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Terri Mauro

What Did You Think of Parenthood's Asperger's Plotline?

By March 3, 2010

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Parenthood castDid you catch the debut of NBC's Parenthood last night? As I mentioned yesterday, the episode featured among its many many many plotlines a quirky boy getting a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. The pilot was way overstuffed with stories, of which Max's oddness, diagnosis, struggling parents, and extended family support was to me the most compelling -- though it got only short scenes to portray a process that might have taken significant time in real time, particularly the grandfather coming around. I thought the boy who played Max (Max Burkholder, pictured second from left with Peter Krause, who plays his dad, and most of the show's kid characters) did a fine job of making Max's behavior seem like a part of him, and not something to put on.

Series pilots tend to fall all over themselves with exposition, setting up all the stories it will be telling so that viewers will know if they want to ride along. This one could have used quite a bit of pruning to let some of the more promising storylines flourish. I almost wish the Asperger's diagnosis could have come in a later episode in which it was the primary plot thread, instead of one dish in a smorgasbord. But I'll keep watching to see how Max and his family take it from here.

Did you watch Parenthood? Share your thoughts in the comments. And if you missed it, view the first episode on Hulu or ABC.com, or read a recap from About.com Stay-at-Home-Moms guide Apryl Duncan.

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Comments
March 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm
(1) Josi says:

I think I’ll be watching closely to see if they try to fake us out. My son has it, so I’ll be interested to see if the school district and the classmates on the show are helpful and understanding – which I know in real life – no one is. We’re in this on our own.

March 10, 2010 at 5:03 pm
(2) SHANNON FARMER says:

As a mother of a child with Autism I will definitely be keeping an eye on this. The scene I most related to was where they met the family that had the older kid with Aspergers. I felt completly overwhelmed with all of the OT, PT, Gluten-free, no sugar info that is out there. All of there struggles to come will mirror my own. I just hope that they keep the disorder true to form.

March 17, 2010 at 11:15 pm
(3) Adam says:

I really hope they keep focussing on the good bits, because sofar they’ve gotten a whole lot of information, and alot of it is crap.

At least the specialist they saw told it like it was, and also that there’s no cure. You manage it, you steer it, you learn to live with and around it.

All the diet in the world won’t keep that other kid from behaving like that. At least Max seems the smart and quiet kind sofar, so behavioural training and structure with consistency should make him function well enough.

March 19, 2010 at 3:57 pm
(4) karen says:

I have a son who is so close to being on the spectrum somedays I wish he was so people would understand him better. I wanted to cry when they were sitting in the office at teh school saying that their son is to smart for special education room but doesn’t fit in a general education room. That is where we are right now with our son and I am so lost how to nagivate the school system to help him.

April 1, 2010 at 11:08 am
(5) Jamie says:

Over the past few weeks, a lot has been on TV about Aspergers. I saw a piece on the Today Show and then my Mother saw this on Parenthood. Between the 2 of us, we were able to see that my 13 year old son has had this his entire life and has been misdiagnosed. I called his Dr. last week and appointments were made with a number of different people. My Son was officially diagnosed on Thursday and qualified for disability this week. We have struggled so much with him. He has been so frusterated and so different his entire life. We were so afraid that we were losing him. I honestly believed that if this had not happened, we may have lost him to suicide. We are all thrilled that he is getting help and he is thrilled because for once in his life he doesn’t feel like the only person in his odd little world. We showed him the Parenthood show and he smiled. He felt like he was finally understood. I am so thankful that they put Aspergers in the Plot of this show!! It may have saved my 13 year olds life.

April 6, 2010 at 8:00 pm
(6) Kate says:

I know, for the sake of moving the story along into what appears to be the obligatory happy ending, the producers got Max into a terrific (expensive) school right off the bat, but most of us in reality are navigating the murky murky waters of the public school system with our little Aspies.

On a different note, I hope the producers/writers create a Q & A scene where questions are asked about Max’s behavior and answers are provided along with more pertinent info on Asperger’s.

May 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm
(7) Bambi says:

I loev this show. Not because it gives a completely accurate display of AI’s behavior traits…but because it gives people a glimpse of what our life is like. A glimpse. I have a friend that watches it to try and understand my life with a 6 yr old with Autism….and what I try to convey to him is that show represents about 10% of the intensity that I have experienced. And the episodes always show the parents working together to solve Max’s problems………which is not real life. As a recently divorced mother of a child on the spectrum; it is really intense….more so than the show.

I think the network thinks the public can’t handle the reality of the life of those with AI in their family. =)

September 15, 2010 at 3:13 am
(8) Craig Kendall says:

I love the show Parenthood. There are so many parents who are struggling to understand their children with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. I like the character Max who is portrayed very realistically. There is a great newsletter that discusses meltdowns and how to handle them. Also, the therapist that Max has is
so patient — I think she is able to teach others what works in calming Max down when he gets overwhelmed. I recommend to everyone to watch this great show.

March 11, 2011 at 12:13 am
(9) Jennifer Smith says:

I did not like it at all. I am going through an issue right now because my nephew was diagnosed with ADHD and because he has a wide range of spoilage and large range of testing now his mother is trying to place the label of asperbergers (asperburgers) on him. Now he is in a hospital right now and his mother refuses to let us see him because whatever reason. He acts out whenever he does not get his way and he is only 11 years old and police have been called to his home for him beating up his mother because he did not get a new Pokemon game and a new Gameboy DS Lite. Please run this episode again and supply the proper website, spelling and and 800 help line.

May 24, 2011 at 11:08 am
(10) Warren Capp says:

I think the show it’s self is silly. Does anyone know of a kid with Aspersers who behaves that way. You would of expected that kind of behaviour in someone who has Autism or ADHD but not someone with Aspersers’ Syndrome. It’s a high functioning form of Autism. Kids suffer from bad posture, clumsy speech, reaction delay, anxiety, poor social skills (failing to read another persons body language when they seem disinterested in the topic) and their minds take a while to process data. I was a quiet kid growing up with AS. I never behaved in that way. Ron Howard should of looked up the disorder before mentioning it in the Pilot of the TV series.

May 25, 2011 at 4:28 pm
(11) MicheleLyn says:

Sometimes I feel they try to include every stereotypical trait that can be found on the internet and cram it all into one character…other times they are so spot on I find myself laughing and crying at the same time about how the character of Max is going thru something and reacting the same way my son did…while I don’t always agree with how his parents handle some of these situations on the show, I think they are trying to bring an awareness to a disorder that a lot of people still don’t understand let alone accept.

January 16, 2013 at 5:07 pm
(12) Betty Puskas says:

I think this is a great tv series. I am 76 and an a fan of talent. This is the top of the list and above. Their is not one character that I CANT WAIT TO SEE AND WHAT IS GOING ON IN THEIR TV SERIES LIFE.. i,M SORRY TO ASK THIS BUT DOES MAX SUFFER FROM ASPERS OR IS HE IS THAT GREAT OF AN ACTOR OR MORE IMPORTANT THAT AMAZING AS A GREAT PERSON. HIGH ADMIREATION FOR HIM , KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

January 23, 2013 at 4:21 pm
(13) specialchildren says:

He’s that great an actor, Betty. You can read an interview with Max Burkholder, who plays Max Braverman, at http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2010/11/09/parenthood/11084/.

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