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.