Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Asperger's Gets Weekly Attention by Network

Well, just look at that. My son's Asperger Syndrome has reached the pinnacle of awareness by the producers of NBC's new weekly drama, 'Parenthood' . A Brian Graser/Ron Howard project, the show is supposed to chronicle the ups and downs and in-betweens of a large and somewhat dysfunctional Berkeley family.

I like Brian Graser and I've been in love with Ron Howard ever since the 'Andy Griffith' days, so it wasn't too much of a stretch to watch the pilot. The Asperger thing caught me by surprise, though. One of the family's sons is himself father to an elementary-aged boy who wears a pirate costume every day and seems rather disjointed with respect to the rest of the family. He hates sports, endures his Grandpa, played by Craig T. Nelson, who keeps telling him to "man up", and can't seem to get things together in the classroom. Poor Max.

Whoa! All of a sudden the kid is jumping a peer in the classroom who made fun of his costume, bites him on the arm, and whomp; here are mom and dad in the principal's office talking about his expulsion from school and a referral to what the principal calls an "education specialist". Ah-hah. Dad goes into defensive freak-out mode, mom cringes in the corner, and both shut down emotionally as they shuttle their unapologetic vagrant down the steps and to his room at home.

Long story short; mom calls the specialist, the specialist meets the kid and says she thinks he has AS. Both parents fall apart and, relational to my own world, Dad enters his "just-fix-it" world, where he questions, ponders, and offers a tutor to help his son catch up to the rest of the kids. By the end of the pilot episode, Dad has seen some of Max's behavior objectively and lays it all out for his father, Go-To Grandpa. We can see an exciting season ahead of Asperger Syndrome drama, can't we?

I was a unsure of NBC's ability to put such a confusing, very unique disorder on national television and try to make it understandable to the masses. After all, AS is so different for every child it is hard to pin down a broad-brush definition for an actor.

Last week, though, one scene caught my eye and made me think that perhaps this AS theme could work. The family is sitting down to dinner, and mom, dad, and big sister are watching Max pick at his food because it is not a mixture of his "favorites" and he won't eat things that are unfamiliar. He just wants to watch TV. His parents engage in an argument with him about "TV Time" and how many bites he must eat. Dad has had enough, tells him that he gets five minutes on the TV for every bite he eats. HAHAHAHA. I know already what will happen, and sure enough, Max eats 15 bites and earns 75 minutes of television time, way over his allotted daily allowance. He then gets up and leaves to go reap his reward. Dad tells him he has to wait until everyone is finished. What does Max say? "You didn't say that; all you said was I had to eat my dinner."

Uh huh. This could definitely work. Welcome to my world, NBC. Hope we'll see Max's parents going gray and losing weight and sucking down margaritas with desperate abandon as the season goes on. Then I might believe you know what you are doing.


Bobbie said...

Great post and I thought the same thing. My son 12 was dx with AS a few years ago. I did laugh at the file file box family..having met a few myself. So far, I like and think they are doing a nice job of depicting a child with AS.

AKBrady said...

Yes, Bobbie, the File Family just cracked me up. I've met several whose world revolves around the diagnois. I think so, too, that so far they seem to be doing an admirable job. Ron Howard is a stickler for accuracy, so my sense is to trust his research!

dorothy said...

Why don't I get to watch TV? Good thing you did! Linking over...

Natalie said...

Hey, that's great! I know people whose only real exposure to Down Syndrome is the character of Corky on Life Goes On, and it broadened their awareness, so any relatively sensitive show that draws attention to a mental disorder and creates understanding (as opposed to mocking...certainly that can be found in the common sitcom!) can't be a bad thing...I hope. Plus, best to laugh at the hard stuff, huh? Obviously you do a great job.