Friday, September 23, 2011

Pop Culture's Embrace

You know your syndrome is popular when it pops up on t.v.  Currently we have two shows that arefeaturing Asperger's, albeit in completely different ways.

On NBC's Parenthood, we meet young Max Braverman.   The focus here is on Max's parents, and mostly how they deal with tough choices they have to make concerning him. We watched as they struggled with getting Max diagnosed, planned a dreaded birthday party, dealt with the grandfather not-really-getting-it, cringed at Max's candor.  When Max's dad lost it with a rude man at the supermarket, we equally cheered him on and felt his pain.  Now that Max has been placed back in public school, we're all holding our breath.

Parenthood puts Asperger's in a family context.  Sometimes when I'm watching I can laugh at the little things or fret right along with the parents.  We see how Max benefits from a loving support system.  We also see the eye-rolling of his classmates.  Sometimes it is a joy to watch, sometimes it is downright sobering.
And then, the polar opposite is The Big Bang Theory.  We have non-diagnosed Dr. Sheldon Cooper, complete with his rigidity, his literalness, his brilliance.  He is Aspergers to the power of a billion.  Asperger's on bust.  And I love it.

Sure, I like the show for all the same reasons as everyone else.  It's hilarious, the characters are as endearing as they are obnoxious.

But I also like it because it is to me, an Asperger's success story.   In no way, shape or form does Sheldon blend in, his autism is a fireworks display.  It's why we love him.   Sheldon is a success because he turned his areas of interest into a noteworthy career.  He is a fully independant adult (ok, with the exception of his driver's license....) and above all else, he has an active social group.

Yes, his friends find his ways downright painful at times, but overall, they accept him for who he is, they order from the right restaurants on the right nights, they play the games allocated to each weekday.  Sure, they make fun of him right to his face, but all good friends do.

I think it's fair to say that this much air time means we've made it.  Our particular disability has managed to capture the attention and imagination of the world. It's nice to see something of our lives reflected back to us, in ways that can tug at our heartstrings, or grab us right by the funny bone.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The First Day of School

With a quick view of my facebook homepage these last few days, I've been noticing quite a split. 

Many, many people are excitedly posting status updates concerning which grade their children are starting, and many are sharing that their little ones are stepping onto that great yellow bus for their first time ever this morning.

These updates are so lighthearted, joyful, a mixture of pride, and wonderment at the quickly passing years.

And then there are the updates from people I know through the autism community.  All about the preperation they are doing with their children, and their schools, praying for a smooth transition from summer into school, from one grade to another, from old teacher to new.  Many links are being shared to informative articles about how best to work with your school, any and all tips that could possibly make this easier.

These updates are painful.  Their writers are scared, stressed, it's palpable.

When I read these updates, I feel guilty.  I have personally been counting down to the start of school.  For me, that means that our parks and playgrounds can be reclaimed.  Local attractions will return to the lazy pace of the school year. Our city becomes quiet, calm, in a word: accessible.

If I didn't comment on your status update, I'm doing it now.

To all of you who are experiencing the joy, and excitement of your babies moving on up through the grades, and starting the season of their life when they enter school, congratulations!  They are indeed growing up fast, and it is amazing to watch how in such little time, my kids and yours can grow and learn so much.  It warms my heart to see the pride you feel, witnessing the joy of parenthood can do that.  Your children are blessed to be so loved.

For those of you who are facing today with a strong dose of courage, and a belly full of fear, I am astounded at your courage, and stand in awe of you.  I have no doubt your stress translates to dilligence, and my hope for you is that your school and teacher see your concerns and fear as the face of the love you have for your child.  Good luck to you today, and indeed all year long.  May you be blessed with one of the many caring teachers out there who embrace the role of teaching, and see all students success as both their responsibility and joy.