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.

Autism Affinities Project – Ian and Autistry Studios


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


“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

Iris Grace, “Early Morning Water”

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


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 […]

Autism Affinities Project – Josh


Joshʼs affinity for dogs started over a year ago. He always wants to go to the dog park or, at least, visit the three neighborhood dogs that we know. He loves to talk about dogs, pet them, and log “dog meets.” On our summer vacation, for example, he logged in a notebook every dog he met. I personally love his latest affinity because we not only have a dog, but I grew up with dogs. When I was his age, I loved dogs just like my son.

Autism Affinities Project – Yonatan


Yonatan came into a recent session with Tomi (his teacher) babbling a lot. He was very hyper (he is also diagnosed with severe ADHD). Among the things he was babbling were a few syllables he repeated a lot: : Ata-y, ata-y, he said again and again.

“We know you are trying to say something but we can’t understand,” both Tomi and I said to him.

Then we started writing, and Yonatan wrote a few letters that were not coherent to us. And then he wrote in Hebrew the letters that make up the same strange combination: Ata-y.

Autism Affinities Project – Reid “Music and Movies” Moriarty


Reid has an affinity for music, entertainers, and performing. As a toddler, he memorized more than 200 track numbers and titles on favorite CD recordings and from “My First Hymnal.” It is obvious how deeply he feels music—both by how he wanders to wherever it is played and dances with abandon when he arrives. Songs in a minor key still bring him to tears. Gifted with perfect pitch, Reid helped select our first piano, nonverbally. The salesman said, “you need to get this one or he won’t abide it being played.”

Autism Affinities Project – Hannah


“She used to draw (replicate) cartoon characters perfectly but now spends most of her time on Minecraft. She doesn’t start with a drawing. She actually visualizes a pattern on a grid and can superimpose it from her mind onto the computer screen and fill in the grid accordingly. It’s quite a gift.”

Autism Affinities Project – Quentin


Throughout the week, the logo-naming increased. He found them throughout my parents’ home, especially on their widescreen TV. He also started to spout logo names sporadically, without even seeing them. “Clorox,” he would say to me, with perfect eye contact, waiting for a response. “Clorox,” I would say. He would counter with, “Pringles,” again waiting for my response. “Pringles,” I would say. For Quentin, this is typical back-and-forth conversation. We could go several rounds of brand names before he got tired or distracted.

Autism Affinities Poll

In April, the New York Times reported that researchers from MIT, Yale, and Cambridge, inspired by Life, Animated, are teaming up to study the effectiveness of structuring therapy around a child’s affinity. This was thrilling news, and research we will watch closely. But (as anyone who has ever suffered from a chronic condition knows well) […]