It was just too much to keep up with. I experimented with creating yet another blog, one solely dedicated to my thoughts on recent episodes of Parenthood. But it was just too much, so I figured I would go ahead and migrate my thoughts back here and keep them focused on relating what happens with Max to our experiences with Kaitlyn.
Last night’s episode was really gripping. The Kristina storyline is very intriguing, as are Sarah’s and Amber’s. Once again, however, I was waiting for the next scenes with Max. Last night, the storyline of Max running for Student Council president reached its peak with the election. To wrap up the campaign, Max had to give a speech. In front of the whole school. And to top it off, he chose not to write anything down (interesting, a from the heart speech with nothing canned).
As Max approached the podium, I was worried about what would happen next. I was convinced that he would get up there and the other kids would laugh at him and embarrass him. People in general, and kids in particular, can be mean and hurtful when they do not understand someone who is “a little different” than they are. Instead of trying to become educated, there is a general acceptance that it is ok to just make fun of people (I’m looking at you, Ann Coulter).
Max began his speech by introducing himself and then said why he was running, which was to bring back the vending machines. He was pretty much done, and an awkward silence filled the auditorium. Then, he began to explain to the students why he is how he is, because he has Asperger’s. His Asperger’s makes him “tenacious,” and also makes it difficult for him to look people in the eye and introduce himself. He said that most people think that having Asperger’s is detrimental to him, but that he was happy he has Asperger’s, because it makes him who he is. And it makes him tenacious. That tenacity, he said, would lead him to pursue his objective until a favorable resolution is reached. The writers did a good job in displaying some of the very positive aspects of Asperger’s. At the end of his speech, Max got a rousing standing ovation.
If you watched the show, you were probably a lot like me when they revealed that Max won the election. Maybe I am looking too deeply into a TV show, but I think writing into the show that Max won the election shows that understanding and education can lead to positive results.
I always try to look for ways Max’s character relates to something that is currently going on or that we have experienced with Kaitlyn, or something that has a strong chance of happening. I guess what I most connected with last night was that there is good out there, and that all it takes is a little effort to understand people who are not “normal.” I know that Kaitlyn gets picked on and made fun of in school, and I struggle to contain my emotions and reactions (so does Amber). There are times I want to tell her to respond with a snarky comment about the kid who is picking on her being jealous of her because Kaitlyn is smarter than them and will be more successful, but I know deep down that it is wrong to encourage that response, so I hold back. I know that, should she be transitioned into gifted sometime soon, other kids will target her and pick on her more. Amber and I want to protect her from that, but we know that there is only so much we can do.
What I want most is for people to learn from watching shows like Parenthood that people who are different should be embraced. People like Max, and like Kaitlyn, who have Asperger’s, and can use the strengths of Asperger’s to change the world (or the school). I want people to denounce people like Ann Coulter who spew hate in our society and who help to spread ignorant views of people.
A little understanding can go a long way.
If it is Wednesday, it must be time to take a look back at last night’s episode of Parenthood on NBC. I’m just happy I do not have to wait until Thursday to write this, since Amber shocked me for the second straight week and stayed awake the whole time.
Last night, part of the episode was devoted specifically to Max and his obsession with the lack of a vending machine at his school. Apparently, in past years, there was a vending machine in the hallway, where students could get a snack (for Max, Skittles) anytime of the day, except for “during class” as Max pointed out.
When he realizes that the vending machine has been removed, Max is set off. You could see the meltdown coming, and it was not pretty. Having the vending machine put back becomes Max’s sole focus throughout the entire episode. At various points during the episode, Max is shown talking endlessly about the lack of a vending machine; in school to random people, at home while his friend is over, to his cousin when she picks him up from school (a whole different issue with an unexpected change to his routine), and to his dad. As the episode concludes, Max decides the best way to get the vending machine back is for him to run for student government president. I cannot wait to see how this develops as the season continues.
I noticed a lot of similarities between Max and Kaitlyn during last night’s episode. No, she does not have an obsession with Skittles, although she does enjoy them. The similarities I saw were with the pure obsession with one topic in particular, an obsession that was so intense that it became the sole focus of Max. Kaitlyn does that. Frequently.
For the past month or so, her obsession has been Rainbow Magic books. All she wants to do is read those books. The series is all that she wants to talk about. She thinks she is getting a new book every week. She expects us to be experts on each fairy, and will quiz us at different times. Right now, there is nothing else that she will even remotely concern herself with for more than a very short period of time. She either does not realize or does not care that not everybody shares her interest in or her level of expertise about the series. I am happy and excited that she is so in to reading the books, and I have no desire to tell her she cannot read them. On the contrary, we are going to continue to encourage her to read the series and expand her reading abilities (the series is generally written for students above her grade level).
The ability to focus so intently on one subject area that those with Asperger’s have is unreal. Yes, it can be frustrating to people who do not interact with them daily, and occasionally frustrate people who see them daily. But, it is also something to be admired. How often do we sit around and get distracted? For the most part, a neurotypical person is kind of like a cat that gets distracted by a shiny object. Aspies have the ability to have a laser-like focus on one thing in particular, and will become subject matter experts in short order if allowed to pursue said obsession. The difficulty comes from convincing Kaitlyn that it is ok to diversify; her Rainbow Magic books will not get jealous if she spends time playing with her Barbies (to be fair, I have seen her reading to her Barbies and her stuffed animals).
