Welcome to Life, Animated

Our son Owen, like so many with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), has an ‘affinity’—in his case, a deep connection to the Disney movies he’s watched countless times to make sense of an often-bewildering world. We wrote about Owen in Life, Animated, and received scores of letters describing affinities from anime to Minecraft to maps. That’s why we started this site: to share Owen’s story and to create a platform (the Autism Affinities Project) for others to share stories of their own.

We hope you'll join us in gathering and exploring the breathtaking range of expression — impeccable renderings of movie scenes, intricate art, musical performances, stirring videos, and sheer feats of recall — that affinities inspire. Here we make them visible to an appreciate public.

Click to learn more about Affinity Therapy and the new Affinity Foundation.

UPDATE: Owen's YouTube channel is up and running! Here he will share his affinity for Disney with the world, showcase his original artwork, find amazing Disney collectibles on ebay for eager Disney fans and bidders, interview special guests from Disney movies and more! Click here to check out Owen's channel.

Autism Affinities Project – Casey

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Many children are fascinated by transportation, as the enduring popularity of toy cars and the success of shows like “Thomas the Tank” go to show. But here at the Affinities Project, we’ve noticed a pronounced trend among children on the autism spectrum to harbor a deep passion for — and uncanny knowledge of — transportation infrastructure. From maps to […]

Autism Affinities Project – Nate

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This latest post comes from Shannon, yet another fellow parent of a child with autism who harbors a deep affinity for Disney. Shannon reached out to Ron on Twitter, which is a great way of coming to our attention (but only if you’d rather not use the forms on the site, which we always encourage)! […]

Autism Affinities Project – The Art of Autism

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The story of yet another uplifting autism organization, rooted in affinities and the beautiful creations they engender, comes to us from a fellow parent-turned-activist that Ron met at the Walt Disney Family Museum in January. The Art of Autism is a collaborative of artists, poets, entrepreneurs, and entertainers on the autism spectrum that showcases the […]

Autism Affinities Project – Exceptional Minds

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On February 3rd, Ron spoke at the Semel Institute’s Open Mind lecture at UCLA, in a rare yet extremely powerful coalescing of renowned autism researchers from the medical community and prominent creators from the entertainment industry.  Little did Ron know that some of these creators had prepared a special treat: the vocational school Exceptional Minds surprised him […]

Autism Affinities Project – Shane

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On February 2nd, online news site IOL (Independent Online) came out with a fascinating article profiling South African artist Shane Dennis. Shane, who lives in Johannesburg, was diagnosed with ASD at age 3. His parents chart a progression through art and media not dissimilar from Owen’s in many ways. His father Ronald Dennis tells reporter Nontando Mposo that Shane was only 5 “when he started to write words. He always watched movies with English subtitles and started to associate the sounds with the spelling. The first thing he wrote in class was ‘Walt Disney Pictures present Finding Nemo’, in exactly the same font as in the movie on a blackboard. He wrote ‘EXIT’ with chalk on the carpet.” Not unlike Owen, Shane used his favorite movies to teach himself how to read and write.

Autism Affinities Project – Ian and Autistry Studios

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I have often spoken and have written elsewhere about the moment I truly entered the world of my son, Ian. When Ian was very young (2 to 4 years old) he had very little language. However, he could recite entire Disney movies word-for-word – especially Winnie the Pooh. During that period he also did not sleep at night, so my husband, who had to get up early for work, slept in Ian’s racecar-bed and Ian snuggled up with me. One night when Ian was happily reciting lines from The Blustery Day, I jumped in and took the part of Tigger: “The wonderful thing about tiggers, is tiggers are wonderful things. Their tops are made out of rubber. Their bottoms are made out of springs!” Ian whipped his head around, looked me right in the eye…and then burst into laughter. With a huge smile he welcomed me into his world.

Autism Affinities Project – Julie

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“At age 5, we decided to take both girls to Disneyland, which included a private session with her favorite characters at Disneyland’s City Hall that we arranged through a friend who worked at the resort. I remember how confused and agitated she was as we waited patiently in the courtyard for the appearance of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Dumbo. Once they entered, she raced from our arms, quietly greeting each character and seeking a hug. We were stunned to hear that voice that was stilled for so long.”

Autism Affinities Project – Iris

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Her mother Arabella says that the family initially started encouraging her to paint as part of broader therapeutic goals; hoping that art could help her develop speech and joint attention, along with social skills like turn-taking. Only then did they realize what a unique talent she had – far beyond other children in her age group.

Autism Affinities Project – Jack

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In November, CNN covered the story of 22-year-old Jack Howes, a remarkable young man with Asperger’s whose affinity for soccer – or, to the rest of the world, football – helped him cope with anxiety and overcome social challenges. Writer James Masters describes how Jack can list every single FA Cup winning Team since 1984 […]