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Anne Olson

Dr. Webster
TEC 643
11 June 2016
Parenthood Revived: A Comparison of the Perception of Asperger Syndrome in America from
1989 and 2010.
In 2010, NBC aired a new show, Parenthood, loosely based on its namesake, the 1989
movie. Although the revival did not include many details of the film, the of Kevin Buckman.
Kevin is nine years old and a seemingly caring, yet quirky, person. He has extreme difficulty
behaving in school. In fact at one point of the movie, Karen and Gill, Kevins parents, are called
into a meeting with Kevins teacher. It is during this session that his teacher identifies Kevin as
being special, based on a speculation of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). When Kevin's teacher
suggested that his current school could not meet his social and emotional needs, the school
suggested a new school structured specifically for students like Kevin. Karen and Gills response
to this, however, was one of chaotic disengagement. Karen and Gill were reluctant to turn to their
family for support and were discouraged when they learned of the suspected diagnosis of their
son.
NBCs 2010-2015 revival Parenthood focused a significant portion of air time on the
storyline of Max Braverman, the 2010 equivalent of Kevin Buckman. Max, too, is a young boy
struggling to fit in at school and on his baseball team. Hopeful that this behavior is just a phase,
Max's father, Adam Braverman, continues to push Max into the activities, and situations Max
apparently does not enjoy. The show highlighted the process of being diagnosed with Aspergers
Syndrome as well as the social and educational implications of the diagnosis. Although we
witness the roller coaster of emotions Adam and his wife Christina ride throughout the process of
Max's diagnosis and finding a good fit for Max educationally during the show's first season, the

show continued to highlight Max's storyline throughout its six seasons. In the twenty-one years,
that passed between the release of the movie Parenthood and the loose revival as a television
show, the emphasis placed on the storyline of the child with a disability has changed, yet the
social consequences portrayed are not all that different.
The focus on Max's storyline and the social consequences he suffers as a result of his
diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome are likely a result of the show creator's personal connection to
the disorder. Jason Katims, the creator of the show, has a son who is on the autism spectrum.
Throughout its six seasons, the show became infamous for tapping into its audiences feelings. In
an interview with the Huffington Post, Katims (2015) said,
You know, Ive heard so many anecdotal stories about what a positive effect that has had
for families and for the autistic community. It actually goes beyond the autistic
community to just people who are dealing with various challenges and disabilities. So, of
course, thats incredibly rewarding to all of us that the show seems to have had an impact
in some way. Its not what we set out to do. We set out to tell stories that were true and
personal to us, but the fact that it has seemed to help in some small way is incredibly
gratifying. (How Parenthood Creator Jason Katims Made You Cry All ... (n.d.)
Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/28/parenthood-jasonkatims_n_6555804.html)
The lesson learned from Katims' reflective thoughts on the success of Parenthood to break down
barriers for the Autism community mirrors the primary difference between the 1989 and 2010
portrayals of a child with a disability. Whereas each media portrayals shows the additional
obstacles a child with a disability faces the educational world, as well as the ramifications from
social consequences. The difference in the two media portrayals lies in acceptance by the family
and determination to break down those obstacles provide equity for Max. In essence, the primary
difference in the portrayal of a child with a disability shifted in the twenty-one between the
release of the movie and the television series from a negative to a positive one.
My exposure to the Parenthood story began when the show aired in 2010. Initially, I was
struck by how emotionally invested I became in the life of the fictional character, Max. As the

show continued, I found myself in awe of his resilience and insight. This show aired over the
course my entire college experience. In many ways, I grew and matured alongside the characters
in the show. After I graduated and decided I wanted to pursue a career in education, I rewatched
the aspects of the show where Max repeatedly struggled to find a school environment in which
he thrived and was accepted.
A similarity in both the 1989 movie and the 2010-2015 show is the difficulty to find a
school willing to adapt to meet the needs of these children. In the 1989 film, Karen and Gill were
advised to move Kevin into a specialized school better suited for students with a disability. For
Max, the character in the Parenthood revival, his struggle to find a suitable school began in
elementary school and persisted until high school when a charter school was created for students
who are identified as having a learning disability but also highly gifted. Maxs storyline was one
of perseverance and passion. During the series finale of the show Max was hired as a wedding
photographer, tapping into his intense passion for photography. Maxs employment was a victory
not only for Max, but also for his parents who agonized whether Max would find fruitful
employment.
My experiences watching the two portrayals of a child with a disability taught me that
everybody is an individual and has their unique needs. Although more than one child may have a
similar diagnosis, the manifestations of that disability may look completely different. It's hard for
me to comment on the accuracy of which the film and show illustrated the disabilities. My
experiences watching this movie and show helped me empathize with students who have
disabilities and respect the daily barrier and challenges they face. Although Kevin's storyline
played a role more minor than Max's, each of the storylines highlighted the unique and
cumbersome challenges through which both Kevin and Max traverse on a daily basis. Max, in

particular, was portrayed a gifted character who mastered a strategy to pursue his passions in an
environment that fostered his success. Both Kevin and Max were inspirational characters to
watch.

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