Disability and Positive Difference


Far From the Tree by Rachel Dretzin and Andrew Solomon
July 20, 2018

Based on Andrew Solomon’s book of the same title, the documentary Far from the Tree is an extraordinary study of families raising children who are profoundly different from themselves. The film explores the ways that a diverse array of "disabled" children find community with others like them, whether through a group living situation for high-functioning people living with Down syndrome or the conference for the little people of America. The viewer simultaneously witnesses the profound love and struggle within families who cannot fully comprehend or empathize with their child. At the heart of the film is the question: where is the line between disability and positive difference? The viewer watches with deep empathy as parents describe their fears for their offspring whom the world sees as abnormal, and, then equally, for their children who don’t necessarily want to be "fixed" and do not feel themselves to be defective. At one point, Solomon, whose own life as a gay man prompted him to explore these questions, says that homosexuality in his lifetime went from being a "disease" to be "cured" to an identity to be embraced. What other "disabilities" will undergo this transformation as we seek to more deeply understand the experiences of people with profound differences? Currently, we are seeing this transformation unfold within the deaf community and for people living with autism. This film is crucial viewing for any educator, particularly those working in schools where students with differences are integrated into their classrooms. It is also a documentary to screen for high school students as it will prompt discussions that will help them to become more compassionate, welcoming, and open-minded citizens, classmates, and allies.

Submitted By: Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM

Leave a comment

KlingensteinCenter Teachers College Columbia University

Contact Us

525 West 120th Street
New York, NY 10027

Have a question or want more information about our programs?

Fill out our contact form and a member of our team will respond promptly.