The Top 10 BEST TED Talks for Parents of Children with Developmental Disabilities

I am so in love with TED Talks. With more than one billion total views and counting, so is the rest of the world, apparently. These are talks in which experts and thought leaders get to talk to you about their research and experiences without word count limits or third party intermediaries.

Since Malachi's diagnosis, I have watched many wonderful TED Talks on the rapidly changing landscape of disability, both medically and socially. I've divided my favorites here into three categories: Neuroplasticity, Disability and Extracurricular.

None of these is very short, but you can bookmark this list (or Pin It)  and come back as often as you like until you've watched them all. I really think they are all extremely fascinating and important, especially if you are caring for a child with special needs. But, of course, I also think everybody should watch them because ultimately they are about the human experience!

What neuroplasticity is and how to make it work for you:

1. Baby Brains DO Recover, But Habit Hides It, by Karen Pape, M.D.

Dr. Pape has a wonderful blog and does more than any other medical doctor I've seen to bring in the realities of neuroplasticity into conventional treatment options for children with brain damage.

2. The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young conquered her early learning disabilities to develop the one of the first programs that capitalizes on neuroplasticity for children with disabilities.

3. Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor

A Harvard neuroscientist had a massive stroke in her 30s and managed to regain normal function, but in many ways she prefers her post-stroke brain. Lots of fascinating details about brain anatomy and how it feels to have a stroke.

4. The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life, by Jane McGonigal

Treating your life like a game has massive long-term benefits.

Learning that disability is a difference to be honored and worked with instead of against.

5. Love, No Matter What, by Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon, a New York Times Magazine reporter, talks very movingly about his many conversations with parents of atypical children and how their struggles are universal. "A lot of the time, the question of parenthood is what do we validate about our children, and what do we cure?" he says.

6. A Broken Body Isn't a Broken Person, by Janine Shepherd

A world-class athlete overcomes massive injuries. A fascinating example of how much it is up to the patient — and not the doctors — to recover function.

7. The Opportunity of Adversity, by Aimee Mullins

Aimee Mullins was born without her lower legs but when she decided to see this as an opportunity instead of a crisis, her life changed and she became a highly respected model, athlete and advocate.

Extracurricular talks about how we learn, what speaks to us and how to approach the siblings of children with special needs

8. The Birth of a Word, by Deb Roy

Why we can't expect our children (with or without special needs) to practice the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Children don't spontaneously gain skills as it sometimes appears. It is always a process that begins with many "mistakes."

9. How Great Leaders Inspire Action, by Simon Sinek

This one is primarily about marketing, but to me it spoke volumes about therapy and how the why has to always be more important than the what to get results. While I want Malachi to crawl or walk, what he wants is to get to the book or the car and so that's what I need to focus on too and the rest will follow.

10. Recognizing Glass Children, by Alicia Arenas

About the siblings of children with special needs and how much they need our help, too.


Here's a funny comedian who also has cerebral palsy!

What about you? Have you ever seen a TED Talk that really helped you understand the disabled experience? Please add it to this list in the comments below!

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Need a baby shower gift? Dark & Light: A Love Story in Black and White is a beautiful and insightful board book available here. All profits go towards my son's medical needs. 


  1. Shasta, have you heard of Norman Kunc? I think you will be particularly interested in what he has to say about being a person with cerebral palsy. He is a well known speaker, and quite funny to boot. Here is a link for an interview he did.


    1. Yeah, definitely. Has he done a TED talk yet, I wonder? I posted a link to one of his videos in a CP forum and started a massive dramabomb, lol. Pretty controversial ideas.

  2. This is awesome. I love TED talks too, and with so many to choose from, its good to have some recommendations of this type. Thanks, Shasta.

  3. There is one called discoverable ability by sumit sukurmaran. Absolutely incredible!

  4. There is one called discoverable ability by sumit sukurmaran. Absolutely incredible!


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