Ron Suskind

  • Aired:  05/13/14
  •  | Views: 25,811

In "Life, Animated," author Ron Suskind details how his son uses Disney movies to navigate autism and communicate with the world. (5:49)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)>> Jon: WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT, PULIZERPRIZE WINNING AUTHOR,

HIS NEW BOOK IS CALLED

"LIFE ANIMATED: A STORY OFSIDEKICKS, HEROES AND AUTISM."

PLEASE WELCOME BACK TO THEPROGRAM RON SUSKIND. RON.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)SO, SO THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR

BEING HERE.

THE BOOK IS CALLED "LIFE'SANIMATED," IT'S AN INCREDIBLE

STORY. YOU ARE MORE KNOWN,OBVIOUSLY, FOR IN-DEPTH

JOURNALISM BOOKS. YOU WON APULITZER, YOU WRITE

ABOUT THE WASHINGTON CULTURE,THE THINGS OF THAT NATURE.

THIS IS A VERY PERSONAL BOOKABOUT YOUR FAMILY.

>> YEAH.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BRINGTHAT STORY OUT?

>> WELL YOU KNOW, OWEN, OUR SON,GOT TO KIND OF AN AGE OF

AWARENESS ABOUT 19 AND HE SAIDTO MY WIFE CORNELIA AND I, LOOK,

I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ME ANDKNOW PEOPLE LIKE ME.

AND HE'S LIKE, YOU GUYS AREWRITERS, I SAID, "YEP,"

AND OFF WE WENT. AND YOU KNOW,AND PART OF IT IS

WE SAID, WOULD THISBOOK HAVE BEEN HELPFUL TO US 15

YEARS AGO WHEN WE WERE REALLY INTHE DARKNESS AND FEAR?

I WE SAID, OF COURSE. SO.

>> NOW, WHAT'S INCREDIBLE ABOUTTHAT IS SO OWEN IS YOUR SON.

>> YES.

HE WAS DIAGNOSED AT 3 OR 31/2 WITH THE REGRESSIVE FORM OF

AUTISM.

>> THAT'S RIGHT. RIGHT. SOBASICALLY, HE SEEMS LIKE

A TYPICAL KID, I LOVE YOU,LET'S GET ICE CREAM,

AND THEN THEY REGRESS. IT'S VERYSIMILAR TO THE REGULAR AUTISM.

IT'S ABOUT A THIRD OF THE CASESARE REGRESSIVE.

SO, THE PROBLEM IS THEY FEELLIKE, IT'S LIKE THEY'RE

VANISHING IN FRONT OF YOU.

THEY JUST DISAPPEAR.

>> RIGHT.

OF COURSE, YOU SAY, WHATHAPPENED?

DID HE HURT HIMSELF?

DID HE BANG HIS HEAD?

AND THEN WE HEAR THEWORD "AUTISM."

>> AND HE HAS AT THIS POINTSOMEWHAT DISAPPEARED.

YOU CANNOT COMMUNICATE WITH HIM,BUT SOMETHING HAPPENS THAT

UNLOCKS THE MYSTERY OF IT.

>> YEAH, LIKE HE LOVED THEDISNEY ANIMATED MOVIES, EVERY

KID DID. YOU KNOW, IN THATPERIOD.

LION KING, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST,ALADDIN. SO, HE'S WATCHING AGAIN

WITH A PECULIAR INTENSITY. HE'SNOT SPEAKING.

HE'S SILENT AT THIS POINT, BUTYOU CAN SEE HIM REWINDING.

AND AFTER A WHILE, WE HEARJIBBERRISH. YOU KNOW,

HE'S SAYING THINGS THATEVENTUALLY WE REALIZE ARE LINES

FROM THE MOVIE, AT WHICH POINTOUR LIFE BECOME INSANE.

WE START SPEAKING IN DISNEYDIALOGUE, AND IF YOU THREW

HIM A LINE, HE'D THROW YOU BACKTHE NEXT LINE.

>> Jon: WOW.>> IT WAS CRAZY.

>> THANK GOD IT WASN'TTARANTINO. I MEAN, I,

JUST THE -- (LAUGHTER)

>> NONE OF IT WOULD HAVE WORKED,THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN IT.

>> THE PROFANITY THAT WOULD HAVEBEEN IN YOUR HOUSE, IT WOULD

HAVE BEEN JUST AWFUL!

>> BUT WE WOULD HAVE GONE WITHTARANTINO IF THAT'S WHAT IT WAS.

>> Jon: SO WHAT HE IS DOING, ANDTHIS IS I THINK THE KEY TO THIS

THAT IS SO, IN MANYWAYS HEARTBREAKING BUT ALSO

HOPEFUL ABOUT AUTISM, HE ISLOOKING FOR A WAY OUT.

>> THAT'S RIGHT, THAT'S RIGHT.

HE'S LOOKING TO CONNECT ANDDOESN'T QUITE KNOW HOW.

