gaston and the angry mob bring out all the worst qualities of scripted speech.
We canceled our premium cable channels after he stumbled on this and became obsessed by both the sex scene and the transformation from man to beast. It did help us communicate at a key point in his development because we realized that references to the Wolfman occurred when he experienced digestive pain.
Both lists could go on forever, but these are the ones that come to mind without a trip to the movie shelf. If you’ve found anything good, helpful or just fun for older kids and teens please post a comment – we are always looking for more adult content that is not too adult, in terms of language, sex and violence.
DO: All three Toy stories; Lion King (watched it over and over again during chickenpox); Homeward bound; The Lord of the Rings; Star Wars; Sesame street; Adventures in Odyssey (audio only).
DON’T: Home alone (any); Willy Wonka;
*Toy Story III made me cry.
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