This fall, Occupational Therapy Department Chair and Associate Professor Kristie Patten Koenig took part in creating the educational guide for the new documentary film Life Animated, directed by academy award winner Roger Ross Williams.
The film follows the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man who as a thriving three-year-old suddenly and inexplicably became silent. For years Owen was unable to connect with others, and could not convey his thoughts, feelings, or needs. It was only through repeated viewings of classic animated Disney films like The Little Mermaid and The Lion King that Owen was able to find useful tools to help him understand complex social cues. The film interweaves animated sequences from the Disney films with scenes from Owen’s life, and shows how the characters allowed him to understand his feelings and to interpret reality.
Koenig’s role was to put together a group of people including NYU faculty, ASD Nest Support Project participators, and self-advocates with autism along with Ron and Cornelia Suskind (Owen’s parents) to develop a guide that can be used by educators when viewing the film. The guide provides tips for leading conversations on autism spectrum disorder, and is available for download. Life Animated won Best US Documentary at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and is currently showing at film festivals across the U.S. and Europe.