“Deej” Savarese Lesson Plan

D.J. “Deej” Savarese Lesson Plan

Created by Michael Bowman, 3LPlace. March 2018

Note: This lesson plan was initially written for the April 10, 2018 Boston premiere of “Deej,” a movie that follows a young, non-speaking man with autism as he graduates from high school and attends college. It can also be used for a screening in organizational settings.  It is intended that this lesson be completed over the course of multiple days. Please feel free to adapt or modify the steps of this lesson in accordance with the needs and interests of the learners in your cohort.

Applies To:  Self-Awareness, Understanding and Participating in Community, Creative Expression

Purpose: Introduce Members to the life, poetry, and advocacy work of D.J. Savarese as scaffolding for 3LPlace’s viewing of the film.


  • Learn about D.J. Savarese’s background and inspiring story as the first nonspeaking graduate of Oberlin College.
  • Read and discuss some of his poetry and nonfiction writing.
  • Discuss members personal views on Autism, Advocacy, Facilitated Communication, and issues of prejudice and acceptance relating to people who cannot rely on their voice to communicate.

Materials needed:

  • Work sheets (attached below)
  • Pens, pencils, markers etc
  • .iPad, computer or smart board
  • “Deej” DVD. available here.

Activity Steps:

  • Watch “Deej” Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x7wDqtsE3Y
  • As a group, read the first four pages of the “Deej” worksheet packet.
  • Discuss advocacy and the principle “Nothing about us without us.”
  • Discuss D.J.’s stated goal of “freeing my people” who have autism and also have difficulty using their voices to communicate.
  • Discuss whether or not Members see D.J. Savarese as heroic.
  • Discuss D.J.’s work as a poet with autism and the ways he uses typed words to paint a picture of his inner life.
  • As a group, read Page 5 of the worksheet packet, attached below.
  • Watch two animated D.J. Savarese poems that are included in “Deej” “Swoon” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpJ0tSNWtlE and “Red Light Green Light” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrRKdNG4nnI.
  • Discuss Facilitated Communication and issues related to prejudice or acceptance of people who cannot rely on their spoken voice to communicate.
  • Watch “Wretches and Jabberers” trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FlIyJJRc0E and discuss the ways in which the film’s main characters are both similar and different from D.J. Savarese.
  • As a group, read pages 6-8 of the packet.
  • Discuss the fact many people with disabilities have special talents other than writing poetry. Introduce Stephen Wiltshire & his amazing panoramic drawings of cities. Watch clip of Stephen drawing NYC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsJbApZ5GF0
  • As a group, read D.J.’s poem about Stephen Wiltshire on pgs. 9-10 of the packet.
  • Watch the entire “Deej” DVD (first group viewing of full DVD may best be done over 2-3 sessions).
  • Upon viewing, discuss what Members found inspiring, boring, frustrating or exciting about the film.
  • Brainstorm questions Members might have for D.J. Savarese.
  • Email our questions to D.J. via djsavarese.com.
  • Walk around our community stopping by local businesses to see if they are willing to hang a poster for 3L’s screening of Deej at the Somerville Theater.
  • On April 10, join friends, family and our local community to watch Deej together at the Somerville Theater.
  • If Members enjoy word searches, they can complete the word search on page 11 of the worksheet packet.


3LPlace Curriculum Wiki