>> YEAH, YOU KNOW, LOOK, WHAT WEFIND IS THAT THESE KIDS EMBRACE

WHAT WE CALL AFFINITIES.FOR HIM IT'S DISNEY,

SOME KIDS IT'S THOMASTHE TANK OR MAPS OR ANIME.

THEY USE IT AS A TOOLKIT TOKINDA MAKE THEIR WAY OUT.

NOW, FOR A LONG TIME WESAID, CUT IT OFF. IT'S

PERSEVERATIVE, IT'S NOTPRODUCTIVE, IT'S OBSESSIVE.

NOW, WE'RE FINDING IT'S MOREPATHWAY, WE'RE FINDING OUT, THAN

PRISON. GO IN THERE WITHTHEM, DANCE IN FRONT OF

THE SCREEN IF YOU HAVE TO. ANDEVENTUALLY OWEN AND WE

TOGETHER BUILD A KIND OFVEHICLE THAT HE NOW DRIVES OUT

INTO THE WORLD.

>> Jon: AND THE INCREDIBLE THINGIS, HE'S WATCHING THIS

AND HE'S PICKING UPSOCIAL INTERACTION.

HE'S STARTING TO UNDERSTAND THEINCREDIBLE STORY ABOUT WHAT HE

SAYS ABOUT YOUR SON WALTER, WHOIS THE OLDER BOY.

>> YEAH. YEAH, YEAH,NOW, WALT'S A WILDLY INDEPENDENT

KID, A LOT OF KIDS, BROTHER'S OFDISABLED FOLKS, VERY JUNIOR

ADULTS. HE GETS A LITTLEEMOTIONAL ON ONE DAY A YEAR,

HIS BIRTHDAY. WE DON'T REALLYNOTICE, MY WIFE AND I.

OWEN WALKS IN AFTER WALT'S 9THBIRTHDAY, OWEN'S 6 AND A HALF.

HE'S SAYING VERYLITTLE AT THIS POINT

AND HE SAYS, HEY, WALTER DOESN'TWANT TO

GROW UP LIKE MOGLI OR PETERPAN.

NOW, THAT WAS LIKE A THUNDERBOLTWENT THROUGH THE KITCHEN.

AT WHICH POINT WE SAID,HE'S IN THERE! NOW HOW DO WE

GET BACK IN. AND THAT WAS OURSTRUGGLE ACROSS A DECADE.

HOW DO YOU GET BACK IN?

>> NOT ONLY IS HE IN THERE, HE'SMORE INSIGHTFUL THAN MANY PEOPLE

WOULD BE WHO HAVE BEENABLE TO COMMUNICATE FOR A

LONG PERIOD OF TIME.

>> EXACTLY. YOU KNOW, ANDTHAT'S REALLY THE MESSAGE HERE.

YOU KNOW, THEY CAN'T EXPRESSIT, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN

IT'S NOT THERE. YOU KNOW, THEYOFTEN LIVE VERY RICH LIVES

INSIDE OF THERE. IF YOU CAN GETIN THERE WITH THEM,

YOU CAN DISCOVER THAT.

>> RIGHT. THAT'S WHY, SO IWANTED TO SHOW, THIS IS A CLIP.

SET THIS UP A LITTLE BIT.

>> YEAH, YEAH. SO, WHAT HEDOES IS HE DOES VOICES,

AND THE WHOLE FAMILYDID VOICES AND HE USES THEM

REALLY TO MAKE SENSE OF HIMSELFAND HIS PLACE IN THE WORLD

AND HE FINDS THESPECIAL SCENES FROM DISNEY.

THERE'S 20, 30 OF THEM THAT HEREALLY USES

ALMOST LIKE THERAPY BUT ALSOIDENTITY AND PERSONAL GROWTH.

>> RIGHT. OKAY. AND THIS IS,

SO THIS IS OWEN USING THAT.

>> YOU MUST TAKE YOUR PLACE INTHE SAGA OF LIFE.

>> HOW CAN I GO BACK?

I'M NOT WHO I USED TO BE!

>> REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE!

YOU ARE MY SON!

AND THE ONE TRUE KING.

REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE!

>> WHO ARE YOU, OWEN?

>> YOUR SON.

>> YOU BET.

(APPLAUSE)>> CRAZY. CRAZY. ALL RIGHT.

SO HERE'S WHAT WE'RE GOING TODO...

(APPLAUSE)SO LET'S DO THIS. I WANT TO TALKA

LITTLE BIT ABOUT, THERE ISSOME REALLY INTERESTING

AND EXCITING THINGS THAT YOU ARESTARTING TO DO AND

THE SCIENTISTS ARE STARTING TODO, WE'LL TALK ABOUT THAT.

STICK AROUND A LITTLE BIT. ONTHE WEB WE'LL GO.

"LIFE, ANIMATED." IT'SON THE BOOKSHELVES NOW.

PHENOMENAL STORY. RON SUSKIND.WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.

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