Movies and Music to Celebrate Neurodiversity

Movies | Music

Discover movie and music suggestions by and about neurodiverse creators.

 

Movies

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A coming of age story focused on Terrence (aka T-Man), a 26-year-old Black man with high functioning autism who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. When he is chosen to be part of a pilot program hiring people on the autism spectrum, the new income gives him the footing needed to seek independence but also unexpected challenges as he enters the next chapter of his life. Directed by Nick Deel and Huiying Wang. Kanopy

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Barbara is the only thing that stands between terrible giants and the destruction of her small town. But as she boldly confronts her fears in increasingly dangerous ways, she begins to question everything she's always believed to be true. Directed by Anders Walters. DVD

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The story of Owen Suskind, a young man who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films. Directed by Roger Ross Williams. DVD | Kanopy

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As a young mother with bipolar disorder struggles with the looming departure of her daughter (the one force of stability in her life), a daughter struggles with the decision whether to stay local for college where she can remain the stable rock in her mother's life, or to detach and go to her dream college across country. Directed by Valerie Weiss and written by Moira McMahon. DVD | Kanopy

 

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The Primm family relocated to New York and 12-year-old Josh Primm discovers a human-sized crocodile in the attic who communicates through song. Directed by Josh Jordan and Will Speck. DVD

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Lionel Essrog is a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette's Syndrome. He ventures through 1950s New York trying to solve his friend's murder armed only with a few clues and the powerful engine of his obsessive mind. Directed by Edward Norton and co-written with Jonathan Lethem. DVD

 

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Zak, a young man with Down syndrome, runs away from a residential nursing home to fulfill his dream of attending the pro wrestling school of his idol. Written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. DVD | Kanopy

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Wendy is an independent and brilliant young woman with autism. To submit her script on-time for a Star Trek screenplay competition she sneaks out of her group home and travels hundreds of miles not letting anything stop her from achieving her goals. Directed by Ben Lewin and written by Michael Golamco. DVD | Kanopy

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Based on the Naoki Higashida revelatory insights into autism, written when he was just 13, with intimate portraits of five remarkable young people. The film opens a window for audiences into an intense and overwhelming, but often joyful, sensory universe. Directed by Jerry Rothwell. DVD | Kanopy

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Conal, a young man with Downs Syndrome, tricks his younger sister Gemma into going on a road trip to Belfast to see his favorite band Ash, in concert. Kanopy

 

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The film follows Robert Gagno as he seeks to balance his quest to become a world pinball champion and his growing real world responsibilities, culminating at the largest pinball tournament in the world, Pinburgh, in Pittsburgh, PA. Directed by Jeff Petry and Nathan Drillot. Kanopy

 

 

Music

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Aerosmith

Joe Perry is a founding member and the lead guitarist of American rock band, Aerosmith. Perry struggled in school with symptoms of ADHD and was officially diagnosed with the condition as an adult. Aerosmith's Greatest Hits is a great place to start with the band. Delve deeper on 1971: The Road Starts Hear, a special Record Store Day release, recorded on Perry’s own tape recorder. It captures the band in their Boston rehearsal room, just one year before signing to Columbia Records. 

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Bennett, Tony, 1926- singer.

Tony Bennett, is a retired American singer of traditional pop standards, big band, show tunes, and jazz, as well as a painter. During his more than five decade-long music career he won 20 Grammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. Despite being one of music’s most enduring talents, Bennett sometimes found it difficult to read sheet music because of his dyslexia. He said, “I just have to work a lot slower. It comes a lot slower. But good learning takes a long time…to really learn something, you have to keep doing it until it appears effortless.” With the release of Love for Sale (Bennett’s second collaboration with Lady Gaga) he broke the individual record for the longest span of top-10 albums on the Billboard 200 chart. 

 

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Black Eyed Peas (Musical group), composer, performer.

