A developmental disability is a condition usually diagnosed during a child’s development, prior to adulthood. Developmental disabilities can impair several areas of development, such as physical, learning, language, and/or behavior. Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month encourages increased awareness of the needs of those with developmental disabilities. The observance, celebrated each year in the month of March, also highlights these citizens’ potentials.
The following are five films and TV shows that feature at least one main character with a developmental disability.
Based on the book of the same title by R.J. Palacio, this 2017 film adaptation features August Pullman, a kid born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting fifth grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Beginning from Auggie’s point of view and expanding to include his classmates, his sister, her
boyfriend, and others, the perspectives converge to form a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope.
Forrest Gump (1994)
In this Oscar-winning picture, Forrest Gump, a gentle soul born in a small Alabama town,
happens into one memorable experience after another through a panorama of American history from the 1950s to the present. Throughout his life, he is supported by his love for Jenny, his childhood friend with whom he shares his lifelong memories.
Of Mice and Men (1992)
Based on the novel by John Steinbeck, in this 1992 film migrant farm workers George (Gary Sinise) and Lennie (John Malkovich) travel together, hoping that one day, when they’ve got enough money saved up, they’ll buy a little place of their own and live off the fat of the land, and Lennie will get to tend the rabbits. Lennie likes soft things: rabbits, mice, puppies. He’s a simpleton, a big powerful child, and soft things excite him. That excitement usually leads to trouble, and that trouble keeps them moving.
Ousama Ranking (Ranking of Kings)/様ランキング (2017)
The people of the kingdom look down on the young Prince Bojji, who can neither hear nor speak. They call him “The Useless Prince” while jeering at his supposed foolishness. However, while Bojji may not be physically strong, he is certainly not weak of heart. When a chance encounter with a shadow creature should have left him traumatized, it instead makes him believe that he has found a friend amidst those who only choose to notice his shortcomings. He
starts meeting with Kage, the shadow, regularly, to the point where even the otherwise abrasive creature begins to warm up to him.
Kage and Bojji’s unlikely friendship lays the foundation of the prince’s journey, one where he intends to conquer his fears and insecurities. Despite the constant ridicule he faces, Bojji resolves to fulfill his desire of becoming the best king he can be.
The Fault In Our Stars (2014)
Based on the book by John Green, this 2014 film adaptation features Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), a 16-year-old cancer patient, who meets and falls in love with Gus Waters (Ansel Elgort), a similarly afflicted teen from her cancer support group. Hazel feels that Gus really understands her. They both share the same acerbic wit and a love of books, especially Grace’s touchstone, “An Imperial Affliction” by Peter Van Houten. When Gus scores an invitation to meet the reclusive author, he and Hazel embark on the adventure of their brief lives. RW
Student blogger Richard Wu is a piano performance major in the Jacobs School of Music and has worked as a Media Services desk staff member since 2021.
Do you have a favorite film featuring characters with developmental disabilities? Let us know in the comments! Media Services