Two of my current favorite tv shows are dealing with traits that I see in our youngest son each day. And they're doing it in a thoughtful and sometimes lighthearted way that makes me very, very happy.
When Brennan was diagnosed with a form of autism at age 3 we got our hands on a lot of materials on the subject. It was an emotional and difficult time for us as a family and honestly, the books we were reading didn't help - they focused primarily on the more debilitating forms of autism. I have since come to the conclusion that a lot of children have autistic tendencies (usually very mild) and all children with autism are different.
We feel fortunate that Brennan was diagnosed early and that we found good people to help us learn what to do. There is no cure for autism and Brennan's form, which is not manifested in any physical symptoms, is something he'll be learning to manage the rest of his life. Thankfully, in the last 5 years, we have come a LONG way. Brennan is an awesome kid - anyone who knows him thinks so. Frustrating at times but entirely manageable. We are blessed and we know it.
But back to TV. While the show doesn't come right out and say it, I'm pretty sure Dr. Sheldon Cooper from "The Big Bang Theory" has Aspergers. His complete confidence in his own abilities and his disdain for anything that he views as trivial are HILARIOUS - the writing and Jim Parson's acting are terrific.
(Brennan would love this DNA t-shirt)
I get a little freaked out sometimes because Sheldon and Brennan have the same "things" - science and math primarily. More than once Brennan will be on a topic one day (Isaac Newton for example) and then that week's episode will have Sheldon citing Newton a couple of times. Sheldon also does well with scripts like "when someone comes into the house, greet them and ask how they are". Brennan does very well with scripts too but it's hilarious because they both are only going through the motions because they have to at times - especially because many times they simply are not that interested, but they know it's the right thing to do.
Fortunately for us Brennan is not nearly as impatient with others as Sheldon is and Brennan doesn't have a contempt for those not as smart as he is (thank goodness or I would be in trouble).
My other show that is dealing outright with Aspergers is "Parenthood". It's a new show (I loved the Ron Howard movie that it is based on) and I am simply fascinated with how one of the families in the show parallels our lives. That family is on the left in the photo below.
Their young son Max has Aspergers and they are just learning how to deal with it. The child who plays the son either has Aspergers in real life or is the best child actor I've ever seen. Everything he does rings true to me. His facial expressions, the words he says, his body language. He's so much like Brennan.
The dad's looking for how to fix this, the mom's dealing with confidence issues in not being able to reach her son and is worried all the time, and the big sister is the son's best friend. Wow - this is familiar. In last week's episode Max's aunt comes over to the house and he doesn't look up. The mom says, "Aunt so-n-so is here, say hello" and Max launches into a lecture of the differences in bugs he's reading about without a greeting or a change in facial expressions. This is almost EXACTLY the same scenario when I first suspected there was something going on with Brennan.
Brennan was 2 years old and my friends came over and were so excited to see him and were talking to him and down on his level and he never looked up from what he was playing with. It was as if he couldn't hear them, but he could. They just weren't as interesting as his puzzle (or this tv boy with his bug book).
One scene broke my heart a week ago. The new therapist was asking the parents about Max. She asked if he enjoyed play dates, if he had any friends. The mom's eyes welled up with tears and shes said, "No, Max doesn't have any friends." The dad looked at the mom and it was just heartbreaking - and again, very real.
It's eery the parallels from our life and this family on the tv show. Even the dad dealing with a possum a few episodes ago. "Why don't you just call and exterminator?" "No, it's personal." I won't go into it but THAT IS DAVID and an issue we've been dealing with.
But if you've ever seen the show, you'll know what I mean when I say that I would rather have an 8 year old with manageable Aspergers than a teenage daughter. Thankfully the parallels are limited to the one aspect of the show!
I am thrilled to see shows featuring autism and Aspergers in such a real way. The most recent research reveals that 1 in 110 children will be diagnosed with autism. It was 1 in 150 just 5 years ago. The more people that understand what it is, the more patience people will have with those kids who are managing it the best they can. And their parents too.