Health and Science

3 reasons a Disney passion saved one autistic boy

Father's Disney connection with autistic son
Father's Disney connection with autistic son

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Ron Suskind usually writes about the economy and politics.

But on Autism Awareness Day on Wednesday, he shared with CNBC what he's learned from his "20-year improvisational research" dealing with his youngest son's struggles with the condition—chronicled in his new book "Life, Animated."

Suskind described how Owen developed regressive autism just before he was 3—losing all communication abilities. But he still loved watching Disney movies.

Source: Ron Suskind

"It seemed that was the only thing that gave him comfort," Suskind said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "And eventually we watched the movies with him."

At about 6½ years of old, Owen started to speak but with dialogue from the Disney films. Suskind said his family and he started to role-play as characters to try to reach Owen—harnessing his son's "affinities" as a bridge to real-life situations.

"It's almost like you and I are allowed to have our passions, but they're not because they're viewed [as] to the exclusion of much else. I don't think that's actually true. The science is now catching up with that," Suskind said.

In this video, he talks about three reasons that his approach could change the way to reach autistic children.

Owen is now 23 years old. "Disney is still the foundation," Suskind said. "He's got powerful ideas through Disney. But he's moved to a lot of live-action. He reads now. He searches the landscape for things of interest."