Finding Dory

A while ago, I took Maci to see Finding Dory in the movie theater.  It was the second time that year and in her life she had been to a movie theater.  Before now, going to the theater would not have worked for her or anyone else.  We were both excited and looking forward to seeing the movie together.

I decided to write and share about my experience and surprise with the movie than about Maci’s.  The movie started and I admit I did not read or research anything about Finding Dory.  I had seen most of Finding Nemo and figured it was going to be similar.  Plus, it is a kids animated movie what could happen in it that would surprise me?

As the movie got into the story of Dory when she was a baby fish, her parents said to her “Tell people you have short term memory loss”.  I thought to myself, that is strange why in the world would a baby fish tell people “I have short term memory loss”?  Seemed very odd to me.  I continued to watch.  Poor Dory seemed to get very confused, lost and overwhelmed.  Her parents were loving and caring and concerned for Dory’s well being.  I thought since I am a parent with similar feelings about Maci and her disabilities, I wonder if Dory is suppose to have special needs?  However, Dory continued to say “Hi, I am Dory and I have short term memory loss”.  Again, I did not understand, it did not add up to me why she would say this to people.

I checked in with Maci to see how she was reacting to Dory and the movie, all seemed to be okay and she told me she was good.  Then it got really scary and sad, Dory forgets what her parents tell her and she ends up getting lost from them.  She is alone and now separated from them.  Over and over she is searching for them and asking if anyone has seen her parents?  Saying “I have short term memory loss can you help me”?

Wow, super scary and sad!  Now Maci was not happy and I could sense getting very anxious.  I was the same. I felt very conflicted about what was happening to poor Dory.  Maci used to run off and leave me all the time.  I feared often of losing her.  One of the main reasons we got Pebble was to help us have another set of eyes on her in case I was distracted or not watching her. Maci is much better about staying with me, however, I never really feel secure when we go out.  It is hard and I am always on guard for her safety.

The movie fast forwards to a year later and Dory has made friends with Nemo and his dad.  She is happy.  Maci seems better and I am curious to what will happen next.  Still wondering if Dory has a disability.  Dory journeys throughout the rest of the movie to try to remember her parents and to figure out how to find them.  Dory’s friends join her in her journey and help to piece together her memory of where she came from.

The movie highlights Dory’s relationships with her friends and their acceptance of her.  They realize Dory has a special way of thinking and doing things.  They learn to appreciate Dory for her unique abilities and different ways.  In the end, Dory remembers and finds her parents.
Maci and I leave the theatre all seems good she is happy and says she liked the movie. 

At home, I search the internet to see if there is anything about Dory having special needs.  Sure enough, a press release for the movie highlights Dory is representing our community of people with special needs facing a disability such as Alzheimers or Autism.  I thought to myself, it was a nice gesture to make a movie to help people recognize, understand and have empathy for people with disabilities.  However, I am not sure people seeing the movie would understand Dory has special needs or a disability.  I think since I am a parent with a child with Autism I could put the pieces of the movie together to figure it out.  Even so, it was not 100% clear to even me. 

The disconnect of why Dory would tell people “I have short term memory loss” does not make sense.  In all my years of therapy sessions, meetings with doctors and specialists never would we say something like that or have Maci say it.  I reached out to several people to find out what they thought and if they knew Dory had special needs.  So far not one person knew.  

Overall, I wished I had known before going to the movie about Dory.  I would have been more prepared and helped Maci to be as well.  I think having a reference in the movie either before or after the movie dedicating the movie to those with special needs and disabilities would have been helpful and appropriate for the audience.

I have mixed feelings for the movie, a part of me is thankful and glad the other part a little upset and disappointed.  I think Maci felt the same way.  She has a toy Dory and Nemo fish she wants to play with all the time since seeing the movie.  However, her sleeping has been more difficult and I think created some fearful thoughts.  We have been talking about it and reassuring her mommy and daddy will not lose her.  But it is hard.
I hope other parents will know to be prepared before going to see Finding Dory.  Hopefully helping to soften the experience and give a better understanding for the positive aspects of the movies’ message.  

Here are a couple of links of articles on the message of Dory:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/express/wp/2016/06/17/finding-dory-will-have-special-meaning-for-parents-of-kids-with-special-needs/

https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2016/06/21/what-i-learned-about-my-son-and-myself-finding-dory

Best Wishes!!