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Written byDavid James Savarese
Directed byRobert Rooy
Running time72 minutes
Original release2017

Deej is a 2017 documentary about DJ Savarese, a nonspeaking American autistic activist who uses alternative and augmentative communication methods in his daily life as a high school student preparing for transition to higher education.[1][2] In the film, Deej is shown communicating through the use of facilitated communication, a scientifically discredited technique; accordingly, the film's unsceptical depiction of Deej's communication has been the subject of much criticism.[3]


The film was directed by Robert Rooy and David James Savarese, known as DJ or Deej.[4][1] Savarese is credited as the co-creator and co-producer of the documentary, which was filmed primarily in Iowa. The film emphasizes Savarese's goal of promoting communication access for all nonspeaking autistic people, as part of the neurodiversity movement.[5]

Savarese was adopted from the foster care system and diagnosed early in life as autistic.[6] As a child, Savarese and his adoptive parents struggled to ensure his inclusion in the local public school system.[7] Eventually winning the right for Savarese to receive education in public schools, Savarese and his parents framed their challenges as a civil rights struggle against ableism.[2][8][6] Since the events featured in Deej, Savarese attended and graduated from Oberlin College.[8][9]

Deej aired nationally on PBS in October 2017.[10]


This film portrays the use of facilitated communication as legitimate,[11] even though it has been scientifically discredited as a pseudoscience. The documentary does not mention that science has discredited facilitated communication, nor does it mention the harm that facilitated communication has done.[3][12]

In his review, Craig Foster notes that Deej is never shown independently communicating or exhibiting his "hidden intelligence", even though the documentary implies that he does. Foster argues that "skepticism toward facilitated communication is necessary to ameliorate its harmful influence and to encourage genuine acceptance of people with complex communication needs."[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Inc., POV | American Documentary. "AMERICA REFRAMED UNFILTERED: Inclusion Shouldn't Be a Lottery". POV's Documentary Blog. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  2. ^ a b Corley, Maria (2017-09-20). "Deej: A non-verbal autistic man raises his voice for inclusion". Medium. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  3. ^ a b c Foster, Craig (2019). "Deej‐a Vu: Documentary revisits facilitated communication pseudoscience". Behavioral Interventions. doi:10.1002/bin.1687. Retrieved 2019-08-14.
  4. ^ Rooy, Robert (2017-10-17), Deej, retrieved 2018-05-20
  5. ^, Imade Borha. "DJ 'Deej' Savarese pursues freedom as an non-speaking autistic man in new documentary". The Frederick News-Post. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  6. ^ a b Gabbard, Chris (2008-01-31). "Savarese, Ralph James. Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption". Disability Studies Quarterly. 28 (1). ISSN 2159-8371.
  7. ^ "'Deej' film puts a spotlight on autism and disability rights". The Arizona State Press. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  8. ^ a b Fishman, Kate. ""Deej" Highlights Interdependence, Challenges Assumptions". The Oberlin Review. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  9. ^ Gittin, Adam. "Student Panelists Celebrate Neurodiversity". The Oberlin Review. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  10. ^ "'Deej' film spotlights nonspeaking student with autism | National Center on Disability and Journalism". Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  11. ^ Savarese, D. J. (1 December 2009). "Communicate with Me". Disability Studies Quarterly. 30 (1). doi:10.18061/dsq.v30i1.1051. ISSN 2159-8371. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  12. ^ Savarese, Ralph. "About Facilitated Communication | Ralph James Savarese". Ralph James Savarese. Retrieved 3 August 2019.

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