The Reelist is a column featuring Kristen Page-Kirby’s musings on movies. For Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday’s review of “Finding Dory,” click here.

Pixar’s 2003 gem “Finding Nemo” was fundamentally about parenting. Dory’s slightly ungrammatical line “You can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him” should be the mantra every parent clings to the first time his or her child is allowed to ride a bike around the neighborhood alone.
Now with “Finding Dory,” the little blue tang fish who could gets her own story — a story that is at least partly about parenting. But this one is different: “Finding Dory” will have special resonance for parents whose days and time and mental energy and money are tied up in acronyms: PT, OT, ASD, ADHD, IEP and the veritable alphabet soup that comes when you have a child with special needs. (No, I’m not defining the acronyms. If you don’t know them, I bet you have Facebook friends who could fill you in.)

The title character, in case you don’t recall, suffers from what flashback-tiny Dory adorably describes as “short-term remembery loss.” This obviously provides challenges for Dory, as she can’t remember names or faces, how to get home or what dangers lurk in the ocean. According to Darwin, she should be dead. According to her parents, Darwin can take a flying leap. They start figuring out ways that will allow Dory to function in the larger world, such as making up rhymes (“When we see the undertow/we say, ‘Don’t go!’ ”). One thing they don’t do is try to fix her. She doesn’t need to be fixed; this is how Dory is.

Parents raising children with special needs often get crap — sneers in the line at Target when a kid with SPD can’t handle the lights and the colors and the beep-beep-beeps, critiques from the grandma who insists that only parents who don’t know how to discipline their kids resort to medicine. Those people should be strapped to a chair “Clockwork Orange”-style and forced to watch “Finding Dory,” because it shows, clearer than anything I’ve ever seen, how important adaptive learning strategies are.

The systems and support that Dory’s parents provide are specific to Dory — not only are they unnecessary for most fish, they might not work for another fish with remembery loss. But the provisions don’t coddle her and they don’t hold her back; they are built for her so that she can succeed in a world that is most definitely not built for her. That’s important for Dory, of course, but they also benefit the world in which she lives, because now others get to know her. Dory is good and kind and funny, and if her parents hadn’t figured out a way to build her a path into the larger ocean, the ocean would be the worse for it.

Plenty of parents of kids with special needs won’t get to see “Finding Dory” in the theater; some kids can’t take the stimulation, and finding a sitter who understands how to make mac and cheese the right way, no, the RIGHT WAY, THE RIGHT WAY can be tough. To them I say: It’s OK. “Finding Dory” will come out for home viewing, and it’ll make you realize just how on the right path you are. Until then, just keep swimming.

More Reelists from Kristen Page-Kirby