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TV Shows and Movies That Address Disability and Difference

Want to teach kids about empathy without preaching? Add these gems to your watch list

Tina Cha

Published on: February 10, 2021

TV Shows and Movies That Address Disability and Difference

Wonder. Photo from Lionsgate Entertainment Company

Television shows and movies for elementary-age kids

The Casagrandes” 

The Casagrandes is a spin-off of the Nickelodeon animated hit “​​​​​​The Loud House” about a multi-generational Mexican American family living under one roof, and the many antics that result. The main character, Ronnie Anne, has a cousin, CJ, who has Down syndrome. CJ is voiced by actor Jared Kosak who also has Down syndrome. In the series, CJ is portrayed as a lovable teenager with childlike mannerisms. When CJ is featured in the series, the focus is on the natural way his younger siblings, cousins and their friends accept him and his different way of communicating.

Watch The Casagrandes” on Nickelodeon. Recommended for ages 7 and older. 


Loop, an animated short produced by Pixar, tells the tale of Renee, a nonspeaking autistic girl, and Marcus a neurotypical boy, who spend the day at canoe camp trying to communicate with each other. What begins as frustration of being stuck with the girl who doesn’t talk slowly turns into a sensory exploration and eventually friendship. This series features the first nonspeaking autistic character in a Pixar production, with Madison Bandy, a nonverbal autistic teen, playing the character of Renee.

Loop” is available on Disney+. Recommended for ages 8 and older.


R.J. Palacio’s award-winning middle-grade novel, about a fifth-grade boy with a severe facial difference, made it to the big screen in 2017 with an all-star cast including Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay as Auggie. The film follows Auggie’s first year of attending school, after being homeschooled his entire life, and the conflicted feelings for Auggie, his family and classmates, before he finally finds the acceptance they feared he wouldn’t have. The ultimate message of the book, “choose kind,” is a simple message that families can incorporate into everyday life.  

Wonder is available to rent or buy from various platforms including Amazon and YouTube. Recommended for ages10 and older. You might also like: “Raising Dion” and “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy.

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