While people with Asperger’s often share a large set of similar characteristics, it is a good idea to remember that they are all substantially different from each other as well. Temple Grandin said it best, “when you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.”
Over the past year and a half or so, I have written 7 different posts (check out some of my favorites here, here, here, or here). regarding how much we really enjoy watching Parenthood every Tuesday night on NBC. By “we” I mean me most of the time because Amber is out cold by the first commercial break; sometimes, she actually makes it through an entire episode, but most of the time she watches it on DVR. And it takes everything in my power to not spoil what happens for her, which is why I usually don’t write anything about the show until at least Wednesday night or sometime Thursday (she is on her own after that).
Two episodes in, this season has yet to disappoint. The season premiere was really good, and the storyline with Max was wonderful. He is blunt and honest in every situation, and it reminds me so much of Kaitlyn. There was a scene where his older sister Haddie was trying to connect with him before she left for college, and he showed absolutely no reaction to her expressions of sisterly love, outside of the gift she bought him.
This past week, I could not help but laugh at the literal mind being put on full display. The Bravermans are discussing the possibility of getting a dog, and Max’s mom, Christina, makes the mistake of mentioning that to him. In his mind, that means they are getting a dog (we face this almost daily with Kaitlyn, but not with getting a dog). The one he decides they are getting, because Aspies like to go ahead and decide and not back down when the make up their minds, is sold before they can buy it. His dad, Adam, who was against the proposition from the start, relents and agrees to get the family a dog. While he is telling Max this, he says to him, “a dog is in the house!” To which Max flatly replies, “no there isn’t.” If that is not a literal mind at work, I don’t know what is. Max was correct in stating that there was, indeed, no dog in the house. He did not grasp the play on words Adam was using.
I cannot wait for next Tuesday to roll around to see what happens next with Max.
A lot of times when I watch the show Parenthood on NBC, I find myself noticing a lot of similarities between Kaitlyn and the character Max, who has Asperger’s. I am of the opinion that the actor that plays Max does an excellent job in capturing a lot of the behaviors and emotions (or lack thereof) of a child with Asperger’s. And it is wonderful having a show on TV that is not afraid to have an autistic/Asperger’s child, and that does not fall into the Rain Man stereotype; if nothing else, the show has to have opened up the eyes of some people who had no idea what Asperger’s was, or might have interacted with an aspie and just found that person to be “strange.”
This past week’s episode really drove home a difficulty that I am sure that Kaitlyn will face at some point in her life, and that is the stigma of always being picked last in P.E. in school because you are a little different. It will not, and did not in this episode, matter that the child is at least at good at the particular sport as the other kids.
In the episode, Max is chosen last for a game of basketball, and asks why the boy in the wheelchair, Micah, does not have to participate. The teacher says it is because of his disability, and Max responds that he too has a disability, Asperger’s. Max is frustrated with either never being picked or always being picked last, and sees an opportunity to sit out and uses Asperger’s as the reason. The part that I struggled with most was referring to Asperger’s as a “disability.” Yes, by definition, Asperger’s is a disability. It is not, however, a disability that would prevent someone from participation.
When speaking to his dad later on about why he wants to sit out, he says it is because the other kids call him a “loser.” Adam is quick to point out that calling someone a “loser” is not nice, and asks who has been calling him that. Max proceeds to name pretty much every kid in his class as someone who calls him that. I can totally see this situation presenting itself with Kaitlyn. Let’s face it, at that age, kids are not mature enough to understand when another child is not like them, and chances are their parents are not going to teach them, either out of laziness or ignorance. Anyway, Adam agrees to let Max sit out the next day during P.E. by writing him a note, and that is where the episode shows the caring side of Asperger’s.
While sitting next to Micah, Max offers him some advice on how to play his video game. And then admits that he is not supposed to do so, but Micah does not mind. Max then offers to trade games with Micah, even though the one he is playing is his favorite. This is a big step for him. Kaitlyn is pretty good about sharing her toys, and it was nice for the show to highlight that aspies are not emotionless.
Toward the end of the episode, there is a part that very much reminded me of Kaitlyn. Max asks his parents how wide his bedroom door is, and they ask why out of curiosity. It turns out that he needed to know if Micah’s wheelchair would be able to fit through his door because Max had invited him over and he would be there any minute. Kaitlyn is really good about inviting people over before asking us. When Micah arrives, the boys head off toward Max’s room while the parents introduce themselves. Micah’s parents are going over a few of his needs due to his condition (spina bifida) when they reveal that Max is Micah’s first friend. That particular part is probably one of my favorite parts of any episode I have seen. Here are two kids that are outcast and ignored because of their differences to the other kids becoming friends because one (Max) does not judge the other because he is in a wheelchair. They become friends because of a shared interests.
I do not know what the future holds for Kaitlyn in any of the areas from this episode, but I anticipate that there will be times where Amber and I will have to explain to her why the other kids will not pick her for whatever activity it is. But I am also confident that Kaitlyn will be the same type of child as Max and be the one in the class to look past a wheelchair and just want to be friends with someone else. Asperger’s will be the cause of a lot of rejection for Kaitlyn, but it will also continue to make her one of the most genuine people that I know. When Kaitlyn takes to someone, she is loyal to them.