Seeing “Lilo and Stitch” again 11 years later… Through a new set of eyes.

The other day, my husband was scrolling through movies looking for a good family film.  He chose Disney’s Lilo and Stitch. When this movie first came out I remember a coworker saying: “Disney created a character (Lilo) who was mean, nasty and completely unlikable.  A ‘bad’ kid– so he could not enjoy the movie because he disliked her so much.

I saw the movie a few weeks later, and the writer in me recognized that “bad kid” but watched her development into a “better kid” (not a good kid… a better kid)

Watching the movie eleven years and three kids later, I was dumbstruck. The character of Lilo immediately grabbed my attention as so much more than a bad kid.

Lilo was probably one of best-researched Disney characters I have ever seen.

Watching her mouth off at her sister, fighting physically with other kids trying to defend what’s right, having trouble keeping friends, trying desperately to stick to routines, and not listening among a myriad of other traits. Wow.

Lilo has ADHD

She was a classic textbook case of ADHD, and almost everything that happened I could mirror in my own family life.  (Except for the house exploding, thank goodness)  I watched shaking my head, and really feeling for her sister/guardian, Noni as she tried to control the uncontrollable. As she gave in at times just to keep the peace, as she struggled to stop things from happening that she knew were a “trigger”, and as she treasured the few special moments a day when Lilo showed affection.

I found myself wondering if one of the writers had a kid with ADHD to have NAILED the condition so well.  I did a little research, but could not find a mention of the condition in relation to the film.  I found this sad.  Maybe it is because ADHD was not as much in the forefront of pediatric medicine in 2002 as it is nowadays.

What I found encouraging, though, was the very real way the story played out.  (Not the aliens, silly)

Lilo, a kid struggling with her behavior—knowing she is bad but not understanding why—takes  this other “little kid” (Stitch, the alien, who is programmed to do nothing but destroy) under her wing, and tries to help him be a better “person”.

This is so like an ADHD kid.  My “Littlest Dude”, despite his challenges, will always pick out the person “in need” in a crowd, and help to the best of his ability.

Just the other day, he was outside teaching a kid twice his age how to ride a bike.  They were out there for HOURS.  He would not be daunted. Whatever it took, he was going to get that (much older) girl riding her bike.

When I’m sick, he is the child I can trust to be there… to drop everything and take care of me. (Not that the other two don’t help, in case they read this) But the littlest takes the whole situation to heart.

ADHD kids are not monsters.

They may appear that way.

They may destroy things (when they are mad)*

They may punch you in the face (but you probably provoked it)*

They may scream at you (because something is wrong and they feel mistreated)*

But deep inside, they are the cute, cuddly, fluffy version of Stitch.

They don’t want to act out.  They want to help, create,  make friends,  play,  be happy, and be loved by their family like any other kid.

They just need someone to believe in them, and help them control their triggers so they can make the correct choices.

Any kid can be the cute, cuddly version of Stitch.

You just have to believe in them and show them the way.

*Note* ADHD kids truly DO NOT KNOW why they act the way they do.  If you have a kid with behavioral problems, speak to your doctor or look into programs to help control their triggers. Getting help was the best thing I ever did for my family.


5 responses to “Seeing “Lilo and Stitch” again 11 years later… Through a new set of eyes.

  1. I saw ‘Stitch’ at ComicCon this past weekend! lol

    In all seriousness, I think you may have nailed it with Lilo & Stitch’s diagnosis. I wonder if kids see themselves in the characters and realize there is hope for them, too? I know lots of ADHD kids – those I work with as well as family members – and you’re right about them being sweet kids as long as frustration doesn’t push them over the edge. I will definitely watch this movie through new eyes. 🙂

  2. I would argue that Lilo isn’t necessarily a child with ADHD, but could be any kid in foster care. My kid is a trauma survivor. He was about 7 then, and he definitely identified with the cute, fluffy, destructive character Stitch.

    I agree with you that Lilo’s struggles were portrayed very well. My one nitpick was that case workers can’t just tell a parent they have one night to fix everything. They have to give seven to fourteen days for parents to comply and they aren’t allowed to follow families around waiting for some excuse to grab the kid faster.

  3. Wow. I don’t watch much TV and never got into Lilo and Stitch also I have heard about them. Sounds like you’re onto something. Bet you’re also right about one of the writers.

  4. It’s amazing how many good “messages” are in older cartoons and films. How great you rediscovered this and are sharing it. Bet you are right about at least one of the writers.
    And you are right about ADHD kids being sweet, kind and loving. Kids are not cookie cutter creations and definitely this group is sensitive and reacts to how people act/their body language and facial expressions. It’s hard sometimes – for the adults and the kids.
    Nie find and great review