One of the shows that I enjoy watching is Parenthood. It is in its 3rd season on NBC and while it is not a show that is going to win lots of awards or keep you on the edge of your seat waiting for the next episode, it is a show about REAL LIFE and that is why I enjoy it. Some of the story lines are a bit contrived, but there is one that I feel that the writers have really done a fantastic job with.....the story line that follows Max, an 11 year old boy with Asperger's Syndrome. I think the writers have really shown the viewers what a family with a kiddo who has Asperger's experiences on a day-to-day basis. It is done tastefully and really shows those small things that can make getting through the day seem insurmountable.
My heart aches each time I see another episode because I think of the 2 families I know personally who have a child with Asperger's. It is something that none of us can imagine until we are personally walking in those shoes. I am most amazed at how NBC portrays the schools that Max attends....how the teachers both help and hinder his success (sometimes not even realizing what they are doing!); how some are so committed to making sure that all the students receive the education they deserve and how others seem to be unaware of what it means to have a student like Max in their classrooms.
This week's episode really touched my heart--not just because of Max, but because of ALL KIDDOES who walk through the doors of our schools. Click on the link to see just what I am talking about.....
This is one of those CLASSIC SCENES we have all experienced in our lives..... that day in the gym when the PE Teacher chooses the 2 best athletes in the class as "team captains" and then gives those captains (even though they too are just 10 or 11 year olds) the task of selecting teams. It is always obvious why certain kids are picked first....and why others are picked last. Why some kids are "fought over" (and not because they are the BEST) but rather because neither captain wants them... and then how the teacher finally steps in and takes the role of adult and PUTS the leftover kid(s) on a team... Thus enforcing what that kid already believes to be true... I SUCK. I suck at sports AKA I suck at life. Yes, I exaggerate, but if it happens to them often enough, the leap from one statement to the next is not so huge.... and believe me, it happens over and over. Whether it's the chubby kid, or the kid with a disability, or the kid with glasses or the kid who cannot run very fast.... he already has SOMETHING that sets him apart and these antiquated (and yes, BARBARIC) practices (which have no place in the elementary school!) just remind him that he is different... and at the age of 10 or 11, being different is not as cool as we think it is when we are FORTY.
Please don't tell me that these kinds of practices "prepare kids for life"....because that is CRAP. Life will hit them soon enough, so why do we have to force this kind of stigma on them at such a young age? Why can't everyone play and have the same opportunities?? And don't tell me the story about how Bill Gates was the nerd who never got picked for sports teams and now look at him.......because even though Bill Gates is a rockstar now, it did not make it suck any less for him when he was TEN and the last kid picked in P.E. class.
I appreciate the fact that the writers of Parenthood remind us of these kinds of things....the kinds of things we have to FIGHT in society.... don't we want to live in an inclusive world rather than an exclusive one?? And don't we DEFINITELY want that practice of inclusiveness to start in the classrooms where we send our kiddoes every day????
Aspberger's syndrome is very difficult to live with...
One of the beautiful things I´ve experienced here in Norway working with children 0-6 years is that they are taught to treat children who are different, the same as each other. We have had handicapped children at our barnehage and the kids who are "normal" are so helpful and compassionate with the child who has difficulties. The "normal" kids include the children with difficulties and I always think about how beautiful that is and I know it continues into elementary school as well as my kids have had handicapped children in their classes in school and the kids are very good with them.
I've only seen one episode of Parenthood, a Halloween one where the Aspergers kid cannot tolerate the strobe lights. I really liked how they had portrayed it. Maybe I'll start watching it. I used to work with children who had behavioral difficulties and they have a special place in my heart.
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