Will.i.am is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, and producer. He also started a tech company called i.am+ and is president of the i.am.angel Foundation. An organization that funds educational programs that focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) and provides scholarships to low-income kids. When asked about his many pursuits the musician said, “One thing I learned about ADHD is that it’s hard to keep your attention, and you can’t sit still and you’re always moving and thinking about a whole bunch of things. But those traits work well for me in studios and in meetings about creative ideas.” He first rose to prominence as a founding member of the pop-rap group, Black Eyed Peas. He performs vocals, piano, keyboards, and drum programming on their eighth studio album, Translation, which features a who's who of Latin pop musicians.
 

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Eilish, Billie

American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome at the age of 11. During an interview with David Letterman she said, "I'm very happy to talk about it. I actually really love answering questions about it, because it's very, very interesting, and I am incredibly confused by it, and I don't get it." She said her tics decrease when she is focusing on tasks, such as singing or riding horses, and she almost never has them when she is performing. Eilish  continues her artistic growth, expanding the scope of her trademark sound on Happier Than Ever, her second album.

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Florence + the Machine

Lead vocalist Florence Welch from English indie rock band Florence + the Machine was diagnosed with both dyslexia and dyscalculia in her youth. She said, “My thoughts are disordered, not especially logical, and not at all linear, but that’s OK, they take me to more interesting places.” Florence + the Machine’s fifth album, Dance Fever, is a pastoral outing featuring earnest delivery and lush, Baroque pop. Dance Fever is inspired by the choreomania phenomenon, where groups of people burst into dance frenzies to the point of exhaustion.   

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Jewel

Folk-pop singer Jewel had an unconventional childhood in remote Alaska, sometimes living in cabins without running water or electricity. At school, she was teased for her family’s different lifestyle and for her dyslexia. In high school, she started playing guitar. “Because of my history, it’s hard for me to learn things, so I practiced twenty times as hard,” she said. Her latest album, Freewheelin' Woman, is an energetic mix of pop and soul with a few quieter, reflective moments. 

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Maroon 5

Adam Levine the lead singer-songwriter of pop-rock group Maroon 5 was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a teenager. In June 2011, Levine took part in an educational campaign to raise awareness of ADHD. The project, titled "Own It,” targets people who were previously diagnosed with the disorder, focusing on how it may continue into adulthood. In connection with this, he wrote an article in ADDitude Magazine about his personal experience with ADHD. Maroon 5’s latest album, Jordi, features big hooks and a plethora of guests including, Megan Thee Stallion, Stevie Nicks, and H.E.R.    

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Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

As the lead guitarist and songwriter for British rock band Oasis, Noel Gallagher’s dyslexia sometimes stumped his bandmates. “When I write, I’ll give it to someone else to read, and they’ll say, ‘This doesn’t make any sense.’ And then I’ll read it back to them, and they’ll say, ‘Half the words are missing.’ But to me they’re there.” On Who Built the Moon? by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, he experiments with glam, psychedelia, and pop.

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Police

Founding member and drummer for The Police, Stewart Copeland was born in Virginia and grew up in Beirut and England. During his school years, his teachers noted that he had difficulty reading but recognized his intellectual potential. Zenyatta Mondatta is the third studio album by The Police. It features two Copeland compositions and was the trio's second straight number one album in the U.K. It won two Grammy Awards and has been called "one of the finest rock albums of all time" and “near perfect pop” by critics.  

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Simon, Carly

Carly Simon is an American singer-songwriter, memoirist, and children's author. As a child Simon struggled to read. She noticed the same struggles with her two children. She said, “My family has been given the gift of music…we all take to music because music is something that we can do so much more easily than we can in the reading department.” Never Been Gone is a collection of rearranged and re-recorded versions of her hits, featuring Simon on acoustic guitar and starker arrangements. 

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SZA

SZA is a contemporary R&B artist who garnered nine Grammy nominations between her two full-length albums, Ctrl and All the Stars. Ctrl is a confessional, alternative R&B/soul album with hip-hop, pop, and electronic touches. The singer has been vocal about her struggles with ADHD and its effect on her creative process.