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Special Needs and Learning Difficulties

Are there positive role models for my kid with special needs?

Many popular movies, TV shows, and books have characters with disabilities, and many are positive role models. You can use these examples to talk with your kids about tolerance, respect, and stereotypes. You can draw your kids out and ask them to share their own experiences as people with disabilities. Using media, take the opportunity to talk about the characters, what they overcame, how they're treated, and what makes them unique.

Here are some people and media to consider when starting the conversation:

 Media personalities with disabilities:

  • Carol Greider, Noble Prize-winning geneticist (learning disabilities)
  • Steven Spielberg, award-winning film director (ADHD)
  • Temple Grandin, animal scientist (autistic spectrum disorder) 
  • Baxter Humby, kickboxer (amputated hand)
  • Football player Tim Tebow, actor Whoopi Goldberg, Virgin CEO Richard Branson, actor Henry Winkler, and singer Cher (dyslexia)

Television shows that have positive role models:

Glee. Artie is paraplegic, and Becky has Down syndrome.
Switched at Birth. Emmett is deaf.
Parenthood. Max has Asperger's syndrome.
The Secret Life of an American Teenager. Tom Bowman has Down syndrome.

Movies that have positive role models:

Radio. James Robert Kennedy, aka Radio, has an intellectual disability.
I Am Sam. Sam has an intellectual disability.
Adam. Adam has Asperger's syndrome.
Forrest Gump. Forrest has an intellectual disability.

Vicki Windman contributed to this article.

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