Whether you want to educate your children on special needs and disabilities or experience some meaningful footage  for yourself, documentaries can be very beneficial and informative to watch. If you are looking for the absolute best special needs documentaries available, this post will show you the top 15 out there.

Category: Autism

Autism: The Musical

This documentary follows the remarkable action coach Elaine Hall along with five autistic children and their parents. The movie portrays these children putting on a full length original stage production with Mrs. Hall. These families learn how to communicate their feelings through performance and song, finding comfort and happiness in the act of creating. The story captures the unique stories, personalities, and problems of each child which can help this movie relate to any child with autism.

Normal People Scare Me

This documentary includes interviews with 65 people, including those who are autistic and their friends and families. It is co-directed by an autistic teenager named Taylor Cross. Cross asks the various interviewees about how autism makes them feel and their various experiences that they’ve had. The responses that the people have are very intuitive and shed a new light on the experiences of people who have autism and their families.

A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism

“A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism” follows the quest of one woman, Margret, to unlock her autistic son’s mind. Keli, Margret’s son, is severely autistic and Margret has tried numerous treatments to help him. She is extremely curious and wants to know more about her son’s condition, so she travels to the United States from her home in Iceland meeting other families touched by autism as well as scientists and other experts. She discovers new techniques that could help provide a promising future for her son.

 

Wretches & Jabberers

In this documentary, two men with autism go on a journey to change people’s attitudes towards disabilities and intelligence. Larry Bissonnette, 52, and Tracy Thresher, 42, both had lives of mute isolation in adult disability centers or mental institutions. As adults, they learned to communicate through typing and their lives completely changed. They go around the world preaching that people with disabilities should have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Her Name Is Sabine

Sabine is a 38-year-old autistic woman. This film is a compilation of personal footage filmed over a period of 25 years by Sabine’s sister, Sandrine. It shows how Sabine’s growth and many talents were ruined by improper diagnosis and an inadequate care structure. Sabine finally finds joy in life when she lives in a home with young people living with similar emotional and mental illnesses.

Loving Lampposts

There are two questions regarding autism in the public eye: is it a sickness to be cured or is it just a different way to be human? This documentary looks at the two sides of this argument. The recovery movement which thinks that autism is an epidemic and the neurodiversity movement which believes that autistic people should be accepted and supported.

Category: Tourette’s Syndrome

I Have Tourette’s, but Tourette’s Doesn’t Have Me

This film takes a look at the lives of different American children who are growing up with Tourette syndrome. Many people do not even recognize the symptoms therefore making the disorder go undiagnosed in some children. “I Have Tourette’s But Tourette’s Doesn’t Have Me” interviews many children about what challenges they have faced and what measures they are taking to control their syndrome.

Category: Learning Disabilities

I Can’t Do This But; I Can Do That

Having a learning disability does not mean that you can’t learn. Interviews with eight different children prove this in this family documentary. The film takes an updated look at children with a wide spectrum of learning differences. It shows how these children use their strengths to overcome their challenges.

Misunderstood Minds

This documentary will have you at the edge of your seat while also giving you an enlightened look at children with learning disabilities. The film closely follows five families all with children who have learning disabilities. The children show how they use their strengths to overcome their weaknesses. Some children use their talents well while others might slip through the cracks.

Category: Down Syndrome

Educating Peter

This academy award winning documentary portrays the life of Peter Gwazdauska who suffers from down syndrome. The story follows peter as he begins his education with normal children, unlike he has done in the past. In the end, Peter and his classmates learn to respect and accept each other. One of Peter’s classmates said, “You think that you’re teaching Peter things, but really Peter’s teaching you things. We might be teaching him stuff like how to do things, but he’s teaching us more how to think and how to react to other problems.”

Dakota’s Pride

This is a heartwarming documentary about a father’s search for truth about down syndrome. This Harvard Physician and father of a child with autism has tough questions posed to him that he has to answer. All of the answers that he finds are both surprising and inspiring.

Category: Physical Disability

Emmanuel’s Gift

This is the story of a disabled man in Ghana whose mission and purpose is to change West Africa’s harsh views on disabled people. Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah is born with a severely deformed leg and he decided to bike ride across Ghana to spread his message of inclusion. Emmanuel is now opening minds, hearts and doors and effecting social and political change throughout his country. His message is very important for us all, “people with disabilities are valuable contributors to any society.”

Category: Cerebral Palsy

Including Samuel

Photojournalist Dan Habib’s son, Samuel, was born with cerebral palsy. This award winning film follows Habib’s family as they include Samuel in every facet of their lives. It shows all of the family’s hopes and struggles with Samuel along with four other families that have children with disabilities. This is a personal film screened across the nation to tell the story of inclusion.

A Moving Journey

This is the story of Bill Porter of Portland, Oregon. Porter became a door-to-door salesman for the Watkins Company in Portland despite his cerebral palsy. He walks up to 10 miles a day selling the products. In time, Porter became the top salesman for Watkins Company in the USA.

Category: Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Darius Goes West

This is an independent documentary film that has won over 28 awards. It tells the story of Darius Weems, a 15 year old with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, who takes an adventurous cross-country trip. The goal of Darius and 11 other men that he is with is to go to Los Angeles and convince MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” to customize Darius’ wheelchair. They together learn the true meaning of friendship and joy.