Finding Dory: An Example of Positive Special Needs Parenting

I watched Finding Dory with my family on the weekend at a screening for the vision and hearing impaired. It was a lovely, accessible event and my kids enjoyed the chance to see a movie in a safe and supportive setting.

I’m not sure whether it was because we were in a special needs setting, but I was struck with the positive way in which disability was portrayed throughout the film. I was especially impressed with the portrayal of Dory’s parents, who were depicted as caring, generous and positive special needs parents.

FINDING DORY: an example of positive special needs parenting -

Now Dory, in case you have not seen Finding Nemo or its sequel, suffers from short term memory loss which affects nearly every part of her life. She forget things immediately, is often disorientated and relies on others to help her through every day life.

Her parents dealt with this beautifully in the flashback sequences. They were understanding. They were patient. They were loyal. They were kind. And they did all they could to change their environment to better suit Dory and her needs. They did not try to change HER, or ignore/minimise her real struggles.

They worked with her strengths and never, ever blamed her or considered her a burden in any way.

In other words, they were the ultimate example of positive special needs parenting.

I have to confess that I bawled my eyes out a few times during the course of the screening as I could relate to so much of what Dory’s parents were going through. They were terrified for the future yet were doing all they could to keep her safe and working out the best ways they could to teach her to find her way home and to navigate the environment around her.

Things that we are also trying to do with our own kids right now.

I strive to be a positive parent, I really do. And most of the time I can see the good, amongst the not so good, in our lives.

Most of the time I look for my kids’ strengths and try to work on those rather than continually point out and emphasise their weaknesses. Most of the time I try to remain positive and focus on the end goal of increasing their independence and trying to set them up for the best possible life.

But I’m not perfect and sometimes it’s hard to continue on when you have so many battles to face as a special needs parent.

The battles to get a diagnosis for your child. The battles to access treatment for their diagnosis.

The battles with school to access required supports to maximise their learning.

The battles with family and friends to have your child’s needs understood and accepted.

The battles to find appropriate social opportunities for them.

The battles to make and keep friends. The battles to balance the many different needs of your family.

Sometimes it’s hard to find positives at all when you seem to be forever fighting on all fronts.

However, there are some practical ways you can find the positives in special needs parenting and I have shared 7 strategies of my own with the wonderful Lisa Lightner from A Day in our Shoes. She is the queen of IEPs and disability advocacy in the US so take the time to check out all the practical resources on her site.

7 ways to find the positives in special needs parenting

I’d love for you to check out my post, give me some feedback on my strategies and share your own ways to remain positive in the face of the challenges of special needs parenting.

Re-reading my own words and watching Finding Dory on the weekend has further reinforced my desire to be a positive special needs parent. To be understanding, kind, resourceful, determined, loyal, persistent and proactive.

To find the positives everyday and to be strong enough to support my kids through everything.

Just like Dory’s parents, Jenny and Charlie.

Have you seen Finding Dory yet? Did you get emotional watching it too?

Spread the positivity!
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6 Responses

  1. Hugzilla says:

    Love this bit about the movie: “And they did all they could to change their environment to better suit Dory and her needs.They did not try to change HER, or ignore/minimise her real struggles.” I think this has been one of the biggest shifts in parenting over the last generation, and it’s a great change. Movies like this support that positive cultural shift. Love this franchise.

  2. Nadia says:

    You are so right. The movie is a lovely reminder about positive parenting. Wouldn’t it be great if we were all wonderful and were able to always be cal, patient and positive!
    Nadia recently posted..Finding Dory at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium

    • Kirsty says:

      In an ideal world it would be lovely but the reality of special needs parenting can be tough. But I love that this movie will reach so many people and hopefully help many change their own minds about positive parenting.

  3. Tracy says:

    I took my very big kids to see Finding Dory last night. The movie held special significance to me, as a teacher, in similar ways as it did for you. I need to find ways to draw maps for my kids so they can find their way in the educational maze in which they find themselves.

  4. dancrofts says:


    I, too, was impressed with how Finding Dory dealt with the subject of parenting a special needs child. It’s seems like Disney and other children’s films are in the habit of placing children who are “different” within a non-supportive — and perhaps even abusive — early environment, so it was nice to see a positive take here.

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