Learning Disability Week #LDWeek2021 is presented by Mencap, which takes place online this year with the theme of creativity and expression. For many people with a learning disability and their families, getting creative has been a way to stay connected and positive through the challenges of last year.  For Learning Disability Week 2021 we’re celebrating that art and creativity!

Learning Disability and Film

Learning disabled people are chronically underrepresented in the film industry. This is a time to reflect on supporting learning disabled representation in the film industry as well as consider access to cinema for neurodivergent audiences.

Coming to cinemas from 18 June: Based on the bestselling book by Naoki Higashida, The Reason I Jump is an immersive cinematic exploration of neurodiversity through the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people from around the world. The film blends Higashida’s revelatory descriptions of his autism, written when he was just 13, with intimate portraits of five remarkable young people. It opens a window into an intense and overwhelming, but often joyful, sensory universe, a rich tapestry that leads us to Naoki’s core message: not being able to speak does not mean there is nothing to say.

Ian Davies’ film Amber and Me follows the challenges for twin sisters through 4 years of school and charts the changes in their relationship, uniquely from their own perspectives. Amber has Down’s syndrome and is about to start school together with her sister, Olivia. Although at first her experience is positive, she soon starts to struggle and asks to stay at home. Olivia is keen to keep her twin in the same class and so begins the struggle of keeping the girls together at school. It can be streamed through virtual cinemas and purchased at the Amber & Me website.

In 2019, FAN New Releases supported Signature’s title The Peanut Butter Falcon, a modern Mark Twain-esque adventure starring Shia LaBeouf (American Honey, Fury) as a small-time outlaw turned unlikely coach who joins forces with Zack Gottsagen‘s Zak, a young man with Down Syndrome on the run from a nursing home with the dream of becoming a professional wrestler. You can now watch The Peanut Butter Falcon on BFI Player.

You can also watch the film My Feral Heart on Amazon Prime. A drama in which Luke (Steven Brandon), a young man with Down’s syndrome who prizes his independence, is forced into a care home after the death of his mother. There he rails against the restrictions imposed on him, but his frustrations are allayed by his budding friendships with his care-worker Eve (Shana Swash) and a mysterious feral girl (Pixie Le Knot).

Oska Bright, based in Brighton is the worlds biggest learning disability film festival. Find out more about their amazing work here.

Learning disability and Cinema

Through Covid learning disabled and neurodiversity focused organisations have been keeping in touch by running online activities with their members. For example, Beacon Films have been running self-led Cinema Society screenings, where members present a film screening and discuss it afterwards in an informal environment, as well as creating short films themselves at home. If you are interested in running online activity you may find some helpful resources below.

During coronavirus many learning disabled people may be shielding. If you’re interested in running a relaxed screening when it is safe to do so to help bring in Learning Disabled audiences to your cinema, find out more in our quick tips for running relaxed screenings. You may also find some transferable advice in our autism-friendly screenings guide, though bear in mind much of this advice is specific to people living with autism, not necessarily those who are Learning Disabled. Ideally, consult with Learning Disabled groups in your area for advice and expertise.