I was impressed with the new show Parenthood on NBC Tuesday night. I was a little leary about watching the show from the previews thinking it was going to be some kind of dramedy (you know comedy and drama). However my wife and I sat down (she was reading a book) and watched it. If you saw my last post you know that we have an autistic son. The premier of Parenthood struck us with the following scene:
One of the sons is in school and trying to make paper hearts. The son is wearing a bandana and a pirate shirt. As he is cutting the hearts out with scissors, he keeps making mistakes. When the mistake occurs he crumples up the paper and then sits on it. After a few of these another kid in the classroom calls his name and say "Save some paper for us!". The son ignores him. Eventually this boy comes over and tries to take away some of the paper. Meanwhile the rest of the class is snickering. When the boy takes the paper away from the son he loses it. In a fit of rage he goes after the boy and eventually bites him. The teacher physically removes the son from the classroom.
Later we see the parents in the Principal's office where it is recommended that they see an educational specialist with their son. Of course the parents are defensive. I mean who wouldn't be? But being good parents they agree to have their son evaluated.
Fast forward to a scene with the Father gets a phone call from his wife and is asked to meet her in a plaza. She has taken the son to the specialist and a conversation ensues where she is explaining the findings and the Father is in denial. At the end of the conversation however the Father realizes that the wife is serious and understands that his boy will need help.
Fast forward again to school. The son has forgotten something and the dad drops it off to him. As the two are conversing another boy comes by and says "Hi!". The son doesn't respond. The dad points out to him that it might be rude not to say "Hi!" back. The son doesn't respond and turns to walk away. The Dad says "I Love You" with no response. You see the recognition on the dad's face.
Fast forward again to a performance by the son's cousin. The son begins to have an episode and the dad takes him outside. Outside the boy stands on the end of a bench and jumps into a puddle of water over and over again. Eventually the grandfather comes out and tries to persuade the father and son to come back in for the performance. The father explains that he can't and the grandfather says of course he can, The father then tells his dad (the grandfather) that there is something wrong with his son and that he will need the grandfather's help. The grandfather agrees as recognition dawns on him.
One more fast forward. But first I have to go back. There was an incident early on in the episode where the son is playing baseball and his dad the coach has an issue with a call. The dad gets very upset and is ejected. The son tells his parents he doesn't want to play anymore. OK, back to fast forwarding. The family is about to have lunch when the son comes out and says "Dad, what about the baseball game?". The father asks "I thought you didn't want to play baseball anymore?". The son says he does. There is a brief pause and then the grandfather says "Let's go" and starts directing the family to get the items needed and to get into the car. At the end of the episode you see family rooting on the son and then the dad walking up to the game (he's not allowed to be there because of the earlier incident). He's watching from the outside as his son is batting. The last thing you hear is the bat striking the ball, the crowd screaming and the dad smiling.
This is a brave arc for a television show to take. Having gone through some of the things depicted in this episode it was hard keeping the tears from flowing. We went through a similar process. Some denial and yet knowing there was something not quite right with our son. We got the diagnosis and it was hard to accept. We have had times where Levi won't say "I love you" to us for long periods of time. There are times when he goes into a rage and we have to find different ways to calm him down. There are times when he obsesses and we have to deal with it in an appropriate manner for him.
All in all, I'm hoping that this show survives if not for any other reason than to expose more people to not only autism, but the needs of children who have special needs. As I said in my last post education is the key and hopefully the writers of Parenthood can provide education to others.