An Ontario mother couldn’t hold back her tears as she watched the trailer of "Elio," a new Disney and Pixar animated film.
It features a young boy who — like her son Everett — wears an eye patch.
"I'm sobbing; my husband's crying; everybody's so emotional about this," said Sarah Colby, a mother and teacher from Hamilton.
"Both Everett and my daughter just watched it, and it wasn't until I asked him, 'what was Elio wearing?' that he finally realized," Colby recalled.
"He was in awe and was like, 'He's wearing a patch — just like me.' It was so cute to watch him say it."
Wearing a patch 'quite the challenge'
Colby said four-year-old Everett is self-conscious about his eye patch. He'll be starting school in September and he’ll be wearing his eye patch eight to 10 hours a day, every day.
She explained when Everett was two years old, the family discovered he was blind in one eye. While normal vision is considered 20/20, Everett’s right eye was 20/500.
"The doctors… explained to us that he would need the patch to train his brain to use the blind eye," Colby said. "Asking a two-year-old to wear a patch was quite the challenge at the beginning."
She continued to say Everett is a very active boy, and he loves to run, jump and ride his bicycle. But he couldn’t do any of these activities because they were too dangerous when he had his eye covered.
"He really persevered and got through it," the mom added. While wearing his patch around family and close friends has been perfectly normalized, it's not the same when Everett is at the park.
That's when children — and even adults — come up and ask about it, whether he’s wearing it because he got hurt, Colby said.
"And that's when he'll rip the patch off."
She hopes the movie will help normalize patching with others.
"We read books to him all the time about patching, but since other kids don't read those books, it didn't really normalize anything. Whereas they're going to watch this movie and now it will become normalized," she claimed. "It'll be easier for Everett when he goes to school with the patch."
He'll be able to relate to somebody.Sarah Colby
Colby also hopes it'll give Everett a confidence boost.
"We're hoping that when he sees that little character Elio on screen, then he'll be able to relate to somebody. And all of his peers will get to see somebody wearing a patch, and it really won't be a big deal."
The trailer for "Elio" came out in June and according to Pixar on Youtube, the film is set to be released in theatres on March 1, 2024.
Watching the film will also be a major milestone for Everett and his family because he never been to a movie theatre before; he can't see distances.
But, his eye
"I think by March, we'd be able to go see this movie and it'll be his first one."
Why representation is important: An expert weighs in
According to Disney and Pixar, the feature film introduces Elio, "an underdog with an active imagination who must form new bonds with eccentric alien lifeforms, survive a series of formidable trials and somehow discover who he is truly meant to be."
Nikki Martyn, the program head of early childhood studies at the University of Guelph-Humber in Ontario, tells Yahoo Canada it's "really important" that children see themselves represented in movies, stories and media.
"It gives them a sense of belonging and when we see ourselves represented, we can see that we're not alone," Martyn explained.
The expert said a child seeing themselves represented on the big screen gives them a sense of empowerment and a high self-esteem.
"This boy will see a character that has an eye patch, or when a child sees a character with the same disability… all of a sudden it’s like 'I am important in this world. I am seen and valued,'" she explained.
She added when others watch movies that feature and celebrate people’s uniqueness, it makes them more empathetic.
"It creates empathy for the child who’s wearing an eye patch, but also creates an understanding of more inclusion and diversity," Martyn said.
To make children more empathetic and inclusive, Martyn explained it's important that parents include diversity of all different kinds within the child’s environment like toys and books. But what’s more important, is how parents or the children’s caregivers engage with people who are different from them.
"Children are always watching. They're constantly learning and observing and engaging. And if a parent seems scared with somebody that's different, then the child will learn that somebody in a wheelchair, for instance, is scary," Martyn said.
She recommends parents think about their own reactions and biases.
"Everybody has their own experiences, so there's no shame in it. And from my perspective, it's just about how we choose to change and what we choose to share with our children," Martyn said.