Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why We Need to See Characters with Autism on TV

One of the most frustrating things about parenting a child on the Autism spectrum is explaining to people how a spectrum works. Autism is one of those things where people have one experience with it and apply that to each and every kid that they come across. I suppose it is human nature to lump things into categories; I just never thought it would apply to my kid.

Most movies and television shows that portray a character on the spectrum give them some sort of “talent.” This has led to more people than you want to know about asking me point blank “So, what’s your son’s THING? I heard all kids with autism have that, right?” How I longed for years to see something that took away the ‘magic’ from kids on the spectrum and showed the day-to-day life.

Then, Parenthood got really popular on television and I had an entirely new thing to bitch about.
Max Braverman, a character on the popular television show Parenthood played by Max Burkholder, struggles with transitioning when a trip he was supposed to go on did not go as he had planned and begins to throw things around the room. His mother Kristina, played by the actress Monica Potter, stands by and attempts to help Max calm down.

I used to find myself incredibly annoyed at people coming up to me and saying “That kid on that show reminds me so much of your son! They are like the same person!” Then I would watch the show and want to punch a wall because what I was seeing was different from what I knew my child to be. It felt like such a disconnect and all I could think was “They have the same haircut and they are both on the spectrum. That’s it. Now stop talking to me and trying to make me watch that show.”

After years of staying angry at anyone who tried to compare my kid to one on television, it dawned on me that I was looking at things all wrong. I started to see the similarities – the trouble adjusting when things did not go exactly as planned, getting up in the morning, switching from one task to another. I started seeing what other people saw. I realized that my kid and the kid on that show didn’t have to be exactly the same for it to translate.

From Parenthood: Max sits on his bed cleaning the lens on his camera while his father Adam,
played by actor Peter Krause, stands beside him talking.

People NEED to see things on television or in movies in order to understand them better. It doesn’t matter if my kid and the kid on that show are the same, to the person watching, it’s about a connection to another perspective. If even one single similarity exists between the two, then it is a success. That’s one of the greatest things about visual storytelling; people feel connected to it. They feel like it’s part of their own life and maybe they understand my life a little more. And that is a wonderful thing.

1 comment:

  1. LOVE this! Thanks for writing and sharing your perspective!